Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Nigeria:Why We Are In This Terrible Mess

By Dan Amor
Once upon a time, there was a young country struggling in the comity of nations to find her place in the sun. For in this young country of brave people, it was discovered that freedom is a God-given right. So impressed were the citizens with this belief that they lit a candle to symbolize their freedom. But, in their wisdom, they knew that the flame could not burn alone. So, they lit a second candle to symbolize man's right to govern himself. The third candle was lighted to signify that the rights of the individual were more important than the rights of the State. And finally, they lit a fourth candle to show that government should not do for the people those things which the people should do for themselves.
As the four candles of freedom burned brightly, the young nation prospered. And as they prospered, they grew fat. And as they grew fat, they got lazy. When they got lazy, they asked the government to do things for them which they had been doing for themselves, and one of the candles went out. As government became bigger, the people became smaller, and the government became all important. And the rights of the individual were sacrificed to the all important rights of the State. Then the second candle went out. In their apathy and indifference, they asked those who bear armour to govern them, and the marshals of the commandist clan did, and the third candle went off. In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security, a comfortable life, and they lost all - comfort and security and freedom.

For, you see! When the freedom they wanted most was freedom from responsibility, then Nigerians ceased to be free. The last candle has been extinguished. One could assume, then, that we have it made. Never have any people at any time, anywhere, had it so good. But in our present abundance and luxury in the galaxy of power, something is wrong. People aren't happy. They no longer walk down the streets of our cities smiling or whistling a happy tune. There is discontent, and one can sense the fear of the unknown. Everywhere, the people are grumbling, cursing, jeering and hooting. 

Nigerians are jittery. There seems to be a tarnish on our golden Mecca. We've created a new breed of men and women who can't work but loot, just like we've created a new breed of men and women who crave for power for the sake of it. You had an opportunity to turn the nation to an Eldorado, but you supervised the mindless looting of our national patrimony into private pockets. You wailed and roared and were given the power, but you're seeing it as an opportunity to favour your tribesmen at the expense of others and you're still enmeshed in blame game while the country is bleeding. And, instead of the slogan, "God bless Nigeria", all we now hear is, "Let us go our separate ways". The signs aren't too hard to read. They are the signs of internal decay - the dry rot of apathy and indifference.

The symptoms of our national disease began just six years after gaining political independence from our colonial masters when we began to penalize our collective will by banal expediency. We had come to think of our early history and the men who created it as a kind of fairytale instead of the greatest success story of all times. Since the past five and a half decades, we have been flirting with a dangerously clever and seductive master called military rule. They misruled us in uniform and they are misruling us in 'agbada'. And for the same length of time, we have been toying with ideas which have proven a failure in most of those countries where they have been tried.

It seems to me that we are in this terrible mess for several reasons. The first is the natural evolution of human civilization. Lord Byron, in tracing the rise and fall of great nations, says that, "people go from freedom to glory, from glory to wealth, from wealth to vice, from vice to corruption, and from corruption to barbarism". The second reason is temptation. We are being tempted as we have never been tempted before- tempted to trust even those who bear arms. Indeed, it is not an easy thing being a free Nigerian when all around us, the misguided and the misinformed tell us the government owes us all these things which up to now we have been providing for ourselves. There is yet a third reason why we are losing our freedom. Most of us accepted our present lopsided union, not because of our weaknesses, but rather because of one of our finest virtues - human compassion. 

Through our misguided love for unity, we believe that the cramming together of more than 250 ethnic nationalities despite obvious and staggering differences in language and culture, would solve our problems as a people. By passing the buck and surrendering our personal responsibilities into the hands of murderers and looters, we absolve our guilty consciences as a nation and as individuals. And, finally, we have begun our journey to perdition for yet another reason. It is the scarcity of the courage to take challenges. For too long, too many of us have been too willing to let someone else call the shots. We have been busy with things which, in the end, don't count for much, and in our madness for materialism, we have forgotten how to govern. We have been letting "Ibrahim" to do it, and "Ibrahim" has messed it up.

For one shining, glorious moment of history, we had the key and the open door, and the way was there before us. Men threw off the yoke of centuries and thrust forward along that way with such hope and such brilliance that for a little while we were the light and the inspiration of black Africa. Now, the key has been thrown carelessly away - the door is closing - we are losing the way. Nigerians have inherited the greatest nation in the black world, but we are finding out it's not easy being a free Nigerian. In spite of our enormous human and natural resources, Nigeria is, ironically, not only the most fantastically corrupt but also the most barbaric, country on the face of the earth. Every passing day, Nigerians kill themselves with impunity.

Nigeria remains the only country in the world in which refined ideas are jettisoned but crude prebendal manipulations are preferred. As we gnash our teeth in hunger and desperation, we must constantly remind ourselves, and one another, that our freedom is threatened by those who promised us chain(ge) instead of opportunities. But we can pass on the heritage of personal freedom to our children with three golden keys of leadership: personal involvement in public affairs, humility and honesty to self and the national ideal, and a recrudescence of the home and the house of God. We must reject bigotry, fanaticism and I-know-it-all bravura. This we can do if a lot of us will care enough to do enough. The choice is ours.
*Dan Amor is an Abuja-based public affairs analyst (danamor641@gmail.com)

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