NIGERIA: OUR FATHERS WERE WRONG

In 1983, Prof. Chinua Achebe in his book Problem with Nigeria wrote thus ‘Nigeria is not a great country; it is one of the most disorderly nations in the World. It is also one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is one of the most expensive countries to live in and one that gives least values for money. It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest and vulgar. In short, it is among the most unpleasant places on the earth’ When I came across this, I could not but wonder why a World acclaimed Professor of Literature would write something so damning and condemning about his own nation. I also could not but wonder what he will write today about the state of the Nation if this was written as far back as 1983, some 29 years ago. What exactly is wrong with our nation? It is obvious that the nation is sick but what exactly aileth us in Nigeria is the question that we have unsuccessfully answered for decades now. Why will Nigeria even at the age of 52 still be ranked among failed Nations in the calibre of Chad, Somalia and Sudan? Why is the Nation so sick yet without a competent medical doctor to diagnose our disease and a respected surgeon to perform the much needed surgery? These and more are answer-defying questions that we are yet to tackle properly. Some have attempted to answer by saying that Nigeria as nation was built upon a faulty foundation. They argued that the unholy marriage of the Northern and Southern Protectorate as conducted by the ‘Priest’ Lord Lugard in 1914 was the genesis of our woes as a people. I will agree that this was a major issue in the sense that before the advent of the Europeans, communities in what is today known as Nigeria had their own separate system of political administrations. In fact, there were in existence powerful empires such as the Sokoto caliphate, the Benin Empire and the Oyo Empire but with the coming of the European came an era of attempting match making that resulted in the marriage of 1914. This, they did for ease of administrations and control. The unholy alliance of the North and South seem okay (though there were several squabbles) until the couple were granted independence in 1960. The children of the unmatchable couple such as Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikwe, Ahmadu Bello, Anthony Enahoro and Obafemi Awolowo had fought vehemently for the freedom and emancipation of their parent. With the meeting of their demands on the 1st of October, 1960, the doom of the Nation was sealed. As the Union Jack was lowered and the Nigerian green white green was hoisted up, it was as if unity was been lowered and chaos was hoisted up in its place. The earlier mentioned men came together irrespective of their ethnic background to demand for the release of their beloved land from the grip of colonialism. They were not concerned with tribal differences, they just wanted freedom and together they made this happen. Unfortunately, as soon as freedom was achieved, togetherness was thrown to the wind as they all wanted to rule the land they had so much fought for. I don’t think it was wrong for them to want to render their invaluable service to the nation but it was more than wrong for them to marginalise the nation and remind their followers of the fact that ethnicity was more important than nationalism. They built their electioneering campaigns solidly on ethnic grounds and even the political parties formed were ethnic in composition. This group of frontline leaders failed woefully to engender national development through unity; they rather widened ethnic-regional cleavages through their political ambitions. This back-stabbing politics of theirs led to the first Military coup of January 14, 1966 and this event sealed the lid on our coffin. The question to be asked therefore is, ‘were the pre-independence and 1st republic leaders in any way better than the subsequent set of leaders in Nigeria? I know different people will answer this question differently but this I can boldly say, that these fathers not only helped in achieving Independence, they also contributed negatively to the present deplorable conditions of the Nation with their political squabbles fuelled and motivated by personal ambitions rather than national development. This teaches me a lesson that whatever I do together no matter how positive can also be negative by one wrong act of omission or commission. In conclusion, in spite of their failure to facilitate national unity, we cannot deny their legacies in other areas. The free education program of Chief Obafemi Awolowo for instance has not been rivalled by any other leader in Nigeria.

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