By Babatunde Jose
Reacting to last week’s posting, a reader pointed to the need to look at the plight of 180 million abandoned Nigerians who today are languishing in poverty and squalor; a collateral ‘damage’ of the huge wastage of our ‘God given’ resources.
In ‘The Last Show of a Wasted Generation’, Adeola Aderounmu berated the supposed 180 million passive citizenry for contributing to our current woes. Said he; “The endless resiliency of the ordinary Nigerian has made nonsense of the principle of time and performance as well as accountability and probity in Nigeria. By sleeping away mentally while living in a country devoid completely of social justice and equity, the ordinary Nigerian have been as guilty as the marauders who raped the land and cart away the treasuries for themselves and their children. Passive citizenry contributed largely to the wasteful years that befell Nigeria.”
Passive citizenry is one of the causes of our retrogression as a nation. We resigned our fate to and acquiesce to the thievery and brigandage being perpetrated by our leaders and often at times take part in the looting and savoring the forbidden fruit. We are therefore, equally guilty of the fate that befell us. By acts of omissions and mass commission, we allowed marauders to get away with impunity. Those who defrauded our common patrimony are today walking freely and amassing national and traditional accolades; the choice hilltop addresses are reserved for them.
The younger generation has been socialized into the ignoble mores, values and culture of their fathers and has evolved deviant and devilish idiosyncrasies to uphold those criminal and delinquent cultures. Their hopes and aspirations are all focused on becoming like their fathers. We are in trouble! Another generation has been wasted!
Rather than usher in a new generation of leaders, the old order re-grouped. The soldiers who participated in despoiling the nation for thirty years merely removed their khakis and donned theiragbadas to transmute into civilian leaders. General Obasanjo transformed into President Obasanjo, Lt. General Danjuma, metamorphosed into Minister of Defense and ‘stepped aside’ General Babangida became a party leader. What more can a nation wish for to commit economic and political hara-kiri?
Our youths seem contented to file behind old politicians like area boys. Rather than get organized and form a strong mass organization with fresh ideas to wrestle leadership from the ancient regime, and chart a course for their generation, Nigerian youths are being used as enforcers of the old order: They are content to serve as social and political pimps and gigolos. Alcoholism, drugs and the easy life has become the order of the day; and they are not immune to the corrupt and criminal tendencies of the older generation. Rather than raise a voice against crime, corruption and impunity, they are contented to feed off the crumbs from the same politicians who have been plundering the country since independence. Omo ‘ole jo baba, k’ama binu omo. We cannot grudge a child for resembling the father; can we?
In 1983, late Chinua Achebe in his seminal work: The Trouble with Nigeria, declared that, “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a problem of leadership” and of the inability or unwillingness of leaders to rise to “the challenge of personal example.” Very true, as is exemplified by the, misrule of the trio of Obasanjo, Yar’Ardua and Jonathan; 16 years of the locust. Evil agents of ruination!
About the same time, a disappointed Soyinka had observed that, “after a quarter of a century of witnessing and occasionally participating in varied aspects of social struggle in all their shifting tempi, dimensions, pragmatic and sometimes even ideologically oriented goals, I feel at this moment that I can only describe my generation as the wasted generation, frustrated by forces which are readily recognizable, which can be understood and analyzed but which nevertheless have succeeded in defying whatever weapons such ‘understanding’ has been able to muster towards their defeat.” WS
But little did these conscience of society know that successive leaders would make the situation worse. Nigeria is a country that has never risen beyond its potential. We remain the ‘sleeping giant’, while our potentials were never harnessed for greatness: Even in mundane area such as sports; a country of 180 million cannot assemble 22 players to form a formidable team or develop its youths to excel in athletics.
In today’s Nigeria those whose fathers have ruined Nigeria and the contemporaries of their fathers are what we have left on the stage: Criminal politicians and soldiers of fortune, who have been recycled and patently overused. We had opportunities to become a great nation, but we blew them; our oil boom became an ‘oil doom’ as our wealth was frittered away by ‘leaders’ who behaved like drunken sailors.
Our educational system has also contributed to the failure to raise patriotic future leaders. Public education has suffered a gradual but steady decline. The country has witnessed a massive brain drain that led to the depletion of human resources at the nation’s tertiary institutions. Those who would have remained in the country to help salvage the rot, checked out like Andrew; in what Pat Utomi described as ‘the generation that left town’.
There is no doubt; we have had good leaders in the past. “Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello” may have been challenged by bigotries and sectarian attitudes. They may have been irredentists, geo-political gladiators or tribal champions, but by God, they had some ideas. They articulated their dreams for their country as they saw it. No one can study the Sardauna and not respect his leadership and his foresight in building northern Nigeria. The booming economies of the regions they led in the First Republic attests to the quality of their leadership.” But, “They came; they saw but failed to conquer.” Adeola Aderounmu
Today, leadership crisis refers a glaring lack of alternatives to a bankrupt political class. There are still politicians who describe themselves as disciples of the patriarchs; but, these self-styled disciples have distinguished themselves only by their ready abandonment of their mentors’ principles. The sons and daughters of our past leaders would have changed the course of this country if they had exhibited greater fidelity to their fathers’ principles. As soon as our democracy was truncated by Abacha, the so-called Awoists were jostling to serve the ‘goggled’ General; Babatope, Jakande and even Onogoruwa. It was a big issue within the Afenifere camp. What manner of ‘discipleship’? The case Ebino Topsy, was particularly disturbing and heart rending: In all my over six decades of earthly life, I would not have believed he would eventually become a comprador. But, if gold can rust. . . . .
According to Olaniyan Olumuyiwa, commenting on our declaration of Abiola as a hero of democracy, he said: Nigeria has been so traumatized by a procession of vampire regimes that it has lost understanding of what heroes or statesmen are. Only a country reeling from the torment of self-obsessed despots could have declared the late Chief MKO Abiola a symbol of democracy despite his long intimate links with the military elite. But this happened because Nigerians, then as now, were hungry for a hero.”
We forgot in a hurry that Abiola was manufactured by the CIA (read ITT) and the Nigerian militocracy. It was even said that he sponsored the coup that ousted Buhari; and which held democracy hostage for eight years. What goes round comes round. It was the same military friends that eventually annulled his electoral victory.
The truth is that most public officers who administered this country between the sixties and eighties should be vilified and not praised. They brought us to the point where we are. “We live in a “republic of mediocrity” – a realm in which the best is possible but never achieved; where common criminals attain power and are serenaded for their villainy by a dysfunctional society and a bankrupt state; where politics is about the distribution of the spoils of office and defined by the absence of ideas or principles.”Olaniyan Olumuyiwa
It is pathetic that we continue to recycle those who contributed to our predicament: It implies an unwillingness of the present generation to ‘jettison geriatric survivalism and gerontocratic’ tendencies. Ideally, these veterans ought to retire and become living ancestors and specimens in the ‘political museum’. There is therefore, a dangerous vacuum of leadership and ideas in our society.
Despite their high level of education, intellectual capacity and proven acts of patriotism, Nigerian youths have been grossly corrupted. They have succumbed to the allurement of position, power and money, seeing these as their only means of survival. The present generation, like its predecessor is fast wasting away. It would be a monumental tragedy if the rot is allowed to continue. Whither my country?
There are 180 million solutions to our problems, seeing that we are all part of the problems. Our attitude would therefore determine our altitude!
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, Those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray. (Quran 1:1-7)
Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend