Reading through Professor Akinlawon Ladipo Mabogunje’s autobiography, A Measure of Grace, tears rolled down my cheeks as I read the 27th chapter. “Nigeria: Africa’s Failed Asset” was the title of Sir Olaniwun Ajayi’s publication which the author made reference to. While still weeping, my mind imagined the booming oil, the abandoned agriculture, the smiling North, the groaning South-South and the looming doom lying in wait for my country.
I had wondered countless times what became of all the wonderfully thought-out and mind-blowing visions of Nigeria since 1970. Although my yearning to get to the root of the nebulous problems of my beloved country proved abortive, one thing became clear in the end: “the visions were killed before they were born.”
It all dates back to the 1959 election, though selection would have captured the scenario better. “It was clear that the British authorities played a decisive part in the selection of politicians for ministerial posts”. Those were the words of Mr. Harold Smith, an Oxford graduate, who joined the colonial civil service in Lagos in 1955, in his publication Libertas Homepage. Reading through his candid confession, it became easier to say that the British granted independence to Nigeria knowing full well they had set in motion a political grudge that would bring the nation to grief. The result of their manipulations was the Nigerian civil war of 1967, just seven years after her political independence. It was obvious that what we had was not Independence but In Dependence.
One would not be wrong to say that colonialism is gone and buried, nor would it be wrong to say that the Indirect Rule with which we were governed is still very much here with us. Suffice it to say that Neocolonialism is well rooted in this British colony called Nigeria. What we have are captured in Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s songs: zombies, suffering and smiling. 56 years after freedom, we still live like zombies in our God-given kingdom.
Notwithstanding, my people say, when we cry we also can see. Though the British Imperialist planted the seed of discord on the Nigerian state, we could uproot it and destroy its root, but we did not. That was the beginning of our failure. 30 years of military rule birthed the words corruption and connection. The other years of civilian rule bought those words and fed them on the nation’s abundance. The truth be told, the idea of “federal character” is Nigeria’s 21st century challenge. We have placed astrictive rules over and above universalistic rights. Competence and proficiency do not qualify one for occupying a deserved position in Nigeria; where one comes from and the people one knows do.
Furthermore, over-dependence on the Federal purse by the states government is another huge problem of Nigeria. This is what I call “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. Why won’t the Niger Delta people carry guns when all we do is steal their buns? Gas flaring is killing their people – imagine the dryness and the agony they go through – yet, the Northern states are the most developed in terms of infrastructural facilities. Depending on the federal government will not allow state governments to look inwards and generate their own funds. After all, a school like Obafemi Awolowo University was established with the money got from Cocoa and not Petroleum. I am sure there are other mineral and human resources spread across the nation, but we have turned blind-eyes to them because we can always depend on our God-given petroleum. Only God knows what would become of us if our oil suddenly went dry.
My candid opinion is that autonomy should be granted the State governments and the Local governments should be monitored by the States for effective discharge of duties. States should be allowed to develop at their pace based on the revenue generated internally. Certain fixed percentages should then be remitted into the Federal account. That way, the weight will reduce on the Federal government and important services such as security, electricity, construction of roads and so on, would be effectively carried out by the government at the centre. This is what is obtained in the United States we so much look up to. The States of Texas and Nevada are proven examples of the invention necessity can necessitate.
It would also do us good if more of the government parastatals are privatised. It is no gainsaying that we have witnessed a remarkable transformation in the two privatised industries in Nigeria: Aviation and Telecommunication. The truth be told, the Nigerian Civil Service is corrupt and the civil servants constitute the dirtiness. It is easier to condemn a government, forgetting that we, the people, are the government. If we all discharged our duties as we ought to, Nigeria, which is Africa’s failed asset, would not have failed. If Nigeria is a failed nation, then her people are a failed people.