Fallacy of Hope: Nigerian Conundrum

By Phillip Oak

The Nigerian Dream is defunct. It has run aground on the shallow shores of our collective lackluster effort at nation building. And if the Nigerian experiment has failed spectacularly it is because it has had so many able abetters, leaders and followership alike – a collective sin of omission: it takes all to untangle.

Its hard to believe now, given the current nationwide mood of doom and gloom that there was once such a thing as a Nigerian Dream, the grand and robust hope in a viable Nigeria Project, one in which proud, dignified citizens would prosper to fulfill and flower the universal aspiration for a powerful, negroid nation, the bastion and jewel of African pride, the designated beacon for black people everywhere.

Now alas, mired deeply in treacherous socioeconomic waters, this dream is in tatters. It is now more despair and despondency than rainbows and roses, a matter of profound sadness to all who, at the onset, truely wished her well and God’s speed.

Distressingly, this has been a sustained trend of decline for the best part of her post-independence history. We have gone from bad to worse in a maddened course of lusty autocannibalism, running this magnificent ship of state aground on the shaggy shores of poor governance and civil irresponsibility. So much so that today we are left with little of note to call a country worthy of a patriot’s pride and devotion.

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Nigeria became a federal republic in 1963, having gained independence from Great Britain in 1960, during the mid century blitz of decolonization in Africa and around the world. It had come through its precolonial period relatively incident free, achieving its sovereignty on the back of the intellectual and political sophistication of its emergent political class.

And it was heralded as the Golden Child of England’s African colonial experience, vested with the trust of becoming the standard bearer of global black identity. However that dream quickly unraveled.

Seemingly unprepared for the serious task of forging a virile nation out of its huge collective of tribes and tongues, the country rapidly went through a series of civil and political crises, through a meaningless, divisive civil war and then through a domino fall of military intrusions into governance as well as policy and constitutional miscalculations – leading to where she is today – a pariah nation, chock a block with citizen desperadoes, its leadership a laughing stock of the world. Naturally the search for answers to complex problems invariably generates a spectrum of theories and postulations.

The current sociological dilemma the Nigerian state finds herself is no exception. Opinions abound richly, thick as the problem itself. But they are mostly divisible into two broad camps; that of those who blame the Nigerian citizens themselves for the mess they find themselves in (we will call this the citizen accusing view) and those that blame the leaders – the leadership accusing view.

In the latter view, like every other country, Nigeria has her own share of the demons of regional, ethnicultural and religious divisions, differences which sometimes break down, mostly under the manipulation of powerful but less than patriotic political apparatchiks, into down right mayhem and destruction. Our civil war of ‘67 – ‘70 is a classic case in point.

But there is scarcely any country without the historical scar of a civil war on its records. Countries tend to rebound from such internal convulsive crises with a national mosaic that becomes stronger and tougher and more dynamic.

Therefore, the leadership accusing view holds, our many differences and schisms is not our problem. If anything this is the source spring of the famous Nigerian versatility and resilience. Our problem is the crass chicanery, the swashbuckling kleptocracy of the captains of the Nigerian polity, the sustained moral bankruptcy of the leadership of Africa’s flagship country.

This view preempts and precludes the notion that Nigerians are naturally corrupt, that this infamous stature is the egg and not the chicken, the natural end result of a system so bedeviled by the kleptomania of its leadership that the followership has no choice but to model itself along the same lines. They say the character of the king is reflected in the characteristics of the kingdom.

To have our leaders rape the state with manic rapacity and expect the citizenry to somehow magicall remain unsullied is a tall order indeed. The natural order of things, perforce, is for the chicks to follow the hen. Ithe former view on the other hand begs to differ.

The problem of the country’s fall from grace to grass is so often laid squarely at the provebial feet of “our leaders,” that one can be forgiven for wondering if our leaders are an alien species who regularly arrive here in UFOs with the only purpose of leading us into perdition! It holds that a people are the author of their own destiny, their material situation a function and aggregate result of the quality and momentum of their collective efforts at nation building – for good or ill.

Manna, as it were, no longer falls from heaven. A people in effect get the kind of leaders that they deserve. Therefore unless there is a change in the fundamental nature of the people themselves what other outcome is rightfully theirs to expect other than one of inevitable, terminal deterioration? Stethoscope holds the position that the truth is the total of both these points of view.

Anthropologically, the average Nigerian is a friendly, hardworking and fun loving person. And this is true of the Hausa, the Kanuri, the IBO or the Yoruba. The country is a tapestry of people animated with enthusiasm and vitality.

What we asked for at the beginning of this national enterprise was simple: the same civic decencies accorded the citizens of other thriving countries: respectable, working infrastructures, a well managed economy and social justice. Given these, our Nigerianess would have taken it from there.

The Nigerian Project, a virtual cornucopia of tremendous human and material resources, well harnessed and widely engaged, would have had us, in the words of Goya Menor’s catchy tune, “playing with the big boys.”

There is no one to blame for our failure here than ourselves. Not “our leaders” and certainly not the colonial masters who left us with a robust infrastructure and treasury. The age old argument that the British destroyed Nigeria by ceding powers to the North is as juvenile as it is laughable.

The true test of the mettle of an independent people is their determined self-direction in overcoming whatever preexisting odds and obstacles threaten the cohesive productivity of their union.

To instead wallow in those imperfections and the ride them like the chariots of hell towards our own ultimate destruction is no more the fault of the white man than it is of aliens in UFOs.

Self determination means just that. Anything that happens after that baton is handed over is exactly your cup of tea and no one else’s.

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