By Fola Ojo
In spite of Nigeria’s failings and foibles; in spite of her challenges and gobs of troubles; in spite of her citizens’ dimming hopes and faltering confidence in a flailing and labile economy; and in spite of the overwhelmingly dysfunctional system from coast to coast, very many patriotic Nigerians remain resolute in their hopes that the nation’s greatness will very soon thrust out of its present horrid horizon. I largely share in this optimism; but with a grain of salt. Inquiring minds have not held back in probing whether Nigeria is walking the path toward greatness. Some boisterous headwinds retard the country’s forward surge in fleets of areas and endeavours. For the purpose of this treatise, I discuss four; and I call them: ‘EFCC’.
E – Ethnic schism: Ethnic hatred and schism did not start today in Nigeria. It predates this malevolent and malicious season. It’s in the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in the office we work, and on the roads we travel. They may be subtle in the Presidency; but there it looms large. Stroll down to the National Assembly complex, its invisible statue grants you a grand entrance. In the judiciary, it adjudicates your case. Everywhere you go in Nigeria, national benefits are often determined by what your surname sounds like. Bitter, acerbic, and uncouth ethnic hatred abounds. But there once was a time when ethnic concord was strong among groups that make up Nigeria. There was a time when repulsive differences between the Igbo man next door, the Hausa man neighbour, and the Yoruba man going about his business weren’t as overweening as they are today. That time may have flown away like a balloon into the thickness of distant clouds. If a man wants to ride high, he must be ready to ride with others who don’t look or sound like him. If a nation is to progress, there must be a candid embrace of one another in spite of where we come from. Despite ethnic hate hullabaloos on social media, inter-ethnic personal relationships between Nigerians are still very real. Nigerians living outside of their bases have friends where they live and do business. They stick closer than brothers. They’ve been part of one another’s history, and been through personal and family tragedies together. Respect is mutual. There are tens of millions of these people who have no hearts for hate. They understand that haters peddling ethnic venoms are ignorant, illiterate, unlearned contaminants and analphabets. Ethnic hate does not build bridges, it destroys them. Tribal schism does not build a nation, IT annihilates it. Ethnic divisiveness is essentially an eccentricity fuelled and funded by selfish ogres who perpetuate themselves in the corridors of power for selfish gains. Unfortunately, the hungry gullible bally lot buys into the divisive doctrine. Until we kill ethnic division, Nigeria will not live her full potential.
F – Fritters: To fritter away a nation’s resources is to waste her precious gems. Leadership myopia and dystopia over the last 59 years have plunged Nigeria’s hard-earned cash into the pit of waste. The conduits of waste are innumerable. Check out our health system. Politicians jet out to America for annual bloodwork; and to Germany changing eyeglasses. Rich fellas who have got wealthy from a corrupt system have stand-by doctors in London and Houston attending to their entire families. For many decades unending, about 7,000 people leave Nigeria monthly on medical tourism abroad. A whopping sum of $1.7bn is lost annually to this wastage. Our leaders still are incognisant of the fact that we can build functional state-of-the-art hospitals in each state capital with the same or less amount of money flushed down waste pipes. We are engrossed by the foreign and repelled by home-grown ingenuities.
The Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, recently said that Nigerians spend $1.2bn to import fish annually while encouragement for local fishermen is near non-existent. Every minute we eat imported food, other nations swallow our destiny and are made fat from it. We fritter away our treasures because of the heightening level of ignorance, and rising numbers of ignoramuses in authority. More than a total sum of $30bn may have been wasted on electricity supply since the advent of democracy. Baba Obasanjo reportedly spent $16bn on electricity but more darkness showed up all across Nigeria. His successor, Umaru Yar’Adua, expended $5.375bn, and nothing came out of the huge investment. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration spent $8.26bn; while Muhammadu Buhari’s government has since assumption of office in 2015 spent a total amount of N900bn. According to VP Yemi Osinbajo, another round of N600bn will soon be invested in the sector. These massive spending sprees have produced more darkness than light. This is a culture of frantic fritters of our treasures; and it continues without hinder. Until we kill these foolish fritters, Nigeria will not live her full potential.
C – Cronyism: Nepotism is defined as favouritism based on kinship. Cronyism is simply nepotism which is doling out benefits based on blood relationship. Our system condones man-know-man; it is who-you-know that lands you a position; not necessarily the talent you possess. Cronyism dumps the toxic-worst on a nation; and buries the brilliant-best. It creates a fecund ground for brain drain and forces round pegs into square holes. Cronyism has driven millions of talented and skilled Nigerians from their fatherlands in search of hope in other nations they now help build. Our qualified and young people with acumen aimlessly roam the streets of Lagos and Port Harcourt because they have no voices speaking on their behalf in high places despite their skills; and the deprived young people are the crème de la crème and corps d’elite of the engine that drives a nation. Cronyism has forced young girls to become high-end prostitutes, and the boys have turned killers and kidnappers. By the year 2030, the nation’s youth population will form the heart of abounding and blossoming young workers. About 90 million young people who should be assets to our nation are now asses over which the powerful ride roughshod. Cronyism is not just a breeding ground for corruption; it is corruption. Until we kill cronyism, Nigeria will not live her full potential.
C – Corruption: This is the elephant in the room. What else will anyone pen about corruption that has not been published already? Nigeria’s brand of corruption is like the demonic lizard. The more you sunder its tail, the more ferocious it grows a longer one. Corruption has not just fought back its fighters, it has won back its original territories and conquered and controls new ones. Ridding a system like Nigeria of corruption is as tough as pushing a big boulder up the hill. Projects that cost millions; they earmark billions. They collect the billions and abandon the projects. The same contract re-awarded to the same people under a different name; and the cycle of crime spin on like a carousel.
Nigerians desire growth in our economy and drastic dwindle in crime rates. We hope for the best but we condone worst behaviours. We love the Promised Land, but hate to leave Egypt where dreams and destinies always die and not live. Corruption is the phenomenon that destroys plans in the labour room of purpose and will never take plans to birth in the delivery room of breakthrough. Corruption in Nigeria is a welcome guest that has become a super-citizen. With such garroting monster, a nation is far from greatness. Nigeria has all it takes to be one of the greatest in the world. But she remains at a discouragingly despicable state where life is unlivable for a majority of the citizenry. Our government must focus on the NEEDFUL and quit pursuing the MUNDANE and UNPROFITABLE. Until corruption dies, Nigeria will not live her full potential. Ojo writes via @folaojotweet