By Morak Babajide-Alabi
As I was going through my collection of articles during the week, one, in particular, caught my attention. This article was first published in the Sunday Vanguard of August 7, 2016, under the headline “Is The Nigerian Project Redeemable?” It was my reaction to the bungling of Team Nigeria’s preparation and outing at the Rio de Janeiro’s Olympics. To say I was angry at the global embarrassment caused motherland would be an understatement.
This is 2018, and unfortunately, not much has changed in the political, social and economic settings of Nigeria. At least nothing has changed in the sports ministry, as the officials that presided over the country’s Dream Team’s embarrassment in Atlanta, USA and also ensured the shameful defeat at the Olympics are still at the helms of affairs.
The citizens who were expecting the sack of the officials in the ministry were disappointed. Some took it to the extreme, demanding for resignations, forgetting that they were Nigerians – they don’t get sacked or resign – they “complete” their terms, no matter what. There is no conscience like we get in other climes. If Amber Rudd, the former British Home Secretary, was a Nigerian, rather than resign because of the Windrush scandal, she would have gained a few more chieftaincy titles.
As there has been little or no change in the polity, I decided to allow readers another insight into what was published in 2016. Apart from this introduction, not a lot has been added but edited for space.
The Nigerian “blood” is a special one. It is conditioned to flow under thick skins that are “built” to endure all sorts of shocks, blows and disappointments. This special “blood” distinguishes us from citizens of other countries, especially in the sub-Saharan region. It is “thickly” formulated to absorb shock, and serve as a buffer for the skin to accept whatever is thrown at it without feeling any hurt.
No one has been able to “nail” the “ingredients of the blood” as the late Afro-beat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti in his song “Shuffering and Shmiling” released in the seventies. He could not have got a better description of “the Nigerian” like he did in the song. No wonder, this song, happens to be one of the biggest hits of the star. We related to the song as Fela painted our “weakness” vividly. We smile at our sufferings. If Fela was wrong, could we, in our situation, have won the award of “Happiest People” in the world? We need no convincing on why a revolution can never succeed in Nigeria. The highest form of revolution Nigerians can have is in their minds – to join the band waggon of “happy people” or simply shrug shoulders and say “wetin concern me?”
We are complacent in all things that happen to us and around us. We believe in the superficial, rather than tackle the reality that threatens our existence. When the world is sympathising with us, we celebrate. When they stand in shock of our shame, we bring out the drums to dance naked. When other “decent” countries wonder at our resilience, this is when we “high five” each other. We congratulate ourselves saying “if you can live in Nigeria you can live successfully in any part of the world.”
In most cases, we not only accept our “disability”, we celebrate it. Mediocrity and insincerity are part of the requirements for leadership jobs in Nigeria. The Nigerian leaders are actors and actresses who have, unfortunately, found themselves on the political stage without scripts. They act as Moses, destined to lead citizens to the Promised Land, but they lack the “staff” to produce water from the rock.
These Nigerian leaders have no heroes they could emulate, only godfathers. Just a few of the present day leaders “try” to dress, act or aspire to achieve like the three “real heroes!” we have on record – Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikwe and Tafawa Balewa.
Nigerian leaders act like they know what they are doing, but in reality, they are masters of trials and errors. After the First Republic, blind men took over the polity, and they have been leading able-bodied citizens till date. These leaders are thrust on the population by how much tribal and ethnic jingoism they could throw about on the soapboxes. Add the extra ingredient of the ability to deceive the electorate and “great” leaders are created.
They care less about the future of the country while they engage in parallel projects that are only in their best interests. How do we justify the huge salaries, allowances and the perks of office enjoyed by our national lawmakers (they are the Nigerian leaders)? Do we need anyone to remind these indolent senators and “dis-honourables” that the minimum wage is still N18000?
If it’s not madness why has nothing been done about the “obscene” wages of these lawmakers (Nigerian leaders)? I laugh when I hear people say the government is fighting corruption. It is a lie from the pit of hell. As long as these lawmakers take home these unrealistic pay no one should claim he or she is fighting corruption. The highest form of corruption in Nigeria is within the National Assembly and the 36 Government Houses.
How is corruption fought by sustaining it? It sounds very confusing, but that’s what we have in the country. How can we fight corruption when state governors are not held accountable for security votes? Until these abnormalities in our polity are corrected, the fight against corruption will continue to be selective and a means of suppressing political opponents.
Make no mistake, the citizens are aware these politicians have no genuine wishes for them. They can see deceptions through them. They see them sleep, fight and steal maces in the National Assembly. They know that most of these guys are morally incompetent to make decisions in their homes, talk less for a nation.
But the Nigerian factor of worshipping those in authority for a few crumbs from the table have sentenced most citizens to a lifetime of poverty. We know these guys in power are useless, yet we still hail them. We clap for them when they share juicy posts to their favourites. When they open the back doors for touts to storm in and take the authority of the chamber in daylight, we take sides.
For Nigerians, it is okay when politicians make so many promises prior to an election, but sings a different tune after. Despite all the pre-election promises, we nod our heads in agreement when our leaders remind us they are not miracle workers. We shrug our shoulders in resignation when these leaders, contrary to election promises travel abroad for medical care.
It is still a mystery that will take decades to unravel. Why do we continue to place our hopes in these irredeemable politicians? It is unbelievable that the educated and well-travelled citizens can stand aloof while the country is run “wildly” by illiterates.
How do we justify that a country with so much natural and human resources, is one of the poorest in the world? These complexities in the life of Nigeria is so difficult to explain. Nigerian leaders delight more on insincere commendations from foreign shores, while the reality is that nothing has changed at home. It is sad that the country that should be the shining light of the African continent is, unfortunately, still struggling to stand straight.
As written for the Diaspora Matters column, Sunday Vanguard May 13, 2018.