(By Alex C. Omolu)

We must face reality to redeem our image. Our image has been rubbished in the international community as a result of poverty and wrong orientation; poverty must be eradicated in our country once and for all. According to Ayn Rand, “You can avoid reality but you cannot avoid the consequence of avoiding reality.” The numerous problems we have in this country should be tackled head long with courage, utmost sincerity of heart. Otherwise the consequences will be too hard to bear, our highly esteemed citizens will die of hunger and starvation, then, crime, and insecurity will increase, in the end Nigerians will be at the losing end.

SOME years back I was driving in an official car with an expatriate colleague, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. As we approached a traffic junction, we met a little traffic build-up and a car sped past us from behind in a manner that he almost knocked down pedestrians just to beat the traffic. Bystanders looked at him with so much disdain and reigned abuses on him.  My expatriate friend exclaimed in a humorous but sarcastic tone, “Nothing can work in Nigeria.’’ And I protested vehemently, and asked, ‘’why did you say that?’’  He said, “Look at your fellow Nigerian. He could not wait for the green light signal, because he thought he was too busy and very smart.’’  The truth is that some Nigerians cannot keep simple laws; they have no respect for technology and are very impatient.  I said to my colleague: ‘‘Well that was an act of indiscipline on his part, it is no proof that nothing can work in Nigeria. Things can work and have started working. A little argument ensued between us, to buttress my point. I said that the government had instituted various agencies and commissions to regulate and check the lapses in various sectors, such as Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Traffic Police Warden (aka yellow fever), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Drug Law and Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

  Although, I was able to convince my expatriate colleague with some vital and workable analysis but the memory of that argument leaves me pondering each time I remember it. I think of the image of my dear country, Nigeria. I think of my fellow citizens, I think of the numerous and myriad of problems that have bedeviled the country and reduced her to one of the poorest countries in the world amidst abundant natural and human resources. I feel like weeping, no wonder, some Nigerians have imbibed some unacceptable attitude which hitherto is referred to as the Nigerian way. They get almost everything through the hard way or back door. What a shame! This attribute often misled people and landed them in serious problems. Where is the source of these problems? What are the possible solutions? Are these solutions achievable?  It is an unimaginable situation for a patriotic Nigerian to see his people languishing in ignorance and dragging the name of our country in the mud.

  It is really sad, painful and pathetic to see Nigerians wallowing in abject poverty where there are enough natural resources for sustainable development, Nigeria must be transformed now. It is time for a change; a change for a better tomorrow, a rebirth for a New Nigeria. This change must be ushered in by vibrant and God fearing leaders, who will listen to the yearnings and aspirations of our people, irrespective of ethnic and religious differences.

  We must face reality to redeem our image. Our image has been rubbished in the international community as a result of poverty and wrong orientation; poverty must be eradicated in our country once and for all. According to Ayn Rand, “You can avoid reality but you cannot avoid the consequence of avoiding reality.” The numerous problems we have in this country should be tackled head long with courage, utmost sincerity of heart. Otherwise the consequences will be too hard to bear, our highly esteemed citizens will die of hunger and starvation, then, crime, and insecurity will increase, in the end Nigerians will be at the losing end. It is an indication of systemic failure and economic sabotage in an unorganised society. It is a sin against humanity. They have failed the youths; they have failed the entire society.

  However, the genesis of the problem is sincerely not from this administration. A little introspection will reveal how Nigeria fared in the 70s. For instance, at that time, in the agricultural sector; we had the groundnut pyramid in the North, the cocoa plantations in the south west, lumbering in the south-south, the economy was booming at its peak.  Now, agricultural activities have greatly reduced due to over dependence on oil. Nigeria has turned to a mono economy nation, what a failure! There was also great neglect of other sectors. A good example is the transport sector; then railways were on, today we are still grappling to revive it. There were road workers at the local government level, but now, events have overtaken that, hence our roads are in a deplorable situation. What about Power and Communication Sectors (PHCN and Mtel)?  What about the education sector, a key sector for rapid development of any nation – a great legacy of the colonial masters and missionaries? In those days, teaching was regarded as a job of good conscience. Teachers were highly regarded in the society, pupils and students were disciplined and intelligent. They were God fearing and hard working and had respect for norms and values of the society. Today the reverse is the case. Education is on the verge of total collapse due to negligence, corruption, avarice for money, cultism, examination malpractice, incompetence and so many other factors. Yet, some of our leaders keep flying in private jets, sending their children to study abroad while the poor are half baked with poor facilities. Why leave our system to decay?

  According to Albert Einstein: “The world is dangerous not because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything”. High standard of education cannot be compromised in this great nation. Something has to be done to restore education to its former glory.  The government should wake up to its responsibilities; they should create a conducive atmosphere for education and other sectors to thrive. Some of our leaders in the state and national assemblies received quality education from the missionaries and colonial masters, who had regard for education. They had very good atmosphere and quality facilities to study. They were given good meals and those who could not further their education had opportunity to get jobs in any part of the country. Today, about 100,000 students are graduated every year by Nigerian universities and sent to the labour market for nonexistent jobs. Oh Lord! Have mercy, your children are calling on you.

  This injustice is an exploitation and betrayal of citizen’s trust and simplicity. My question now is, were the colonial masters able to provide good atmosphere for our leaders?  Why can’t they replicate this gesture to the citizenry which they claim they love?  You see, it is foolhardiness to refer to the British as thieves when some of our leaders are stealing more than they thought the British stole. They make empty promises, while we wait endlessly and hoping against hope. Sometimes I wish those days were here again, so that all will have a taste of the good old days. Of course, they can if we are genuinely committed to have a change; to save the youth and leaders of tomorrow.

   The civil service which the government relies on for economic and social transformation has not done well, only a few are disciplined and productive. Others were drunk on power and wealth conniving with the political class. They are the leaders; the political juggernauts; who is who in Nigeria. They have coerced Nigerians to adapt to the run-down economy like an unflavoured wine. They draft the constitution the way it will suit them.  Some of the problems we are facing today resulted from  poor management, insecurity, bribery, imposition of candidates by politicians, incompetence, hypocrisy of the adult society, culture of impunity, over-emphasis on paper certification, tribal sentiment, individual interest rather than national  interest, poor implementation of policies, injustice, negligence, bottle-neck bureaucracy, politicising of judiciary and the most destructive among them all is “CORRUPTION”. Corruption is the chief evil of the society. When there is good governance corruption cannot thrive. These problems would not have bedeviled Nigeria into this economic mess, if we had good and sincere leaders.

   Why will Nigerians not wallow in abject poverty when some former state governors, permanent secretaries, directors of agencies and others political office holders  embezzled billons of naira, and owning  mansions and companies all over the world. Imagine the number of political office holders and civil servants including directors and permanent secretaries from 1979 till date who have stolen from the government coffers till date. If such amount of money was appropriated to tangible projects, Nigeria would have been one of the strongest economic powers in the world. Unfortunately we have greedy leaders. Leaders who do not see anything wrong with selling out job positions to the unemployed and giving some to their relatives. They award fictitious contracts, and primitively accumulate wealth.  Crime and other social vices now take over the nation due to nonchalance. The labour of our heroes past is gradually getting in vain. We need leaders who can salvage the situation, especially as we begin the planning of our centenary celebration. This should be a land mark in the history of our great nation “Nigeria”. We need a change now. Our leaders, who have conscience and the interest of the citizens at heart, should come to salvage a decaying economy and not to have a share of the national cake. The problem Nigeria has looks mountainous but, it can be solved, if our leaders are serious. The antidote for clearing this ugly menace could be developed into three objectives.

   First, there should be a total de-orientation and re-orientation of the citizenry, where every sector will participate actively. Groups should be drawn from pressure groups, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO); Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN); National Orientation Agency (NOA); Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), and a host of others. These groups should draft a campaign programme on de-orientation and re-orientation where Nigerians will be deeply taught on the ills of corruption, and re-orient them on the benefits of honesty, hard work and the essence of development in the society. This will go round the 36 states of the federation with posters and hand bills for all offices and schools including primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and the market places. Then a comprehensive scheme on the “Dangers of corruption” should be developed in the school curricular. A leader that needs a change should give the people the constitution they demand, a people oriented constitution. Bureaucratic bottlenecks should be erased in the system to enhance speedy implementation of policies.  There should be a “fallow up action” and monitoring teams comprising of men of high integrity. The new constitution should address the issue of independence of the judiciary, creation of a special court for EFCC to make for quick and easy dispensation of justice. Nigerians can do well irrespective of their cultural and religious differences, if the constitution is people oriented.

   It is my utmost desire and opinion that as we are about to kick start our Centenary anniversary, our leaders should endeavour to write their names in gold in the history of our great country Nigeria by drafting a good programme for the centenary celebration. The intent of the British for amalgamating Southern and Northern protectorates in 1914 was not really for development but for easy administration of northern and southern Nigeria to cart away our resources. This they also achieved with indirect rule system. If this exploitative mentality was obvious as most schools of thought believed then why not redesign a better measure? It is high time we had a change; the centenary celebration is the right time.  Nigeria will be peaceful and will have a great name in the international community and the citizens will be happy and comfortable, rather than the political jingoism that has been thrown into their faces and which has filled the airwaves.

• Omolu lives in Delta State.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”