To Tell The Truth: Something Is Wrong With Nigeria, Part I
Mrs. Oyibo E. Odinamadu
It must be admitted that it would appear that something is definitely wrong with Nigeria. This is why things are going haywire as they are now in the country. Professor Obaro Ikimi had, in his article entitled “They Shed Human Blood to Get Rich Quick,” wondered whether Nigeria was under a curse.
First and foremost, from my observation, what appears to be wrong with Nigeria is that the Government operatives, past and present, have not been telling the truth. They have not been telling themselves and the people they govern the home truths – about themselves, about what they are doing, about what they are going to do with the people, and about the resources of the country. But, according to the Big Book, it is only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that shall save the person and make him or her free. So is the case also with Nigeria. The Government operatives, high and low, should tell Nigerians and the world the truth, and continue in the path of truth and rectitude in order to effect good government. This should be the real truth- not imagined or concocted or claimed ‘truths’. In the face of the truth, they should stop engaging in the current ‘game of hide and seek’. They should start to treat Nigerians as full grown and mature adults that they are, instead of treating them as nitwits that should be led by the nose.
Second, following the telling of the truth to the people, there should be displayed the hallmark of democracy and good government, which is namely: the Open Door Policy. This should be characterized by free and open-minded discussions and debates among the people, in which there should be no witch-hunting. These should be free and fair expositions, in which people have the responsibility to speak out the truth about the Governments of the country and themselves, as a system of carthorses, without fear or favour or recriminations. While the people speak, the Government should and must listen. Through these discussions and expositions acceptable facts, which the Government should take in good faith and act upon, in a positive way, should emerge.
In addition, the likes of the Justice Oputa Commission of Inquiry, with powers of a proper court of law, should be set up. It would not be enough to talk, and embrace and say, ‘I forgive you’, in a judicial commission of inquiry. From the outcomes of the discussions, directives, policies, programs and legislation for the improvement of the lives of the people should be articulated and applied. The opinions, needs and aspirations of the people should be paramount in the mind of Government in everything. Only that way will the sovereignty rightly belong to the people. The Government would have then metamorphosed into the Government of the people, by the people and for the people; not for the few who have snatched it.
Some of the Reasons why things Continue to go Wrong with Nigeria
There are a few reasons why things continue to go wrong with Nigeria. First, there is the lack of the application of the provisions of the Constitution for and among the people. For instance, there is a great display of Indiscipline among the Government operatives, which spills over and infects the people. This portrays faulty upbringing, which manifests in very many ways, including bribery and corruption and other corrupt practices, greed and avarice, which shows up in the looting of the treasury of Government’s financial resources. A major part of this indiscipline is the practice of accepting an employment or contract from the public or private sector and not doing the job responsibly, by not completing the job and abandoning it, while taking the remuneration or payment for the job or contract and making away with it.
Non performance and non-completion of any job of employment, truthfully and honestly, is killing the country, and giving it a very bad name and image, at home and abroad. This kind of behaviour is a crime. It should be severely dealt with as a criminal matter. The War Against Indiscipline (WAI), which was scrapped by a former Military Government, was doing Nigeria a great deal of good. It should be re-instituted as it was, to continue with fighting the ills of the society and straightening out the objectionable behavioural patterns of the people.
Other Contributory Factors are
The international advance fee payment scam (419), for which Nigeria is very notorious. This practice has given Nigeria such a very bad image that one almost feels like covering his or her face in shame wheneverNigeria is mentioned. The embarrassment also makes one not to want to introduce himself or herself as a Nigerian or to welcome that appellation with smiles.
Probably, such a dirty and stinking image of Nigeria, among other things, has contributed to the fact that, as has been observed, the Nigerian Head of State is never as well and cheerfully received at the White House as his counterparts. The signs and body language demonstrated with him each time he appeared on the rostrum with his host are very eloquent testimonies and pointers to the fact that Nigeria is, somehow, failing the test of acceptability.
There is the presence of uncontrollable jealousies and hatred among the citizenry and ethnic nationalities of Nigeria. These unwholesome attitudes erupt into ethnic rivalries and wars from time to time. The Government must find ways and means of reconciling the peoples of Nigeria to each other. The Government must find other ways of quenching ethnic disturbances by pursuing the course of peace and brotherliness among the ethnic nationalities, rather than by force of oppression and suppression. The cleavages of ethnic hatred must be arrested and not allowed to continue to widen. The widening creates more cracks in the foundation of the Nigerian body politic and sinking.
Misunderstanding of the True Essence of Politics.
This manifests in the do or die in political campaigning and unfair practices and competitions in order to win. These give rise to political enmities and feuds; suppression and domination of sections of the people; wanton destruction of lives and property; uneven application of Government authority, power and responsibility, which gives rise to uneven distribution of amenities and development. This also gives rise to the resentment by some sections of the people about Government’s preferential treatment of some, to the exclusion of some others.
Broken promises and betrayed hopes.
For instance, the promises of: No Victors And No Vanquished turned out to be a camouflage because the people of Biafra were treated, and have continued to be treated as the conquered people up to date. The people have not been reintegrated into the Nigerian body politic as expected after thirty-three years. They have been marginalised, secluded and excluded, by the successive Nigerian Governments, and treated as second or third-class citizens. Any move by them to come closer has been resented and rejected, and any move by the Government to bridge the gap has been a false one. This state of affairs should not be allowed to go on forever.
The policy of the three Rs after the Nigeria versus Biafra War, of Reconciliation; Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction were never implemented. This act of commission has destroyed the will, resolve and love of the people for each other and for the country. The hopes of the Nigerian soldiers, who served on the Biafran side and who were asked to submit their claims of property destruction before, during and after the War, were raised and dashed due to no response. Now they are dying off one after the other. Is this the intention of the Government? Delineation: The Nigeria/Biafra War Memories Thirty-five Years Later With The Memories of World War II of Japan and Germany Fifty Years After
There are credible lessons to be learnt from the World War II memories of Japan and Germany, the Axis Powers, who were the conquered. In their introduction to the Memories of War: The Second World War and Japanese Historical Memory In Comparative Perspective, Takashi Inoguchi and Lyn Jackson, the Editors, in the following quotes, alongside our comments, wrote:
Buchholz, however, stresses that different levels of memory need to be observed when discussing the construction of historical memory. She points out the necessity of observing at least three levels of the public memory, including the political and official, literary or cultural and individual or popular levels. Generally, when addressing historical memory and issues such as the acknowledgement of war responsibility it is the official-level views that are discussed. Nevertheless, hardly ever does anyone talk or write about their own personal participation in brutalities against the invaded people at home. It appears that nobody knew anything, saw anything, or took part in anything – yet, everybody felt very close to the resistance movement.
Right now, the political and official level of memory of the Nigeria versus Biafra War is ruling Nigeria. The people who hold these views are those who fought and won the War. They are the people who made the policies for and of the outcome of the Peace Conference. They are the people who were to carry them out. They are the people who have not been willing to carry out their policies. Therefore, they do not think they should share in the responsibility for the war or see the need for a relaxation of the stranglehold on the conquered. Consequently, Biafrans remain nailed at the stake.
Japan and Germany, former “enemy” States in World War II, are now widely considered to be suitable to join the five “victorious” powers of the War for permanent membership in the Security Council of the United Nations.
Since the end of the Nigeria versus Biafra War, a civil war, which ended well over thirty-four years ago, Biafrans, especially the Igbo, have been marginalized and stood off. They have been discriminated against and denied good positions in the scheme of things in Nigeria. Every move and every good intention of theirs are suspect and misconstrued. All the guarantees of the Directive Principles of State Policy and of the Fundamental Human Rights under the 1999 Constitution are denied them, thereby reducing them to second and third-class citizens. How long does the Government plan for this state of affairs to continue?
During the occupation period, a reformist and progressive phase of the occupation in Japan was replaced by a “reverse” phase, with policies aimed at rapid rehabilitation of the economy, conservative policies, change in the US strategic policy towards Japan, the “red purge,” etc. With the emergence of the Cold War, and with the Korean War and the United States policy of containment in Eastern Asia, Japan became an important ally of the United States, providing land for its major bases. Japan was also rearmed to a certain degree. At this stage, Japan as well as Germany were considered to be “peace-loving” states by the US and Allies. Following the occupation period,Japan had successfully democratized – the sovereignty of Japan resided in the people, not in the emperor; and civil and human rights, including the rights of women, were protected. Masaki Miyake states in his paper that it is necessary to review and further study the occupation policies and their effects in Japan and Germany in order to find a basis of historical memory.
But in the case of Nigeria, the “reverse” policy followed immediately, and made a right about turn, from its original positive position of No Victors, No Vanquished; and the 3Rs of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. It quickly turned into the three negative 3Ds of: Distrust, Disdain and Destroy. It has stayed on that negative course for thirty-four years, and is not showing much of any signs of changing. Japanand Germany fought an international World War, but Nigeria and Biafra fought an internal Civil War. Will the hatred, the animosity and the sadism evident in the persecution of Biafrans by the leadership of Nigerialast forever?
For instance, the Nigerian soldiers who fought on the side of Biafra were asked by this Administration in the year 2001, thirty years after the War, to submit their claims of the damages they suffered before, during and after the War, and they did. To this day, there has not been any acknowledgement of such submissions or a settlement or rehabilitation. Those hopes that were raised falsely and dashed are killing the people off one after the other. Is this raising and dashing of hopes, once again, not sadistic and spiteful? When will Biafrans, soldiers and civilians, be received back, reconciled and re-integrated as full-fledged citizens into the Nigerian body politic? Are the feelings of hatred and animosity towards them pathological and incurable?
Petra Buchholz, in her paper included in the publication, refers to the speech of the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Richard von WeizsŠcker. In this he stressed that people need to know how they stand in relation to the past, in order not to be led astray in the present
The leaders of Nigeria, their Allies and Nigerians have assumed that they are the “clean people” in the causes and prosecution of the Nigeria versus Biafra War. They do not share in any responsibility for the War. They apportion all the blame to Biafrans and their Allies and heap all the responsibility on them only. The Nigerian Army was the “clean Army”. Only their members who served in the Biafran Army were culpable, and so carry all the responsibility. Nobody of the Nigerian Army saw or took part in the killings, the executions, the starvation, the bombings, the rapes, the arson, the shootings, the looting, the banking decree, the abandoned property issue, and in all the other atrocities that took place before, during and after the War. Yet they and the Governments they served were all part and parcel of it all.
To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, the authors of the publication have contributed papers related to the Japanese historical memory of the War, in a comparative perspective. They addressed questions such as these: To what extent has Japan “come to terms” with its past? Is war responsibility admitted at both the official and individual levels? How did the occupation policies affect values and attitudes in the post-war period? Why was the spirit of reconciliation evident in the ceremonies of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II in Germany and Europe, yet not in Japan and Pacific Asia? In the United States, why did the perception gap between Japan and Germany widen and become more negative towards Japan recently? How have Japan’s relationships with other Asian countries developed, and what steps could be taken to strengthen the relationships in the future? What is Japan’s conception of its history? How, then, is the war remembered in Japan?
Have Nigerians, their leaders and Allies been doing any soul-searching with regards to their characters and responsibility for the War, before, during and after, as has been going on, on the Biafran side? See Professor Ben Nwabueze’s 1985 Ahiajoku Lecture at Igbo Net’s Ahiajoku Lecture Series site, and judge for yourself. What questions have the political and official view-holders of Nigeria been asking themselves about the state of affairs and the divisiveness, among the people of Nigeria today? The divisiveness often degenerates into warring factions and inter-ethnic and religious wars. As a help, take the questions that the Japanese asked themselves, and substitute Nigeria for Japan, and ethnic Nigerian groups for Asian neighbours, and see what answers you will get. What is the relationship of Nigerians with each other now as against their relationships with Biafrans? Is it the same as Debt, Disdain and Detachment as Japan had with her neighbours, or that of Doubt, Dislike and Destroy? Where does this type of relationship place Nigeriatoday with her former Allies and neighbours, at home and abroad?
Japan and Germany shared similar experiences as defeated Axis powers subject to the post-war occupation policies of the United States and the Allied powers, and both recovered to become economic powers.
A very good example for delineation of the effects of fulfilled or unfulfilled promises and policies could be found in the memories of the occupation of Japan and Germany after the World War II. After the War, even during the occupation, which ended in 1995, the Allied Powers forgave the Axis Powers, tore down the Berlin Wall, and helped them towards reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. The countries of the Allied Powers are not of the same ethnic group with the Axis Powers, yet they helped them to recoup and to stand on their feet again. The Axis Powers were helped in all sorts of ways by the Allied Powers to get up to a situation where they are now even more technologically strong and advanced than some of their conquerors. The Allied Powers – the Victors – have also helped the Axis Powers – the Vanquished – to become permanent members with the original five victor-members of the UN Security Council, which defeated them. The hatred and animosity for the defeated has not lived with them forever.
“Until now, the catch-word “clean Army” (Die saubere Wehrmacht) is widely believed to be an appropriate description for the army, a myth that was assiduously constructed during 50 post-war years. An essential point of the discussion was whether the German army had been a “single respectable association” in the Hitler State, or if it had been a “criminal organization.
Nevertheless, German soldiers who were members of the “clean army” have kept silent about the killings, looting, and executions that were undertaken when invading Russia. Personal tales concerning war atrocities committed by German soldiers are not existent. It does not matter if we consider written accounts or interviews: in German narratives there is no death, no burning or looting, no killing committed by German soldiers”.
Nigerians are the “clean people” in the causes of the Nigeria versus Biafra War. They do not share in any responsibility for the War. They heap the responsibility on Biafrans only. The Nigerian Army was the “clean Army”. Only their members who joined the Biafran Army were bad and so carry all the responsibility. They were not supposed to react to the wanton killing of their innocent relations and the destruction of their properties during the pogrom. Nobody of the Nigerian Arms saw, took part in the killings, the executions, the starvation, the bombings, the rapes, the arson, the shootings, the looting, and other atrocities that took place before, during and after the War. Yet they and the Governments they served were all part and parcel of it all.
In 1993, Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party was ousted by a coalition party, and the new prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa (the grandson of Prince Fumimaro Konoe, a wartime prime minister), publicly stated that an aggressive and wrong war had been waged by the Japanese military in the 1930s and 1940s. The official apology was delivered in 1995 – 50 years after the end of World War II, by the then prime minister, Tomiichi Murayama.
In 1993 Japan admitted publicly having waged an aggressive and wrong War in the 1930s and 1940s, and offered an apology publicly in 1995. When will Nigeria’s admission of its share in the blame for the Nigeriaversus Biafra War and the apology come? Japan also had a change of policy called “reverse” phase, which policies aimed at rapid rehabilitation of the economy, conservative policies, change in the US strategic policy towards Japan, the “red purge,” etc. With the emergence of the Cold War, and with the Korean War and the United States policy of containment in eastern Asia, Japan became an important ally of the United States, providing land for its major bases. Japan was also rearmed to a certain degree. At this stage, Japan as well as Germany were considered to be “peace-loving” states by the US and Allies. Following the occupation period, Japan had successfully democratized. The sovereignty of Japan resided in the people, not in the emperor; and civil and human rights, including the rights of women, were protected”. For Japan, the reverse policy turned the negative policy to positive and has been improving ever since. There has not been anything near it in Nigeria.
Takashi Inoguchi concludes the publication with reflections on Japan and Pacific Asia on the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War. He points out that Japan’s relationship with other Asian countries has been hierarchical and asymmetrical this century, whether militarily, economically or culturally. It is now necessary, 50 years after the war, for Japan to achieve greater closeness and symmetry with its Asian neighbours, and to base its ties more intensively on interactions at the grass-roots level. According to Inoguchi, Japan’s relationship with Pacific Asia in this century is one of “debt, disdain and detachment.
For Nigeria, the sovereignty of the people of Nigeria seems to reside with the executive operatives of the Government and not in the people. Hence the Governments are being run as private businesses, with preference for some and spite for others. No effort is being made to harmonize Nigerians from the grass-roots level. The policy of the executive operatives seems to be that of: Divide and Rule. The more the people are divided from the grassroots and are at daggers-drawn against each other, the better for the executive operatives.
Other Factors Relevant To Government’s Failure to Fathom Nigeria’s Woes
There are conditions existing in the society, which are against the tenets of democratic government and seem to defy solution. These are the:
- Complete Breakdown of Law and Order in the Polity.
This is evident in the way some people take the law into their own hands. It manifests in the way such actions as assassinations and extra judicial killings, intimidation, robbery, snatching of cars, kidnapping, and destruction of lives and property and arson reign supreme. These actions are the expressions of the people’s dissatisfaction with the performances of the Police and the Law Courts, which the Government has shown inability to straighten out.
- Reign of Terror in the Country.
For fear of their lives, people are afraid to speak out. All they want to do is to hide in a corner, make a living for themselves and their families – decent or not – and to stay alive. On the altar of the reign of terror in the country, personalities like Dele Giwa, Tunde Idiagbon, Chief Alfred Rewani, General Yar’adua, MKO Abiola, Bola Ige, Barrister and Mrs. Igwe, to name but a few, have been sacrificed. General Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu is crying foul that they are after his life. Worse of all, the Government has not said or done much about these cases. It has not been able to fathom, as it should, what has happened or what is happening to the citizens of Nigeria, and to do something tangible to stop its escalation.
iii. Legacy of Instability and Indiscipline.
There is a debilitating legacy of instability of Government in Nigeria. There has been such a rapid turnover, which also drastically affects its policies and programs. The efforts of those who tried to serve the Government and people well, like Sampson Omeruah, by establishing the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) during the regime of Muhammed Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon, were cut short and replaced with a useless, jaw-breaking jargon called MAMSER. This is one of the policies where the Federal Government ought to retrace its steps.
- The Begin Again (B.A.) Syndrome.
The culture of non-continuity; of breakdown and begin again in Nigeria (BA) has taken incalculable and irreversible toll on the nation. It has done irrecoverable damage to lives, property, growth and development. It has also cost the nation friendships, associations, growth and development, sanity, peace and quiet. Government policies and programs should be successive, continuous and progressive, not disruptive. v. Lack of Security and Freedom: The country is not free and safe! Life and property are not safe and secure! The citizenry is not relaxed! The people are afraid to move about! Foreigners are afraid to visit and to travel in Nigeria! But we go to their countries, including the Government operatives past and present, feel free and safe and enjoy all of their amenities! Life is not sweet, appetizing and inviting in our country. They fly around trying to fulfill all of Nigeria’s promises for foreign countries but not the promises made to citizens in our country! Why is it so? No wonder there adverse brain drain from Nigeria! Is that fair?
- Dearth of Patriotism in the Leaders, which Equals SELFISHNESS
There is a complete lack of the sense of patriotism and love of the country. There is also the lack of love for their families, relations, friends and fellow citizens by the leaders of Nigeria. If it were not so, why would they not want all the facilities and amenities they enjoy overseas to be established in Nigeria, so that they would also be as happy at home as they are overseas? Is it a matter of: I am alright so we are alright (Onye wolu ozue nya ukwu, osi umu nna ya na va aghali)? Why would they not want to have the generality of our people enjoy those amenities as the people do overseas? Why would they not want the amenities and facilities they enjoy overseas to be established at home so that our foreign friends and neighbours could also come to enjoy them with us? Why should they decimate and siphon away all the resources meant for these developments and services into their own pockets and leave the country high and dry? Why is their appetite for wealth – stolen wealth – insatiable? Is there not some element of foolishness and gluttony in it?
Above all, all their stolen wealth is taken outside of the country and saved in foreign banks. One can comfortably enjoy but so much of one’s wealth himself in his lifetime, without making himself sick and mad. What is the point in keeping so much money and continuing to accumulate more, to the other utter disregard of the sacred duties and responsibilities entrusted to him by the people? This nauseating wealth the individual would soon leave behind, never to come back to it, as soon as Mr. Death knocks at the door? Why is the appetite of the people for money and wealth insatiable? By keeping so much of their loot overseas, they take the advantage of Nigeria’s resources from Nigerians and give it to foreigners in their own lands. By so doing, do they realize that they are further offering the former colonialists better conditions for exploitation, as they practiced on us during the imperialistic times.
The fact is that this time around, the offer is on a platter of gold, as the Honourable Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe would put it, without their trying, suffering and dying for it, as they did then. This way, our people support and build up the foreign economies, create jobs for them, furnish them with prosperity, while our people languish in unemployment, disease, poverty and penury. Then the foreigners turn around to push the goods they produced to us and we continue to buy those goods from them with our own money at prices set by them. Above all, through the secrecy in which such accounts are shrouded, the whole of the money so stashed away, at their death, is lost to their families and to Nigeria, forever. Because of the unpatriotic actions of our so-called leaders, our hospitals are not equipped. Therefore, our people flock overseas for better and advanced medical treatment and, more often than not, die there and have to be carried home at greater expense. How foolish and stupid! When will they learn?
Government’s Inability To Solve Nigeria’s Problems
There are some cogent reasons why it has not been possible for the Government to get to the bottom of Nigeria’s problems in order to solve them.
- Deaf Ears, Callous Minds, and Very Thick Skins.
The first and foremost reason is the fact that the leaders are not listening to the people for their opinions and needs with open ears, minds and sensitivity. The leaders of Government are deaf and incensed to the yearnings and aspirations of the people. They have plugged their ears so tightly that not even water could seep through. They have developed such thick skins that not even a spiked spear could pierce through.
- The Pollution of the Stream is from the Source.
There is an Igbo adage which says that: The stream which is stirred and polluted at the source will never get settled and clean unless the stirring and pollution at the source stops (Mili si n’isi we gbalua aya edoro belu so ma mgbalu okwusili na isi mili). The problems that bedevil Nigeria started from the top, with the people at the top, and are embedded with the people at the top. If the stream is being stirred and polluted at the source, there is no earthly chance that it will get to be clean and pure downstream, unless the stirring and pollution at the source stop.
Some of the problems that pollute Nigeria’s stream are found in some pertinent questions that have to be answered, but which remain unattended to. For instance:
- Lack of Security of Life and Property.
Why is the country not safe for lives and property? People are not safe even inside their own homes. Why are people afraid to move about in the country, towns, communities and the vicinity? Nobody else can answer these questions better than the Federal Government. Also nobody else could make the country safe if the Federal Government does not. Foreigners are afraid to visit and travel in Nigeria. They are scared stiff to just visit and on vacation or to do business. Are the political leaders of Nigeria not ashamed of it? What could be done to set the situation right again?
- Debilitating Brain Drain From the Country.
Why has there been such a brain drain from the country since the end of the Nigeria versus Biafra War? The situation must be arrested and reversed. Proper and concerted efforts must be made to bring back the brains drained out of Nigeria and keep them safe and free at home. These sons and daughters of Nigeria should be attracted back home and employed usefully and advantageously for the development of the nation. On account of all of the foregoing adverse conditions that exist in the country, there has been an exodus of capable citizens of Nigeria from home. This is a drain of intellectuals, well-educated and trained people who should be contributing to the building up and sustenance of Nigeria. Mark you, most of them did not go away to stay. But conditions have not improved well enough for them to return.
iii. Widespread Ethnic Unfriendliness.
Why is there so much unfriendliness among the ethnic peoples of Nigeria? The operatives of the Nigerian Government will have to admit that their lack of the display of love of country, ethical values and friendly attitudes with the people is yielding negative results. The unfriendliness is caused by the mis-handling of issues of public interest in the country by Government operatives. This attitude pervades all over the country. They find it easier, or it pays them better to condone ethnic or personal rivalries and disruptions rather than to mediate among them amicably. Public properties are destroyed wantonly or damaged beyond repair, thereby putting the taxpayers into greater expenditure over and over again.
There is no cultivation of friendship among the people from the grassroots. Rather enmity is planted and propagated. For this failure, the leaders are personally responsible. This wrong handling by the leaders is in the lack of patriotism and commitment themselves to the wellbeing of the country and of fellow Nigerians. This poor character reflects very badly on the people. The absence of the spirit of patriotism is most noticeable now, not only among the Military people who have served Nigeria or are serving her now since the Military take-over started in Nigeria but also among the so called new-breed politicians. The spirit of patriotism and ethical values must be revived.
- Political and Economic Power by Snatching:
Why could elections inNigeria not be free and fair?
Some people should not, in all honesty, entertain any more ambitions to sponsor candidates or to rule Nigeria. These people have been very mindless of the Igbo saying that Ezi afa ka ego, a good name is worth more than money. They should know that their names stink. They should realize that the bad name and image they have given to Nigeria at home and abroad will require decades of rectitude to correct and erase. They should realize that there are acceptable ways of doing things in contemporary civilized societies. They should know that their brash, brute, barbaric way of wrenching power and wealth is against all civilized standards. Such actions show them up as lacking in proper home training and upbringing. It also shows them up as having been unable to imbibe the proper values of their upbringing and educated, whereby they showed up as uncivilized and uncouth. The obvious fact is that their contacts with the outside, civilized world have yielded no proper gains to themselves or to the country. If anything they have been a disgrace toNigeria.
- The Sharing of the National Cake.
The bone of contention and what is at stake in Nigeria is the sharing of the National Cake. The scramble for it started with the discovery of petroleum oil in commercial quantities in Nigeria, and from the top. These plunderers should know that all the woes of Nigeria – the wrongdoing of emptying by stealing and siphoning of Nigeria’s financial and economic resources, and all the corrupt practices – started with petroleum oil and with them at the top. The top means the top of the past and present military, quasi-Military and civilian leaders of the Government of Nigeria, who are still in office or have already left office. They are the ones who taught the people that there is a ‘national cake’ to be shared. It is the house mouse that told the bush rat that there is some meat in the soup condiments basket (Oke bi n’uno gwali nke bi no’fia na anu di na ngiga).
If the leaders of Nigeria of all descriptions, especially the military and quasi-military, who started the looting of Nigeria’s resources, in the first place, have refused to change their minds, there could be no way the looting would stop at the bottom, unless there is a change from the top. It would appear that the Federal Government lacks the political will and legal muscle to make such people comply. Government should not negotiate with criminals. They should rather be disgraced and brought under the law. There should not be any sacred cows. No one should be above the law. The law should not be a respecter of persons. Once exceptions start to be made, confusion would step in. It should not be a question of making a scapegoat of one or two persons while the others are shielded. If the culprits would not change their minds to tell the truth and to return their loot to the people, they should be made to do so.
- The Syndrome of Nothing Works.
Why is there the chronic disease of non-functioning infrastructure and utilities in Nigeria? In Nigeria nothing works! This statement was made by Mr. Anthony Longe of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to the Judicial Commission of Enquiry Into Examination Leakages 1975 (JUDICEEL ’75) while he was being interviewed. The Chairman and majority of the members of the Commission did not take kindly to this true statement and so, in their Report, recommended that he be relieved of his post. They also recommended the sack of Dr, Vincent Ike for being at the head of WAEC, though tucked away in Gambia. These two, among others, were sacked. The WAEC has never recovered itself ever since and has not been the same. These days, as I understand, people go to the office of WAEC and get Examination result printouts for admissions into tertiary institutions, which are not reflected in the authentic master result sheets.
vii. In Nigeria:
The Telephone does not work. Roads are not passable or motorable, especially in certain parts of the country. Water does not run. Light does not throw and shine. Power does not flow. (Why was the Oji River Power Station not revamped after the War)? None of the four Refineries in Nigeria works. Petroleum products, with which Nature has endowed Nigeria in abundance, are very scarce and inaccessible and cost lives. Unbelievable but true, petroleum products are imported by Nigeria. Prices for fuel and petroleum products continue to be increased and have become objects for strife and death. Schools do not open, do not teach to raise our hopes of tomorrow. Merit has been sacrificed for illiteracy and mediocrity. Good teaching and learning declined in educating and bringing up the nation’s hopes for tomorrow. Examination Leakages and ‘Expo” have become a very big business in Nigeria. Government did not embark upon policies, programs and projects that would create jobs and prosperity in both the public and private sectors.
Projects and Programmes that were to be started were eaten down to the marrow through bribery and corruption. Fraud and looting of Government treasury and resources continue to escalate and thrive. Graduates and the youth and capable work force remain unemployed for many years. Crime, thuggery and cultism, which have become substitute behaviours, are on the increase. Education at tertiary levels is degraded, and especially women are vulnerable. There has not been any improvement in the situation year to year, to this day. Abject poverty and destitution in the midst of plenty is the lot of the generality of Nigerians. Yet Nigeria has been steadily and increasingly earning revenue from petroleum oil, annually, etc, etc, ad infinitum. Is the above a proper and enviable description for a country that acquired her independence from a colonial imperialist over forty years ago, and with the kind of economic and human resources that Nigeria has? Is this as a result of incompetence or indolence or both?
viii. Everybody Wants a Share of the National Cake.
The practice of siphoning Government funds and all manners of corrupt practices in the public service, by the rank and file at their levels, is seen by them and the people as a way of getting their own share of the national cake. Also the practice of Government operatives keeping the allocations to their agencies for payment for services and development is also seen as sharing in the national cake. Therefore, the velocity of the wrongdoing does not decrease. Rather it escalates, gathering momentum as it digs deeper, and lower down into the fabric of the society. This is because the people have been led to reason that, every Nigerian who is in a position where he or she could lay hands on some Government resources, had better ‘make hay while the sun shines’. This is simply by ‘dipping his or her own bucket into the river just where he or she is’, for his or her own share of the national cake.
- No Confidence in the Nigerian Police.
Why have the people lost confidence in the Nigerian Police? The causes and effects of these should be properly investigated and remedied. The Nigerian Police should be properly maintained so as to restore public confidence in them. Their salaries should be paid promptly. They should have attractive prospects for advancement and incentives for efficient and meritorious service. They should be issued with proper and complete uniforms, their service vehicles properly maintained with other duty costs. The causes for the brazenly, open hunt for and acceptance of bribes and collection of illegal toll from the people, for which they are being hated, should be properly looked into.
But the evidence, which amounts to indictment of the Federal Government, was given by some rank and file of the Nigerian Police Force Zone 2, to the Senate Committee On Police Affairs. It was reported by Kola Ologbondiyan in Abuja, in This Day News Online of Sunday, 29th August 2004 is an eye-opener. The Report confirms what Nigerians have known all along: that they demand bribe from Nigerians to augment the operational costs. These are the expenses incurred by them while on duty, including their colleagues and fellow officers, if they died in the line of duty, protecting lives and property of Nigerians. They charged that the Federal Government has failed in the funding of the Police; that the only option left for them is “to collect bribes to take care of ourselves and run our daily operations”.
In order to have peace, tranquility and security to return and reign in the country again, the image and functions of the Nigerian Police must be revamped. What testimony could be clearer and what indictment more damaging to the image of the Federal Government in the maintenance of the Police, on whom the security of the lives and property of the people depend, than the foregoing? Now that the people have lost confidence in the Police and say so openly, how will it be regained?
- The Jungle Justice and Reign of Terror.
That this state of affairs goes on in the country makes people not to speak out for fear of their lives. People have, therefore, become sycophantic and unable to say what they know to be the truth. They tell the people in authority and anybody for that matter, only what they think they want to hear. Consequently, the country is run on falsehood and half-truths. It will not be an over-statement to say that, on account of this, there has been a complete breakdown of law and order in the country. Only the Police could help to bring back the reign of peace, tranquility and security of life and property.
- Broken Promises, Dashed Hopes, Unfulfilled Policies and Programmes.
Why are the promises and policies out of the Peace Conference after the Nigeria versus Biafra War 1967-1971 not fulfilled? Those promises and policies, which turned out to be false and empty, should be fulfilled. The promises of “No Victor, No Vanquished” and the empty policies of the 3Rs, of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction should be jumped on immediately and implemented. The urgency with which these issues would be tackled now would disarm the Igbo proverb, which says that: Ula kwelu izu abugolu onwu (A sleep that lasts for one native week has turned into death). It should not be death. Let it be just long slumber to be awakened from, though slowly but surely. It is the sum total of the foregoing state of affairs plus more that has made it impossible for the Governments to muster enough political will and legal muscle to tackle the criminal and other problematic issues of the country effectively. Besides, there are too many ‘sacred cows’ who the Governments hold sacrosanct and dread to touch.
xii. Are Nigeria’s Woes Intractable?
A resounding NO! is the answer. But these are problems that only well-written and well-delivered speeches, palatable promises, the setting up of multiple bodies to take responsibility for the different aspects of Government businesses will not solve. These methods have achieved very little or nothing in the past. Numerous commissions of inquiry to study their failings and to report have come and gone without making appreciable dent into the matters at hand. The process would appear to be moving round and round in a vicious circle, achieving little or nothing, while the culprits carry on in their dubious ways and laughing the Government to scorn.
xiii. What Should Be Done?
Nigerians are not bad people. It is the people who are leading them and handling the affairs of the Government of the country that are bad. They are the people who are not telling themselves and the people they represent, or the people they are serving the truth. This should be the truth about what they are doing or have done. The Government of a country cannot run indefinitely on falsehood! Sooner that later, the house of the pack of lies will collapse like a house of a pack of cards and the truth will be exposed! The Government operatives have, in the main, been very selfish, greedy and avaricious in serving their own personal interests. Although, while doing what they are doing, they are like the ostrich, which buries its head in the sand, and exposing the rest of its body, yet believing that no body sees them. This deception has to stop and should stop.
xiv. Who Is Fooling Who?
Nobody is fooling anybody. The people who delude themselves by believing that they are fooling the people should stop it. They plan mischief at home and run away elsewhere to hide while their plans are exploding and causing havoc behind them. They turn around and deny the fact. Then they heap the blame on their adversaries. What a shame! One thing is clear, and that is that they are not fooling anybody, and are not getting away with anything. The people who encourage them in such activities are just leading them on the path of self-destruction. People should stop sucking up to these deceitful characters. They should stop being sycophantic and gullible towards them. Rather, they should tell them in plain language what they are, and how they are regarded by the people. They should be treated as what they are. These fraudulent characters are nothing but common thieves and liars who have no integrity.
Their so-called wealth is stolen goods. Of course, they should know themselves for, is it not said that birds of the same feathers flock together? When people could not explain the source of their sudden and obtrusive wealth, there is much there to be desired. Holding a public office, high or low, does not give the one the license to help himself or herself to more than the legitimate remuneration for that office. For shame and embarrassment, these shady characters should not have any courage to look at people straight in the face and into the eyes. They should not have the moral courage to brag about their stolen wealth, to flaunt it around in people’s face and want to smother Nigerians with it.
xiv. Debt Forgiveness Requests.
Nigeria wants to be forgiven her external debts. But the creditor-nations would argue that the country makes so much more money than she requires for her internal business, that she is in a very good position to pay her external debts, comfortably. The leaders and top public servants of Nigerian Government are so greedy and avaricious that they siphon away all the money, and lodge into their own accounts in foreign banks for themselves, without spending any or much on Nigeria’s internal needs. They observe that our roads are not rehabilitated, the vaccine drugs are adulterated, and tap water does not run (as has been the case in Anambra State since 2001) and a host of other woes bedeviling Nigerians. Such money lodged in foreign banks enrich those countries, and impoverish Nigerians. Due to the secrecy surrounding such accounts, when the persons die, the money is lost to the families of the deceased and the people of Nigeria, forever.
That was why Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, during her tenure of office, was once quoted as saying that the money five or six Nigerian men have stashed away in British Banks would be enough to pay all ofNigeria’s external debts. She threatened to publish the list of such persons and their assets, and also seize the assets to offset Nigeria’s debts. Eventually, she neither published the list, nor seized the assets, nor offset Nigeria’s debt to Britain. She did not also forgive or write off Nigeria’s debt to her Government. Now, the debts have accumulated more. The number of persons whose assets could offset the debts has also decreased to two. How I wish she had taken the actions she threatened then! Ifeanyi Agbogu, reporting in allAfrica.com Vanguard (Lagos) News of August 27th, 2004 under the heading: Nigeria’s Debt Forgiveness Request: Matters Arising, stated: “Here in Nigeria are four refineries. None of them is working. There are refineries abroad with Nigerians as major shareholders promoting the businesses so much so that back home the improvement of our refineries is an illusion. Tollgates were destroyed without recourse to the effect of the act on the people. We have enough to make us the wealthiest people in the world. I am disgusted when we ask to be forgiven our debts. The reason we give, oftentimes, is that the money was embezzled by our past leaders. Talk! Who of those in power now was not there in the past fifteen years, at least. God so loved us, He took away all the imbalances in nature, such as earthquakes, flooding, terrorist attacks from us. Our atmosphere is so conducive.
“But then what is the (only) way out? Discipline, that is all! Then there was that shameful saga of 241 million dollars in the Internal Affairs Ministry. Veritable data puts our debt at 28 billion dollars. Nigerians (most of them past leaders) have over 170 billion dollars in foreign accounts. I really pray and hope that Nigeria is not forgiven our debts….” Another report by Ben Agande in Abuja, National News of Sunday, August 29, 2004, captioned: $170 billion alleged loot alarms Obasanjo, states as follows. “Alleged increase in the money suspected to have been stolen by some Nigerian Government officials and kept in foreign bank accounts from 50 billion in 1999 to 170 billion in 2003 may have persuaded President Obasanjo to soft pedal on his campaign for debt forgiveness by Nigeria’s foreign creditors. Consequently, security agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) were said to have been mandated to unmask the Government officials involved. Those fingered, according to the document, stumbled upon by Sunday Vanguard in Abuja last week included officials both at the State and Federal levels. Obasanjo and the Minister of State for Finance, Mrs. Nena Nneadi had, specifically, accused State Governors of stashing abroad funds belonging to their States. Obasanjo and Nneadi refused to disclose names despite protests by many Governors who affirmed their innocence…….”
Why the secrecy? Sacred cows?
However, some of the debtor-nations still have enormous resources, which the greedy ones among their leaders continue to loot as if they were there just for the taking. The debtor nations have argued that with the resources their leaders misapply and loot, they can afford to pay their debts, if only the leaders will have a change of heart. It is imperative that the leaders – past and present – should develop some compassion towards the people they are ruling or have ruled. They should hang their heads in shame knowing that the wealth they bandy around is not legitimately their own, that it was stolen, criminally acquired. The current leaders and top public servants should also learn the same lessons. They should learn to handle the resources of the people in their care honestly, more shrewdly and efficiently for the benefit of the governments and the people. Without this change of mind, there is no hope of redemption and recovery for Nigeria.
Nevertheless, regardless, of what use Africa is making of her present resources, the accumulated debts from the adverse effects of all the exploitation over the years of colonization by creditor nations, past and present, plus the adverse effects of the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) on their economies, constitute a deadly stranglehold on African nations. These were measures taken by the creditor-nations and their financial institutions for setting up the structure of their economic world order. The adverse effects of the incurable diseases and internal wars, which appear to be deliberately imposed on Africa, are ravagingAfrica’s economy and decimating her populations. The creditor-nations should, in conscience-bound, be compelled by these conditions to change their minds and to forgive, write off and forget the debts. Consequently, the debts should be forgiven, written off and forgotten.
The relevant word, attitude and behaviour is ‘Discipline’. It is not by talking! It is not by pretence! It is not by sycophancy! It is not by gullibility! It is only by a personal decision and commitment to do the right things at the right time! No more, No less! Otherwise Nigeria is doomed! There is not going to be any magic!
One also wonders whether the list of the patrons of the Okija Deities Shrines has been published. It is this kind of secrecy that breeds sacred cows and shields them. When the culprits are not exposed, justice is not done and would not be done. Then the nation continues to suffer. Businesses of public interest should not be shrouded in secrecy. Otherwise, it becomes private business. Nigerians should be treated as mature adults that they are by their leaders and not as idiots to be hoodwinked.
To be continued on 14 Dec 2004.
See To tell the Truth: Something is Wrong with Nigeria, Part II