The problem with Nigeria is not just that it is hopelessly corrupt, it is that it is actually hopeless. It is not my intention to be pessimistic about my country, or not to believe that things can get better, it is simply a case of being realistic. A farmer who has diligently laboured in the planting season can realistically hope for plenty in the future, even if hunger and pain have to be endured at the present. But the man who couldn’t plant anything would be in double trouble. For while the hope of a better tomorrow makes hunger bearable for the diligent farmer, there is nothing to assuage the other of the present affliction. That is the sad case of Nigeria.
Alex Ekwueme, former vice president, became the latest of our “founding fathers” to kiss Nigeria goodbye. Of course, he didn’t die in Nigeria. His illness meant he had to be flown abroad. Nigerian hospitals and doctors are obviously never good enough. Ignore the fact that Nigerian doctors are doing exceptionally well overseas. But flying the political and wealthy class of Nigeria abroad for all manner of medical attention has become the unfortunate norm. But that wasn’t why I brought Ekwueme into my essay. I did because I often wonder what goes through the mind of men like him whenever they do a critical analysis of what has become of their country. In one lifetime, they saw the birth of a promising nation, but, which, for a number of reasons, drifted off course; so far away from the promised land that looked so close. Men like Ekwueme knew what it was like when Nigeria had too much money than it could spend. When being a student of the University of Ibadan or Lagos, or Ife, meant you were exposed to first-rate, all-round education at minimal cost. They knew a Nigeria that was so close to generating more than enough power supply. When graduates were often confused as to which job to pick from. When buying a brand new Volkswagen beetle as a fresh graduate was the very least you could afford. When a secondary school certificate could fetch a job decent enough to start a family fairly comfortably.
They knew the time when travelling to Europe and America for studies was only out of necessity, and not a statement of class. When the dollar and Naira were mates,and when there were absolutely no queues for visas out of the country.
Those men knew the Nigeria that embarrassed university students with excellent three-course meals, that had expatriates teaching our students at secondary and university levels, that always spoilt civil servants with hampers at Yuletides, all expense paid vacations and bountiful bonuses.
In the same lifetime of men like Ekwueme, we have jobless masters degree graduates, absolutely no electricity, grounded healthcare, total collapse of our security network and virtually no hope of a better future. Because no such plans are being made! I wonder how such men sleep. Men that have seen the best and the worst of our country. Methinks they would have had many sad days merely ruminating over the unfortunate fate of our country. That agony must have pushed some of them into running for political office in their bid to correct the ills. But Nigeria’s curse is something beyond what politics can handle.
The tragedy of Nigeria is not that we are in a mess presently. It is that absolutely nothing is being done to ensure that the future is better. The leaders of tomorrow, who are to be at the forefront of redeeming the country, are not only hugely under prepared, but have been psychologically battered to see our country, not as a project that require diligent labours, but as a massive cake that needs to be eaten from. The mentality is to try and make it, anyhow; escape from the bottom, and qualify for the party. We see education as a means to our meal ticket and nothing more, trying to get qualifications that would only give us advantages in climbing that ladder, and heave a sigh of arrival when the money starts flowing in. But it takes experience to teach many people that breaking the poverty barrier in Nigeria is no solution to anything. It rather, is the creation of myriads of problems in itself. Until we have a society that works, those who don’t have money will always make sure those who have it don’t enjoy it.
The tragedy of Nigeria is that we have chosen to ignore the fact that we have a serious problem. Those who can afford solving their problems outside Nigeria do so almost with no shame, anymore. We ruined public primary schools. So our kids attend private ones. We promptly collapsed the post primary schools as well, so our kids also attend private secondary schools. Of course our tertiary institutions are already in their final stages of life support. Already we send our kids to private universities. But they are not enough, so we fly them abroad. We quickly find a way out when confronted with serious problems. And instead of sitting down to address them, we shift the goal post. So, you either allow your child endure the perennial ASUU crises,(that’s if they scale through the corrupt admissions process in the first place),or find a means of sending them through private schools, costing an arm, a leg, and a heart that bleeds of frustration. Many parents can hardly get one child through school before the weight of the burden crushes them. The expectations that a graduate sibling help sponsor the other children is often dead on arrival. The jobs are simply not there.
Nigeria has a huge population of frustrated, broken youths. We are sitting practically on a time bomb of popular uprising. Even if government can’t provide solutions now, at least they should lay a foundation for it. What we rather see is an over bloated size of government, special advisers and assistants running into their hundreds, and a clear lack of any sense of urgency to solve Nigeria’s problems. As we approach another season of political campaigns, what we are rather seeing is another comical session of mudslinging, politicking and propaganda; a replay of episodes of corruption that has shipwrecked our state, and a further backslide into a culture of materialism and money-worship.
There can only be one destination. Further heartache in the future. And this is not a prophecy of doom. It’s simply the truth. While travelling across a major highway recently, I got troubled at the number of police checkpoints on the road and how the men in black were shamelessly extorting money openly. I groaned openly that Nigeria had finally been destroyed. I was worried that not once were we searched or interrogated. Just to be stopped to part with cash. That is blatant corruption. A fellow passenger heard my comment and quickly retorted; saying “Nigeria is not destroyed in Jesus name”. I smiled.
She assumes Nigeria can suddenly wake up to a new dawn of prosperity by positive confession. Its akin to the farmer who not only devours his seeds, but sleeps through the planting season. When its time for harvest, positive confessions won’t make yams sprout from the ground. Crops don’t respond to faith. They grow when seeds are planted, tended, and dutifully cultivated. Nigeria has not prepared for a great tomorrow. Its a shame we are pretending tomorrow will somehow break even on its own.