Nigeria’s centenary II: Through the prism of a negative optimist (2)

 (By Samuel Stephen Wakdok)

The appropriation of our national wealth is so skewed in favour of a few and this continues to heighten the divide. There are many Nigerians who can’t earn a living no matter how much they contribute while there are a few who live in opulence though they contribute just a little. A government that cannot provide physical and economic security to its people, especially the vulnerable populace needs to have a rethink.

Continued from yesterday (14-5-2014)

THE government, politicians and technocrats alike only roll out policies. They give themselves pass marks for the words they are able to put on paper rather than the works on ground. Millions groan in darkness without electricity. Millions are without water. Millions are without job. Millions are without access to health care. Yet we have had governments who passed themselves high in public service. In this age, with our numerous resources we are still talking of lacking the basics; Nigerians joke about being their own local government since individuals provide water, energy, alternative power, education, health, and sadly even security for themselves and their families.

   The appropriation of our national wealth is so skewed in favour of a few and this continues to heighten the divide. There are many Nigerians who can’t earn a living no matter how much they contribute while there are a few who live in opulence though they contribute just a little. A government that cannot provide physical and economic security to its people, especially the vulnerable populace needs to have a rethink. Year in, year out, budgets are read but they are only budgets and end up as budgets. The people do not feel and have not seen the manifestation of such huge budgetary amounts in their lives or environment. The quality and sanctity of lives in Nigeria are not only so poor but are alarmingly on the decrease.

  The questions that beg for urgent answers are these:  What kind of Nigeria are we inheriting? Are we still going to have Nigeria as our country with the way things are run and ruined by the present crop of rulers? Will we and our children remain Nigerians till we depart this earth? If we must continue to exist as Nigerians then we must become Nigeria ourselves. We must save Nigeria from the destruction of self-serving individuals and groups. The next centenary will meet us and our children in our prime, active and retiring years. We will therefore need a peaceful and functional country to live, work, retire, grow old and die in; we cannot afford to inherit a Nigeria where insecurity, corruption, terrorism, mal governance, failed educational system, rotten social amenities, crimes among many vices are the order of the day.

   The paradigm shift ought to start from the way we view the nexus between citizenship and national survivability. We must distant ourselves from the town criers and soothsayers whose major preoccupation is the disintegration of the only country we have for ourselves, our children and their children. The modern nation states have had their maps drawn by nationalism or colonialism, redrawing the map will not come without greater challenges than making the current map work except in extreme or rare situations. It is easier to start a fire than to put it out, far easier to beat the drums of war than to achieve peace. What we need is to consolidate on building a country, where we all irrespective of religion, ethnicity, gender, class or creed will be stakeholders. In the process, we may have to jettison equality for equity, but in all debates and actual implementations the lives and livelihoods of the minorities and vulnerable groups must be protected. In our quest for a sustainable Nigeria, all classes of people who aspire must achieve. We should be able to build a culture of knowledge, expertise, technology and merit. Success must not be based on surnames, family ties, political marriages of convenience, or cliques. Failure should not be on misplaced indices of background, lack of godfatherism, without connection or gender imbalance. We will have to accept not just the new way of doing things, but also embrace the right way of doing things.

   To integrate our national space, every citizen must be guaranteed his or her share of our national identity. No one should suffer because he/she is or is not from a part of Nigeria. No one should be favoured or unfavoured because of his or her religion. Barriers should not be placed on those youths whose parents did not partake in stealing the country blind. We must advance our quest for national development through dialogue among those who have the vision and passion for the sustainability of Nigeria. Spending scarce resources in a conference where those who have knee jerked Nigeria will be paid millions of Naira to go and do nothing but to sleep and talk about religious composition of a conference that ought to be national is a disservice to the struggling millions of Nigerians. Nigerians have been known to be patient, resilient and adaptive to hard times, but we must seek to become inventive, innovative, demanding (of our leaders’ stewardship), responsible and reinventing. We must refuse to accept the status quo and push to edge our quest for Justice and the rule of law.

  To save Nigeria from Nigerians, especially those who have brought us to this sorry state, we must move from rhetoric to action. We must move from the comfort of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the internet to participatory activism which will make Nigeria responsive to the needs of her old and young, responsible to the needs of her men and women, protective of her workers and entrepreneurs, accountable to her electorate and sensitive to the multi-cultural and religious adherents. We must encourage creativity and innovation, peaceful coexistence, economic prosperity, popular political participation, educational excellence, cultural revival, social rejuvenation, public accountability, religious tolerance and ethical revolution. We must punish corruption, ostracize greed, arrest the rising insecurity and discourage impudence. In these all, Nigeria must see all people as her citizens and all citizens must see Nigeria as their country.

  To take Nigeria to a safe Haven we must internalise Nigeria. When we see ourselves as Nigerians only, we confine ourselves to being only adjectives, but when we elevate ourselves from Nigerians to Nigeria, we become a hybrid of a country, a nation and a people with a unique goal of saving our country from our unpatriotic countrymen. The Sahara Desert is encroaching, the Atlantic Ocean is not cheap to reclaim, Togo and Benin are not going off the map, Cameroon is taking Bakasi, Niger and Chad are not palatable, why don’t we stick to our Nigeria where the land is green, the rivers are flowing, the mountains are not erupting, and make things work? Our optimism should act as fuel that will generate the voltage for our hi-tech launch to greatness. The next centenary should meet us as a promised land and not a museum or an archeological artifact.


• Wakdok is an economist and a blogger who wrote in from Abuja

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