Friday, 6 December 2013

Who Really Wants A Great Nigeria? : Beyond Those "Facts"

It would be prosaic to start listing all the woes Nigeria and Nigerians face. It is common knowledge that our condition today as a Nation is not much different from what it used to be under Military Rule and I am not trying to water down the benefits of having adopted democracy... at least, with their rights to freedom of speech, Nigerians can now "talk" and "write" about their predicaments unlike before. Be rather particular about the words "talk" and "write" because that is all we do...loads of free verbal and written words with absolutely no action.

Most painfully, these verbal and written words have only repeated what we already know but in varying extents without offering solutions. In her poorly state, Nigeria has become an object of ridicule and cheap self-publicity as citizens and foreigners alike narrate to all who care to listen how bad the country has become and often with "facts" that border on the ridiculous. For instance is Kola Olaosebikan- a Nigerian lady apparently staying in the United States of America-who uploaded a video on YouTube which can be found here. In this video that she titled “The only circumstance under which I will (happily) move home to Nigeria", Kola spent approximately 7 minutes castigating Nigeria and stating reasons (backed up with "facts") why she would never return to the Country. Amongst Kola's facts were that Nigeria paid $500,000 to invite Kim Kardeshian and yet cannot afford female education and that the USA sends Nigeria 30 Billion Dollars every year/millions of dollars everyday which the government squanders. She also went as far as saying that she does not need to play a part in bringing about the desired change in Nigeria, as there are people who can do so and that until that is done, she would sit back in the United States of America, enjoy her Starbucks coffee and 'Rep' Nigeria from afar. In the entire video, Kola never uttered a word of advice or suggestion as to how Nigeria can be made better. I have never in my life met such colossal idiot. I call her an idiot with no offence intended...yeah, calling Bingo a dog is not an insult.

To the Nigerian youth, it is now cliché to narrate how and why Nigeria -your Country- isn't what you would want her to be. To be honest, I am deeply sorry for all the pains you have suffered; I am sorry that you have been forced to fend for yourselves in the most degrading, dehumanising ways; I am sorry that you have become today's weapons of destruction instead of tomorrow's leaders; I am sorry that you cannot afford proper education...not just because it is expensive but because it lacks quality; I am sorry that you are unemployed after years of toiling through school; I am sorry that in your own country, less qualified foreigners are worshipped and accorded those privileges which you can only dream of; I am sorry that the Government has no short or long-term plans for you; I am sorry that the people you call leaders are extremely corrupt and have kept looting public funds in the most blatant of ways...and above all, I am deeply sorry that this would continue indefinitely until you decide that you have had enough.

The sad truth is that no matter how you complain about the poor situation of things and the excesses of the Nigerian Government, nothing would change. These our so-called leaders hear all you say but they, as always, are steps ahead of the game. They know with experience that no matter what they do and no matter how heated the polity might appear...they would always get away with it. It seems distant now when "oil cabals" were buzzwords in Nigeria and Nigerians were almost catching and prosecuting them- till date, these cabals receive allocations through their companies even though they have been found to defraud the government. Think of the call for the sack of Deziani Alison-Madueke after a rather embarrassing show at the House of Senate; think of Obasanjo and the power sector; think of Elumelu's probe of that same sector...there are loads and loads of instances. Just few weeks ago, Nigerians wanted Odua sacked and prosecuted; a lot were written and said about her...but as usual, it has almost been forgotten and she remains your Minister. And yes, this trend shall continue.

Napoleon Bonaparte said that "the world suffers a lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the silence of good people". I would want to further enrich this saying to read "The world suffers lot. Not because of the violence of bad people, but because of the inaction of good people".  The reason being that speaking against violence, corruption and other criminal offences has seldom brought changes, whereas acting against them has. This explains why we have the paramilitary outfits that supposedly fight crime even though there are clergymen who speak against crimes.  Knowing and acknowledging that there is a problem has never solved that problem; taking appropriate actions has... but who will bell the cat?

Who will bell the cat? The Nigerian Diaspora?

Man is all about survival...in fact, survival is the prime directive as encoded in our DNA and as such everyone is on the look-out for and on the move to greener pastures. With little or nothing being green about Nigeria at the moment, Nigerians are trooping to other countries and in their numbers.

South Africa, Ghana, Malaysia, Canada, the United Kingdom and United States of America amongst others are choice destination for Nigerians who mainly move "temporarily" for academic purposes or permanently to live and work is such countries. It is also observable that it is usually the Nigerian Diaspora that speaks out against the corruption and excesses of the government and this can be attributed to the fact that they presently live in countries where things work.

You hear them say things like "...it is soooo wrong! You can never do such in America" as they compare what is obtainable in Nigeria with that in their host countries. But it always ends there; they draw attention to themselves, maybe leave some Nigerians back home in awe...and that is it...the problem continues.

Sometime ago, I journeyed by road to Owerri from Lagos via ABC. The coach on which we were to travel arrived later than expected and a certain lady kept shouting about how she had just returned from the UK and how such lateness would not be tolerated if it were in the UK as she threatened to sue the company. We eventually left and in Benin we stopped to rest. This UK lady bought groundnuts in a breakable bottle and she was told by another passenger that she would not be allowed to take the bottle aboard the coach; and she decided to conceal the bottle in polythene bags. As we were boarding the coach to continue with our journey; a routine frisking of passengers was initiated but this UK lady objected to being frisked, thereby causing some unnecessary ruckus. At this point I was so mad that I walked up to her and said "In Lagos, you were making a whole lot of noise about returning from the UK and about the coach arriving later than scheduled...which you claimed would never happen in the UK. On getting to Benin, you were informed that breakable bottles are not allowed on board yet you tried to sneak one in; in the UK would you do that? For over 10 minutes you have refused the company staff to frisk you as is required to ensure safety and security of passengers...in the UK would you refuse?". That left her red-faced.

It would soon be Christmas and they would soon visit Nigeria to mesmerise you. You sing and they go "in the UK, you dare not sing and disturb your neighbours"; you snore and they go "in the US, you can get sued for snoring and disturbing someone else"...but turn your back and they would litter the streets; jump traffic lights and do all sorts of things they would not dare in their US or UK. 

My point is, I do not have anything against people leaving Nigeria in the search of greener pastures; but since you have bolted and sure have no active role to play in bringing about a new Nigeria...please shut your mouth and quit complaining; enjoy the sweat and labour of another country’s heroes past and remain as insignificant as you presently are. We need people who would bell the cat and you are not one of them...capisce?

Who will bell the cat? Nigerians within?

We readily compare Nigeria with other countries forgetting our peculiarity in demography and culture. This comparison and benchmarking, especially with the US and UK as model countries, are also the reason certain policies and systems have failed to work here even though they have been successful elsewhere. There are basically 2 schools of thought in this comparison issue:
  • That Nigeria, following tried and tested systems in existence in the US and UK, would succeed if only the government is honest.
  • That Nigeria, following tried and tested systems in existence in the US and UK, would succeed but would need time as we are only 53 years old and 14 years into democracy as against England which is over a thousand years old and had practised democracy for 798 years and USA which is 237 years and has practised and perfected democracy since independence in 1776.

I, however, am of a different school of thought and I believe that:
  • Nigeria needs its own style of governance and policies, obviously rooted in democracy but grown to meet our peculiar needs, challenges and culture. I do see time as an important factor in perfecting a working system but not in making workable a system which is already doomed to fail.

The system by which we practice democracy has actually been retrogressive; never mind all the peripheral accordances which serve as nothing but illusions. The Failed State Index (FSI) which was instituted in 2005 ranked Nigeria 54th with a total FSI of 84.3; in 2006 it climbed up to 94.4; in 2007 - 95.6; in 2008 - 95.7; in 2009 - 99.8; in 2010 - 100.2; in 2011 - 99.1 14; in 2012 - 101.1 14 and in 2013 -100.7. Out of 178 countries being ranked by the FSI, Nigeria is presently the 16th most likely Country to fail and sits in the danger zone. Suggestions as to what policies and style of governance Nigeria needs would be another topic for discussion.

To give you an idea of how the FSI works, 12 indicators that culminate to a failed state are rated on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 represents maximum stability and 10 represent maximum instability. These indicators are: mounting demographic pressures; massive movement of refuges or internally displaced persons; vengeance-seeking group grievance; chronic and sustained human flight; uneven economic development; poverty, sharp or severe economic decline; legitimacy of the state; progressive deterioration of public services; violation of human rights and rule of law; security apparatus, rise of factionalised elites and intervention of external actors. A country's FSI is calculated by summing up its score in each of these indicators. The higher the FSI, the closer the country is to a failed state and the maximum FSI is 120. Visit here for a look at FSI.

Having said this, the model countries we all look up to once had their trying moments and still do have their fair share of issues in the modern day world. But they were and are still able to overcome these trying moments through the efforts of patriotic citizens who refused to abandon their then-ailing countries; who moved beyond daily complaints; moved beyond mere anger and embraced actions that resulted and continue to result to positive changes.

If one considers that the Nigerian Diaspora is estimated to be 17 million and that 1 out of 6 blacks in the world is a Nigerian; it then becomes obvious how much Nigerians tend to flee the country. Most of our youths - the expected leaders of tomorrow - are struggling to leave Nigeria on a daily basis and most times for good. I would not be surprised if it happens that Nigeria's Madiba is somewhere in the UK making a living out one menial job or the other. 

Like I said initially; I have no issue with Nigerians looking elsewhere for opportunities that Nigeria cannot offer them; but on the flip-side, I am looking at the opportunity cost of the massive emigration. Usually, when young Nigerians travel to developed countries; especially for education, they see how things are and should be done; get exposed to good governance and effective systems; compare what they currently experience to what they were used to in Nigeria; get angry with how things are done in Nigeria; shout and write about how stupid Nigerians and their government are; have various light-bulb moments on how they can change Nigeria but, ironically, they end up doing everything and anything within their power never to go back to Nigeria. They usually return to Nigeria to retire or to be buried after having spent their productive years abroad.

I make bold to say that Nigeria stands a greater chance of survival if the exposed Nigerian Diaspora return and put their hands on the plough and if Nigerians in Nigeria become more patriotic, demand and fight for a Nigeria that would rival the Western countries. I am not saying we do not have exposed Nigerians at home...but the question is: are their hands on the plough? Between 1983 and 1985, amidst severe drought and economic challenges in Ghana, Nigeria deported 1.3 million Ghanaians in the ill famed “Ghana must go” saga - an unwitting favour as it turned out to be. Fast forward to this day, Ghana has become one of the sought destinations by Nigerians for education, jobs and leisure. Ghana has also become attractive to firms who can no longer bear the harsh business environment that exists in Nigeria and we have seen a movement of such firms to Ghana, loss of thousands of jobs and the resultant increase in the level of unemployment in Nigeria. It will not be out of place to say that Ghanaians were not only forced home; they were taught that no matter where they go and how good their host destination is, home is home and should be taken care of. Result? The modern day Ghana with a Failed State Index of 69.1 and ranking the 110th country out of 178 with a chance of failing.

Ever asked what would have become of South Africa, if Nelson Dalibunga Madiba Mandela (May his soul RIP) chose to leave the then apartheid-ridden country? Or if he only 'dwelt on and spoke of facts' about how the white minority oppressed the black majority without any meaningful 'effort' to bring about change?

I keep being asked if I intend staying back in the United Kingdom after my research but I am always quick to point out that though it appears tempting-given the opportunities present-my country needs me and I would do my best to bring about meaningful change. Nigeria needs me in my productive state and not as an inert retiree or a corpse.

It takes a man to bring about change, think Madiba; it takes you to get it started, think Malala; it must not have to be the next man, think Martin Luther King. I therefore call on the Nigerian youths, wherever you may be, it is high time we acted; it is high time we planned ahead. No matter what our present leaders think and do today; the responsibility of building a great Nigeria is ours. Granted that you know what our present leaders have done wrong; but if you are given the opportunity to govern Nigeria today, would you know the right things to do?

I would welcome and discuss ideas on how to shape this country for the better and would wholeheartedly align myself with like minds.

Arise! Oh Compatriots...put your hands on the plough and let’s genuinely make Nigeria a giant.

The Oracle has spoken!!