By Toks Ero
Since the beginning of last year, President Goodluck Jonathan and several government functionaries, particularly Secretary to the Government, Pius Anyim Pius had busied themselves with preparations geared towards celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the January 1, 2014 amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates of the area around Rivers Niger and Benue by the British colonialists to create a country it christened Nigeria.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with clinging glasses and declaring a national day of merriment, after all for any person, organisation or institution living up to a hundred years is no mean feat least of all for a country that has had its fair share of turmoil and upheavals.
Many have queried and rightly so the rationale for rolling out the drums. For them, Nigeria is yet to maximise its potential after a hundred years as a country, despite the deluge of natural endowments in human and materials resources and widely acknowledged across the world as a haven for excellent minds who in the past and present are contributing in no small measure to the growth and development of nations, and in varied fields of human endeavour and enterprise.
Again, many argue that being a contraption of British colonialists, Nigeria is nothing but a mere geographical expression knit together for the administrative convenience of the British and not for the good of the people that live within the space christened Nigeria. Taking a critical look at this argument, one cannot but agree because over the last hundred years; we have witnessed more bloody ethnic and tribally-induced conflicts than we can recount. The reason isn’t far-fetched – we are strange bedfellows more so as the British didn’t seek the permission of the over 250 ethnic groups before forcefully gluing them together to create a country Flora Shaw – mistress and later wife of the chief amalgamator, Lord Frederick Lugard christened Nigeria.
We have witnessed bloody ethnic clashes in the East, West, North and South of Nigeria culminating in a bloody 30-month civil war that left countless casualties in terms of lives and property. Yet, even after the cessation of that unfortunate conflict in Nigeria’s history, religious conflicts are still rife. These bloody religious conflicts seem to make God wonder what could be wrong with his worshippers, and why they are so blood-thirsty even when their holy books teach love and tolerance even for non-adherents of their faith.
The result is that ethnic, religious and tribal considerations have become indices for allocating resources, getting positions in government, getting admitted into schools, securing contracts, and even in such simple exercises as population census and a determinant of where the president comes from or should come from. Therefore, over the last hundred years, mediocrity became the norm rather than the exception, because as a modern day Tower of Babel– the people that call themselves Nigerians don’t understand each other.
In terms of development, Nigeria is yet to transit from the company of countries referred to as under-developed because over these hundred years, Nigeria continues to fall below in all indices for measuring development – a case in point is the Human Development Index report published annually by the United Nations, which describes living standards and conditions as still abysmally low as Nigerians still live below one dollar per day with life expectancy rates hovering around forty-forty-five years. Our healthcare infrastructure is still primitive and stagnant with each succeeding government merely paying lip-service to improving healthcare infrastructure and facilities.
Over the past hundred years, our infrastructure deficit is better imagined. Road networks have completely collapsed despite huge resources expended or budgeted by succeeding governments under different programmes to make our roads vehicle worthy. It is horrifying and unimaginable how much man-hours and human lives are lost on the death-traps we call roads annually. Unfortunately, the numbers of households that own automobiles seem to have grown over the years, yet the quality of road infrastructure is detestable.
Our education sector over the last hundred years has gone from worse to worse as manifested in the production of half-baked graduates, disenchanted teachers and lecturers who teach with outdated curriculum and in dilapidated infrastructure resulting in universities that churn out large numbers of graduates unfit for today’s workplace. Any wonder, none of our universities have been able to achieve global reckoning in recent times – not even in Africa. Imagine the umbrella union of lecturers at our nations universities just resumed work after six months of exchanging blows with government over neglect of the nation’s universities and failed promises by government to revamp our universities and make them achieve global reckoning.
Most annoying is that government officials with the responsibility to provide quality education for our people; all have their children in schools abroad even in places as close as Ghana. In fact, the influx of Nigerian students to universities abroad have now created a huge foreign exchange earnings for colleges and universities in Europe, America, Asia and even for our own West African neighbour, Ghana.
The malaise that has seen Nigeria go down the slope in the last hundred years is hydra headed composed of wicked rulers, inept/selfish leadership and corruption.
In the last hundred years, all we have seen are leaders, whose sole agenda is self-aggrandizement and looting of the nation’s treasury with impunity while mouthing service to the people. This is regardless of what colour or texture of fabric they don considering that in Nigeria’s checkered history, she has experienced military juntas and civilian leaders who are merely two sides of the same coin – the only difference between the looters in military uniform and their civilian counterparts being the depth of brazenness with which they steal from the commonwealth. The military guys openly damn the people when they loot while the civilians hide under the cover of darkness and hideous mechanisms and devices, though they are being more overt about it these days.
What more can I say about corruption in Nigeria that we don’t know of? Nothing – we all know of the Transparency International Index on corruption, and what position Nigeria has occupied in the last ten years. We all know about the corruption making the rounds at the national assembly, in the executive (ministries, departments and agencies of government, the presidency), in the judiciary and the police. It is simply mind-boggling. What of corruption in the corporate and private circles – particularly within the financial institutions and places of worship? Indeed, corruption in Nigeria has become so endemic that successive governments have all failed to find a permanent cure to corruption because the fighters of corruption do not have the moral fibre to look at corruption in the face. They seem to be all culpable and willful accomplices in all corruption projects.
Having recounted what seems like a litany of woes that has bedeviled Nigeria in the last one hundred years of her existence, what is there to celebrate? Yet, it hasn’t been one hundred years of no good. In all areas and fields of human endeavour – sports, arts, sciences, politics, international peace-keeping and diplomacy, etc, we have seen good times too.
Yes, we have seen good times too, but are they worth clinging glasses when countries we started the race together left us behind long ago?
I am thinking of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the UAE, Vietnam, Brazil and a couple of others.
Toks Ero blogs at www.toksero.org