Nigeria at 50- A Celebration of Brute Life, Penury and Disillusion

Friday, October 01, 2010

NigeriaAs Nigerians celebrate 50 years of nationhood today, the promise of independence- a nation of free people living at peace with itself and neighbours, undergirded by individual and economic well being is still a distant dream.  The President and his Governors may cut mammoth cakes and pop champagne and toast to success, perhaps personal success. Yet, this artificial success is derived from plunder and supervised penury foisted on the poverty industry and fueled by years of bad governance.

Little wonder remnants of the disaggregated development plague us; dysfunctional educational system, bad energy policies, bad  roads, offensive electricity supply, armed rebellions in resource-rich regions, religious and tribal wars, kidnappings and a habitation for corrupt political grand masters and scammers. Clearly we are a nation of perpetual anomalies. Yet, we are one of the richest oil-producing nations on earth able to dish out billions of Naira for the wasteful jamboree in the name of Independence.

Tell residents of Lekki to celebrate Nigeria’s independence when they have had to battle their local government over what should ordinarily be a non-issue. These are a people burdened with a maze-like Lagos tax system that looks like a ponzi scheme administered by ‘skilful’ bureaucrats. It seems fairly sensible to ask vehicle owners to part with at least N400.00 per vehicle per day when they come into the rather chaotic Lagos.  But it is quite an ask if same is demanded of ordinary and poor market women, commercial motor bike riders who have to pay exorbitant fees just to do subsistence business.

Much of Nigeria seems disillusioned as citizens are held in bondage. Oyo state remains shackled by the near absence of governance, Aba in Abia state  which should be catering for a global demand for food and general goods  has become the habitation of bandits, hence a no go area even for its indigenes.  Jos state is a serial time bomb. Each tick sends men, women and children to their early graves. Even Ogun state that seemed to be making a head way a few years ago has become a draconian, lawless state where anything negatively imaginable is possible.

The above scenarios do not augur well for individual and economic freedom, save build a nation of political patronage and dependency.  Today, we rely on the federal government for electricity, and water, even though 50 years of managing these sectors have been a disaster.  The government determines the prices of goods, runs a rent-seeking enterprise, favouring and rewarding cronies with deals at the expense of the general economy. It is only in Nigeria, perhaps that monopolist enterprises in sugar and diesel production owned by cronies of the government can secure huge loans from banks, default on most of them and be asked not to settle the rest.  So, why complain about ordinary young cyber criminals when these supposedly bad loans could have been a source of productive enterprises for Nigerian youths?

It seems to me that one way out of the quagmire is for us to demand responsible and accountable governance that believes and ensures an independent and impartial electoral system, judiciary, open markets, decentralized management of power and resources, well paid security personnel to guarantee free speech, free movement and protection of honestly acquired property.

Unless we do the above as a country, we will continue to expect nothing much from our Politicians, except a reminder that another October 1st commeth and it is a time to celebrate a brute life of state servitude, corruption, and armed rebellion, religious and tribal warfare.  But, the second verse of our national anthem might just enkindle in all of us, the right spirit:

O God of creation,

Direct our noble cause;

Guide our Leaders right:

Help our Youth the truth to know,

In love and honesty to grow,

And living just and true,

Great lofty heights attain,

To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.

Joshua J. Omojuwa is Nigerian and a columnist of