Nigeria@54: state of the Nation by Ayobami Oyalowo

At 54, young women and men are captured and held by
terrorists for 172 days and the president couldn’t be bothered
to mention it in his speech. Of course such distractions are
unbecoming, aren’t they? There is a coming election to be won
and that is of paramount importance to our ruler and his
minions . Arguments can be made for or against, I believe sincere
observers will agree that we could have done better. Compared
to other African nations with whom we gained independence at
about the same time, we were lucky to have the population or
human resources to rival the best, therefore even the West was
afraid of what we could become after they left us to our own
We also have the most sought after natural resource: oil!
And with that we were set to become the biggest and the best
African country. We were set to become the leader of the
black nation. But, 54 years later, have we truly fulfilled our
Years of mismanagement and frivolous leadership, wastage of
our common patrimony and failure to plan for the future have
now come back to haunt us and yes, we are paying the price big
When the British left our shores, we were saddled with the
responsibility of educating ourselves. At least education was
supposed to be the bedrock of human development. Sadly, we
haven’t done a good job of that, have we? While the original
aim of the first British settlers was to educate “savages” on
the basics, i.e. how to read and write especially in English, the
latter thrust of education in Nigeria by the British towards
the end of their period of colonization was to prepare mid level
workers who could work in government offices and function
appropriately as second class citizens, teachers, policemen, etc.
But since the British left, we have not done better in the area
of education. You can’t point at a concise policy on education
to herald an industrial revolution. In fact we have regressed to
the point where Nigerians now have to travel to various
countries in search of quality education that is fast becoming
a mirage back home.
You will be shocked at the number of Nigerians in backwater
countries like Malta, Cyprus, Benin Republic, Ghana, Ukraine,
Uzbekistan, etc. with the attendant ill treatment and at times
unexplained but violent death of so many Nigerian students
whose only sin was going to study abroad; with their parents
now left alone to mourn their losses.
All these happened and is still happening because the
government at home has effectively ensured that education is
killed and if possible, totally destroyed, after all an
uneducated people are easy to deceive and manipulate; just
throw in some ethnicity and a little dose of religion, then sit
back and watch them fight over trivialities like dogs fight over
bones. Little wonder that we have the highest number of out
of school children in the world. Currently, Nigeria has over 11
million children of primary school age out of school. Indeed our
future is “bright”.
In the area of health, one can only weep. Some military
adventurist years back, in a coup broadcast, referred to our
hospitals as mere consulting centers. I guess we have improved
on that as the hospitals have now become more of a mortuary
for the poor citizens of Nigeria while the “big men” can go to
the UK, Germany, Saudi Arabia or even India for treatment,
leaving the rest of us to either die in hospitals that are ill
equipped, poorly staffed and loaded with ill motivated
personnel; or better still, we take our destinies into our own
hands by flocking to men and women of various religious
persuasions who gleefully promise to heal us of all sicknesses.
Indeed ours is a theater of the absurd.
In the area of agriculture, we have been told recently that the
government is working hard to ensure food security. But one
wonders if food security means constant increase in prices of
basic food items in the markets. While propaganda may serve
you for a time, the reality is that propaganda and television
adverts don’t feed the people. No wonder the ones who said
they have made giant leaps in agriculture still campaign by
giving the people bags of rice. Indeed we are a people quick to
stand logic on its head and thanks to the poorly educated and
semi-literate young goons all over town, these wicked rulers are
never in short supply of young men and women who will usually
rise to their defense even when reality stares them in the
face. But as Nigerians, we keep living in an Illusion. Little
wonder that 54 years after independence, politicians still share
rice, noodles and other nonsense as “stomach infrastructure”
and the people hail them as messiahs.
After 54 years of independence, Nigeria as a country cannot
boast of 5,000 megawatts of electricity. In fact in a recent
publication, a government official asked us to give the present
government kudos for increasing electricity generation to 5,000
MW in a country of about 170million people, after the same
political party in power has spent more than $22 billion dollars
on fixing electricity in less than 15 years on the saddle of
governance. Meanwhile, the Three Gorges dam in China has the
capacity to generate 22,500 MW of electricity and was
constructed at the cost of $26billion.
Norway today has an official population estimate of 5,096,300.
But interestingly, the country has a sovereign wealth fund of
$828.66 billion), fractionally more than a million times
Norway’s population, theoretically making every citizen a
millionaire. How did they achieve this? They planned ahead.
The country also discovered oil in the ’60s, but unlike Nigeria,
the leaders (not rulers) didn’t devise a sharing formula on how
to “chop I chop” like ours did and are still doing, rather they
envisioned a bright future for their children and unborn
generation. Today, the quality of life of a Norwegian is what
an ordinary Nigerian will not dare to dream of neither imagine
because it is clearly unattainable given our present
What we have and have always had, have been gangs of
philanderers, intent on stealing as much as they can from the
public purse, irrespective of the impact of their actions on the
majority of the people they purport to lead.
Today we have what we call the “looted Abacha funds” the
world over. But I ask, was it only Abacha who stole or is it
because he was unfortunate to have died in office,
unprepared? Taking into cognizance salary and total earnings,
can Ibrahim Babangida, also a former despotic military
adeventurist in politics, ordinarily afford the exotic hill top
mansion he owns based on his military salary and other perks?
Abdulsalami Abubakar is so wealthy, he even bought one of the
electricity generation companies recently sold.
You may wish to ask the white bearded general if his salary
was so fat as a soldier. Let me not even start with the coterie
of ex governors, ministers and other lucky gangsters who have
held political offices in the past. Rather than plan for the
future, these people steal as much as they can get away with,
build mansions and huge walls to hide themselves away from
the ordinary citizens; while siphoning the rest abroad in the
hope that they and their children can live on same whenever
and if ever they manage to escape from the Armageddon they
are intent on creating back home.
At 54, ours is a country where you can get away with anything
and I repeat: anything! Recently in the USA, there have been
a few reported breaches of security at the White House and
we all know that Julia Pierson, the director of the U.S. Secret
Service, has resigned and taken responsibility for the lapses.
Well, that wouldn’t have happened in Nigeria. In fact, if
anyone dared to call on her to resign, like Stella Oduah, such a
person will have to contend with the usual “rent a crowd”
people with placard asking that their daughter be left alone.
Such a person who dared to ask her to resign will be accused of
fighting against the ethnic group of that official and if after
several months of defiantly remaining in office, against better
judgment, she voluntarily decides to seek greener pastures, she
will be awarded the highest chieftaincy title available by her
community and some overnight women groups will also surface
asking her to contest for the senate. Such is the appalling level
we operate at as a people.
Julia Pierson, the embattled director of the U.S. Secret
Service, resigned her position because security was breached
under her watch. She didn’t send any loquacious and foul
mouthed spokeswoman to blame an opposition party, neither did
the president complain and wail to the press about how such a
breach was a ploy by some unnamed people to destabilize his
government and embarrass him. That is the level of decency
and responsibility expected of public officials in a country that
holds her citizens in high esteem.
Asking officials to take responsibility for their actions (or in-
actions) in Nigeria is akin to declaring an ethnic war on that
official. While Julia Pearson took responsibility even though no
lives were lost, she recognized her failure. Not in Nigeria, where
a minister who superintended over the gruesome murder of
about 20 unemployed youths due to his naked greed and
negligence, remains in office unperturbed.
Abba Moro, the interior minister of Nigeria did not only
supervise the death of young job seekers, he enjoyed so much
immunity to the point where he has recently blessed the same
Nigerians by asking citizens to pay much higher fees to get
new or renewed international passports.
Such is the level of governance and leadership in Nigeria and
one need not wonder why at 54, the president of the country
delivered a customary anniversary broadcast but over half of
the people couldn’t watch him speak live because there was no
electricity to power their televisions and watch their “ruler”
address his “subjects”. The president also praised himself for
the privatization of the electricity sector, but what most
Nigerians can see today are higher electricity bills for more
At 54, a nation that cannot educate her citizens at home and
treat both the poor and rich in local hospitals successfully, is
not a nation to be taken seriously by more serious nations. As
big as Nelson Mandela was in stature, while he was alive, he
received his medical treatments locally.
The northern part of Nigeria had in the past, had leaders who
never took education seriously. Today, insurgents find willing
hands in the poorly educated and totally unemployable youths.
Sadly, the south of the country which was making some
progress, decided to borrow a leaf from their fellow yoke givers
in the north and destroyed education in their region as well.
Currently, the south of Nigeria is gradually but surely building
its own type of monster that will one day rise up to consume it.
From fraudsters to kidnappers and violent armed robbers,
someday (and it may be soon) if unchecked, these unorganized
band of criminals will grow and become worse than what the
north east of Nigeria is currently witnessing.
Sadly, the rulers are so blinded by their greed and selfish
desire to grab and grab and grab some more, not reading the
signs of the times. A decade ago, we could all swear on our lives
that no Nigerian could be persuaded to become a suicide
bomber. Today, we all know better.
I cringe in horror as the various gangs in power steal all they
can, leaving in their wake so much poverty, sorrow and pain
among the people they are supposed to be governing. Wicked
and unconscionable, they send their own children to Harvard
and Oxford while closing down higher institutions in the county
for months without any fear of a backlash. They rush their
wives, concubines and selves to foreign lands to treat simple
catarrh while their poor country men and women die in
hospitals because they can’t afford drugs worth N1,000.
At 54, the future of Nigeria is trapped in a maze where retired
soldiers are richer than legitimate businessmen because they
dispensed oil blocs among themselves or stole money meant for
security under their watch, while thousands of their citizens
are mowed down like cattle by bloodthirsty gang of killers.
At 54, young women and men are captured and held by
terrorists for 172 days and the president couldn’t be bothered
to mention it in his speech. Of course such distractions are
unbecoming, aren’t they? There is a coming election to be won
and that is of paramount importance to our ruler and his
No nation can rise beyond the level of education it offers its
people. Nigeria at 54 may not have been an Eldorado, but
certainly we don’t deserve to be in the mess we currently find
ourselves in. Nigeria is one of the largest producers of crude oil
yet we still import refined oil for domestic use. What a shame!
A nation where there are no consequences for actions is a
nation inviting chaos. Pensioners die regularly while queuing to
collect mere pittance, which they may not even get, while some
officially sanctioned thieves have been making away with
billions in pension funds with no consequences or punishment.
If Nigeria is to make progress, there must be consequences.
Rhetoric only seem good on paper, nobody is fooled in reality.
We can’t fight corruption when the leadership is confused as to
what constitutes corruption and what can be referred to as
“mere stealing”.
Education and health is the bedrock of any long-term
development plan and sustained success. Nigerian leaders can’t
keep pretending to be blind to what we daily witness as our
Nigerians as a people have a responsibility to force her leaders
to become responsible. A fish starts to rot from its head.
Sadly, years of mis-education and impoverishment has
damaged the psyche of the average Nigerian so much that
people will confidently tell you to pray rather than hold public
officials accountable. No wonder religion is such a big deal in
this clime. How else do you explain sane people behaving
What is private should be private. How a private aircraft
turned into a commercial one without official licensing is
something that can only happen in Nigeria. And should anyone
ask too many questions, a curse is placed on such a person in
“the name of The Lord”. Of course religion is the trump card
of tyrants and despots. With it, they control the minds of the
adherents and manipulate otherwise commonsensical individuals
to lose their identity and fall in line.
Nigeria will be great again but no great nation or civilization
has ever been built on loud prayers and resounding Amens.
Great civilizations and industrial revolutions are built on
education, hard-work, sincerity of purpose and are led by a
selfless leadership willing to take the hard decisions. Even
Nehemiah and Ezra, in the bible, respectively stood up and
built. They prayed but they worked hard to get results.
May God grant us great leaders but more than that, may we
have an intellectual revolution. It is time to rebuild Nigeria.

Happy Independence anniversary Nigeria!

The author of this piece is Ayo Oyalowo. You can follow him on
twitter @Ayourb for more direct engagements.


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