Saturday, June 4, 2016

Will We Ever Get It Right In Nigeria?

By Bolaji Tunji
I have always agonized and been  concerned about this country Nigeria. My agony in most cases leads to headache and the problem is simply; why has Nigeria been the way it is? Why have we found it difficult to mesh as a nation? Why has development that would translate this country into a great country eluded us? Why is it that our leaders, over the years have always found it convenient to show concern for their own welfare rather than the collective welfare? Our leaders travel out of the country. They see some of the best of facilities and infrastructure in those countries- good road network, good medical facilities where they go in order to take care of themselves, unblinking electricity supply, welfarist programmes for the citizens.
*Buhari 
 All these our leaders see, why is it that they do not show concern or feel such would be good for their country and try to replicate here?
The answer I get is that our leaders really do not have any love for us. They do not care about the people they govern, they only pay lip service to all they claim concerning the masses, it does not touch their heart. We are just statistics to them. We are faceless. They do not see us or feel we are human. Decisions about citizens are always taken cold-bloodedly. The problem did not start with the person who holds the highest office in the land, definitely not  the president. He can not do everything and he can not be everywhere. That’s why we have ministers and other government officials to advise and make the job of governance easier. It also starts at our own level, the ordinary citizen. Do we, the ruled, show love to ourselves? That Hausaman that guides your gate, do you have any kinship with him or you only see a hired hand, who must open your gate or safeguard you while you sleep?
Do you ever wonder whether he has a wife or children? Have you ever wondered how he takes care of them and what he feels being so far away from his wife and children or we think he does not have the same feelings that we have? When you see two people fighting on the road and one breaks a bottle, what was the intention? And when you stab the other person, you now claim it was the devil. What was your intention when you broke the bottle in the first place? If you had considered the implications of that action or put yourself in the position of the other person, would you have considered stabbing or killing him? We are all responsible for our actions at every point in time.
At a macro level, one wonders at the action or inaction of people charged with minding us and why it never bothered them to take action when necessary.
The other day, there was an accident involving a vehicle belonging to Peace Mass Transport Company along the Umuahia end of the Enugu-Portharcourt  expressway. Of the 15 passengers said to be in the vehicle, only two people survived. The accident occurred on Sunday, May 22. Less than two weeks after, another incident occurred involving another vehicle belonging to the same transport company. The driver was said to have lost control and drove the vehicle into a ditch with all the passengers. Again lives could have been lost. 

According to the post of one of the passengers on the social media, it was an avoidable incident except that the driver was not concentrating. You now ask; what are the people saddled with the task of road safety doing? An accident in which 13 people died should have been a major concern which should have made the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) suspend the operations of the company while a thorough investigation was carried out on the company’s fleet of vehicles, the state of mind of the drivers in the employment of the organisation and other sundry things. 
Questions should also have been raised about the state of the road. Did the road contribute to the accident? I am not sure that was done and if it was, nobody got to know the outcome, least of all the transport company involved which should have learnt one lesson or the other. That’s why the company still had a vehicle on the road and could have killed some more people. What investigation has the FRSC done on the accident? And what lesson can be learnt in the course and cause of the accident which could help prevent future occurrence?
If it had been a plane crash, would the airline still be operating? Why shouldn’t the same rule apply or is it because road transportation is for the masses and air travel is elitist?
It goes on and on, the other day, the former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar captured the problem of this country at a book launch.“Here we come back to the same economic challenges that are facing the country but we also have a leadership that is not prepared to learn from the past and a leadership that is also not prepared to lead”. 
I am especially concerned with the part of his statement about the problem confronting us as a nation and “a leadership that is not prepared to learn from the past”. Why has it been so difficult to learn from our mistakes? Does it take rocket science to do what is right? Why do we need an Atiku to point out what we all know? How long is Nigeria going to be in this darkness and I am not talking about the darkness brought about by the electricity companies but darkness of the mind, darkness of seeing the right thing and not doing it.
Darkness of arming herdsmen to go and kill some other people in their homestead because they do not want you to graze your cattle across their farmland and destroy their means of livelihood. Why do we continue to apply the ideas and logic of the stone age to a twentieth century problem?  Why must everything been seen from a narrow, parochial prism? In most countries of the world is it not about cattle ranches? But it serves the purpose of the elite cattle owners to have some people doing that job of cattle grazing. They are the ignorant, the uneducated, the cannon-fodders who could be used and discarded at will.
Why are we not a nation? Why are we individualistic and prefer to hold on to our own section to the detriment of the collective good?  It is something that our leaders have always realized. They spoke on that problem decades ago. 
In 1948, Late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister said: “Since 1914, the British Government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country, but the Nigerian people themselves are historically different in their backgrounds, in their religious beliefs and customs and do not show…any sign of willingness to unite … Nigerian unity is only a British invention”.  This was further echoed by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he said: Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English,’ ‘Welsh,’ or ‘French,’ The word ‘Nigeria’ is a mere distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not”.
Today, nothing has changed. The country is still as divided today as it was when the statesmen made the statements. Where then are we going as a nation? How can we get it right? And when can we get it right? Some people have said we should renegotiate the basis of our association as a country. The progressives have always advocated this, that we should hold a sovereign national conference. The noise over that has become muted. Why is this so?  Some people have also called for the implementation of the recommendations of the National conference organized by the administration of Goodluck Jonathan. The present administration has not said anything about it.
That is also another problem with this country. The administration could be reluctant to look into this because they did not organize the conference. This should not be the case. Whatever is good in that report should be adopted irrespective of those who made the recommendation or who organized the conference. It is when we start adopting attitudes that are devoid of suspicion and do things that would bring benefit to the greater number that we would get to that promise land. I remain hopeful.

 *Bolaji Tunji is a public affairs analyst and newspaper columnist 

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