This is not a prophecy. I write this message to all of you at home and in Diaspora, wishing you good health and high spirit for this great country, Nigeria. I wish you all the best in 2017 and beyond. This massage may not be new. Assuredly, you may have received a message or messages better than it. But, I feel strong in my heart that it will add flavor to the goodness in you as patriots who strive positively for possibilities for our nation. It may also redirect some misguided minds of citizens who may wish that this blessed land be not.
Let us forget the past mistakes of our past leaders and focus on the present and future. It is a fact that any person who allows the past to hunt and track him down hardly finds progress a successful course. It is true that the present predicaments of Nigeria today are resultant from the unpatriotic, selfish and unguarded extravagance and complacency of our leaders, though few were real heroes for national unity and cohesion. They were blindfolded to plan and execute, amidst abundance, projects that would have placed our dear nation on the path of development. This is not Nigeria we should belong to if the right steps were taken by our past leaders. Basically out of ethnocentric attachment and ancestral preponderance, they murdered equity and fairness in the spread of national fortunes and endowments.
Except the colonial plunderers, our past leaders were human beings like all of us in blood and progeny. They did not think differently just like our individual forefathers most of who so much loved family satisfaction above societal growth. Undoubtedly, they fought for our independence but unfortunately they did not lay solid foundation for our national integration. Everyman amongst the earliest leaders, probably out of the reluctance with which they accepted the 1914 amalgamation, fought for his people. This fight for tribal men by every successive leader of Nigeria has been the bane of national integration and development. And with the clear religious divide between the north and south, it has been very difficult for them to steer too clear from bigotry and unfair consideration of other existences.
However, let bygone be let go though we must reflect on the past to guard against repeating same errors. Efforts to change the trend in Nigeria’s governance had hit the hard rock and that subjected Nigerians to the avarice of torturous venturous looters who ruined Nigeria and used Nigerians as mere farm tools or cogs in vehicular wheel. The question is whether Nigerians should forgive them and forget their ruins. As human beings, it is advisable to forgive because hardly are men saints. But the land has remained in pains and these people are alive watching what they have caused Nigerians. Awosivan Segun aptly captures the state of the nation in his cartoon on page 18 of the Vanguard newspapers of January 11, 2017.
Now that we have come of age and seem to agree on the way forward, let us keep faith in God and the present leadership. Election of independent selfless Nigerians into positions of trust will help us. We should develop the passion to use our votes to determine the course of leadership. That is the big problem we still have: how Nigerians can use their mandates without prejudice to vote politicians basically on merit. Rigging is another weevil in the system, but it is largely possible when the electorates compromise by accepting bags of rice, food stuff and meager amounts for their votes. It is unbelievable what happened in some quarters in the last general elections when some politicians were said to have bought votes by paying money to voters and initiating them into secret vows against betrayal. Votes were bought for as low as N100. Is it ignorance, poverty or both that is responsible for such unpatriotic attitude and actions.
Nigerians must stand up against dictatorship. Winners should be generous enough to carry every citizen along, while losers should accept fate and the will of the people and form an informed, strong and unfaltering opposition. That is why it is praiseworthy the calculative measures put up by the present leadership by not rushing to sack all appointees of the former government and for partly using the appointees in recovering looted funds. Nigerians should stand up against looting of our commonwealth. Though it is being fought vigorously by the incumbent administration, there are still a lot of leakages and corrupt experts whose days assuredly are numbered. What is happening in Africa today is a good omen for Nigeria as the superpower of the black continent.
Closely to the electoral challenges are court verdicts, rerun elections and related judicial (mis)handling. It is the common belief that the court is the home of justice where the wrong is righted. Current events have shown that the courts have been turned into entertainment centers and caricature circuits where powerful politicians run to secure positions by influence. Judges used to be regarded as untouchables believing in their full intellectual and partly spiritual sanctity. It is funny how courts are dealing with issues that are clear: the controversies in the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the court judgments in the past governorship tussles especially for Abia state, the inability of the courts to convict financial criminals – at least those who have confessed and returned looted commonwealth as well as the cases of corruption leveled against many judges of our courts, amongst others.
Our judiciary, if it is to maintain its status as the last hope for the oppressed, needs total overhaul. Our learned men must change for good and aid the present government on the path to national transformation. And with the executive arms purging itself of corruption, much is expected from the legislative arms whose financial dealings have been shrouded in secrecy. Nigerians must demand transparency in the budget performance and the expenditures of all arms of government. May God save us.
That is why every Nigerian who wishes the country well must support the war against corruption. Corruption, invariably, is the root of most internal security challenges in Nigeria today. The Niger Delta militancy was blown open when money supposedly meant to empower the people and develop the region were used to procure arms to keep corrupt politicians in power. Boko Haram started similarly same way. And the agitation for Biafra has continued to resurface due to corruption and perceived political exclusion from national governance. The revelations from the camps of internally displaced persons (IPDs) especially in the north east are touching.
It is corruption that has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians and displaced innocent citizens who lost unquantified amounts of money and legitimate means of livelihood. Look at how hundreds of our gallant soldiers have been killed, court-marshaled or dismissed by corruption in the name of Boko Haram! And up till today, neither the sponsors of this deadly group nor the looters of our commonwealth are known to the public. These same people will come back to leadership at all levels with the loots, using the commonwealth to buy votes, frustrate patriotic well-meaning aspirants and contestants as well as subjugate all stumbling blocks including the electoral and judicial systems.
These sectional agitators have genuine reasons but if they start holding their political leaders accountable, things will change. A situation where governors owe poor civil servants several months of unpaid salaries is unacceptable. A situation where pensions are not paid to the poor civil servants and the already rich past political office holders are snug with unimaginable financial returns as pensions and allowances is pitiful for a country that claims to fight corruption. Why do the Nigerian elites think very differently in terms of amassing wealth and punishing the underlings? What is the need for giving huge pensions backed by the constitution, to former executive, legislative and judiciary leaderships at both the state and federal levels with the full knowledge that these persons are wealthy with many business establishments before vacating office? Additionally, these former political top shots are also given houses and expensive cars of choice after every four years.
We are still far from another general elections, but intelligence reports are going viral that some politicians are stockpiling arms for the forthcoming political dispensation. Which type of people are these? Are we sure they are really Nigerians? Is it arms that will keep them in power or their performances? I think the National Orientation Agency (NOA) has a lot to do in the area of inculcating the civic responsibilities in Nigerians at all times, not only before and after elections. We have often found that the agency is frustrated by lack of funds to carry out its constitutional responsibility. If so, the trend should be reversed because the change we all need must be in action and not mere words and radio jingles. Nigerians, not only the leaders and city-dwellers, must be practically met and taught to change.
Another great worry for all of us as Nigerians is youth restiveness which is a product of youth unempowerment and abuse. Simply, Nigerian youths are abused. They are used and dumped. All successive past Nigerian leaders were young; maybe that accounted for the tribal encroachment that caused Nigeria its woes. What is the condition of our youth today? What are the many Nigerian youth groups especially the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) doing for the emancipation of the Nigerian youth? Just like the ethnic delineation secretly plays role in all political gatherings in the country, the youth council has remained a toothless bulldog, if it can even be called a bull at all. A check on the number of youths on the list of political office holders in the country reveals their insignificance.
Finally, the national reorientation and reintegration must be systematically pursued and actualized. Nigeria is still struggling for actual unlimited unity. That is why there are still fear, suspicion and outright wickedness amongst its people of over 500 ethnic nationalities. That is why every leader who takes over the leadership of Nigeria is feared and suspected basically on ethnic and religious demarcation. Some were blazer in oppressing other existences; others were systematic in carrying out agenda to favour their people. The 1999 Constitution forbids state religion and gives equal rights to every citizen of Nigeria, but the reality in the governance still reveals the opposite. Though a member of the Nigerian minority group, we should desist from the imagination of Christianization or Islamization of Nigeria because it is impossible under our constitution.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]