Nigeria, plagued by arrested development

By Ugochukwu Raymond Ogubuariri

Only recently, the President of Nigeria’s Senate – David Mark, had, while delivering his Eid-el Maulud message, stated as follows: “I will defend Nigeria’s unity with the last drop of my blood.” Few weeks earlier, the former military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, had equally announced quixotically that “I will call a tailor, take my measurement, get back into khaki to go and fight even at 71.” In apparent reference to the indivisibility of the country, the former dictator had hinted succinctly that he would also be willing to spill his blood to maintain Nigeria’s unity.

To all intents and purposes, it would appear that Nigeria’s governing (and out-of-power) elite are commonly united in their conviction that the only expedient way to dramatize their commitment to the country’s fragile unity is by corrupting the citizenry with the “vow” of doing the impossible. While it has become fashionable for Nigeria’s rulers to luxuriate in the fantasy of pledging to fight and die in defence of the country’s unity, the citizens, on the other hand, seem to have become patronizingly bewitched by their rulers’ heroic pledge that they hardly raise any interrogation about the character of “Nigerian unity,” its real and supposed beneficiaries as well as the political and economic interests which it is configured to serve.

Some elucidation on the whole idea of “unity” will be in order at this juncture since it has become one of the most abused and vulgarized concepts in Nigeria’s political discourse. The term “unity” basically refers to mutual agreement; a state of oneness; or the quality of completeness. It is a situation in which a group of people work together agreeably for the achievement of a particular purpose. It therefore logically follows that the unity of an entity can only be functional if it is fashioned by consensus, driven by purpose and predicated on social inclusiveness.
One of the salient contradictions of Nigeria’s unity is that it is neither consensual nor purpose-driven. It is a unity that is constituted as an end in itself rather than a means to an end. At such, it hardly offers its citizens any plausible sense of belongingness, no prospect of self-actualization and, worst of all, no allowance for equity and social justice.

Nigeria expresses itself as a conundrum that stands in diametric opposition to the solemn interests of ordinary citizens. Invariably, it mandates a relentless erosion of their humanity. It is therefore not surprising that after 51 years of political independence (and much lengthier decades after its illegitimate procreation by a British adventurist – LordLugard), Nigeria’s individuality and statehood as an independent, sovereign nation is still largely embryonic, inchoate and indeterminate. Nigeria has remained essentially a country marooned in the wilderness of truncation, arrested development and aborted dreams.

Politically, we have contrived and nurtured a brand of politics which renounces the norms of civilization and embraces the lure of barbarism. We have promoted an idea of politics that is literally constituted as warfare and prosecuted with every conceivable weapon, including bombs! With corruption so deeply entrenched and leadership incompetence so pervasive, the country has suffered progressive retrogression and has become a classic metaphor of a stillbirth. While pretending to be united in one indivisible entity, we have enshrined the practice of perceiving some sections of the country as “certified infidels” ineligible to aspire for plum positions in the land, including the Presidency.

Socially, Nigeria still satisfies all the requisite attributes of a country that is divided against itself. In today’s Nigeria, it is still inconceivable that an average Ibo trader will choose to reside in any part of the north to ply his trade without inviting the unpleasant animosity and vengeful wrath of bigoted jihadists. By the same token, a civil servant of Yoruba origin who has spent 20 years working in Abia State ministry would count himself extremely lucky if he eventually escapes the repatriation train of Governor T.A. Orji in fulfilment of his “indigeneship” policy.

Economically, the story is even more pathetic and appallingly so. Nigeria, the once revered giant of Africa, cannot boast of even the capacity to manufacture “wheel-barrow bolt.” The only preoccupation of its rulers is the appropriation and embezzlement of crude oil proceeds which, invariably, accounts for over 95 percent of its foreign exchange earnings. The manufacturing sector has become massively decimated that it currently accounts for a paltry 2 percent of the country’s GDP while agriculture is still largely rudimentary and in utter neglect. In the area of education, social infrastructures and security, the story is no less pitiful.
So, when the likes of IBB and David Mark profess their sanctimonious commitment to Nigeria’s unity and its inviolability, are they necessarily doing so because they consider themselves more Nigerian than the rest of us?

Of course, it can’t be. When properly contextualized, they are merely saying so as a way of reminding all of us that “we should not kill the goose that lays the golden egg for them.” In the particular case of the Senate President, it has to be taken into account that he presides over a Legislature that is reputed to be the most expensive (both in remuneration and in corruption) in the entire world. Needless to remind Nigerians that the salary and allowances of an average Nigerian Senator dwarfs that of an American President and would certainly inflict Barack Obama with a sense of nostalgia for his African ancestry.
If so, why would David Mark not be willing to die and spill his blood in defence of Nigeria’s unity,knowing fully well how richly buttered his bread is? Undeniably, if I were to be in his shoes, I would not only spill my blood, but also my urine, my sweat, my saliva and, indeed, everything in my body that is prone to being spilled.

The course of Nigeria’s unity will be better served if the Senate President can muster the moral decency to slash the obscene salary, allowances and perks of his office (and those of his colleagues) by at least 50 percent. Also, the notion of one indivisible Nigeria will translate into a viable proposition if the Senate Presidentcan bestir himself to the task of leading a National Assembly that takes seriously the enthronement and active enforcement of accountability, transparency and zero tolerance for corruption in the conduct of government affairs, especially, by the Executive arm and its various agencies.

Under the watchful eyes of David Mark and the Parliament, corrupt government officials and their cronies in the private sector ruined the nation’s oil industry and converted huge sums of monies meant for subsidization into “a windfall from National Lottery.” Under his leadership, the country’s choicest economic assets were hijacked under the dubious guise of privatization and parcelled to privileged individuals at scrap value. Any idea of national unity which glorifies corruption, impedes equity, fairness and justice, violate the sovereign interest of ordinary Nigerians and places his survival in serious jeopardy can neither stand the test of validity nor elicit the acceptance of Nigerians. At best, it will be received as a meaningless and useless idea!

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