A nation at war with herself

Nigeria cuts the image of a nation at war with herself. Everyday, the reports of needless carnage amid pervasive corruption and the ostentatious lifestyles of elected leaders are paradoxical and disheartening. After 52 years as a politically - independent country, Nigeria faces blinding poverty, a decayed Education system, an unproductive leadership, terrible social infrastructure, grave social and civil insecurity and a despondency that is so pervasive that the country seems to have declared war on herself.

It is no surprise therefore that the country connotes the image of a failed state. A country where distribution of wealth and resources is not guided by the principles of fairness and justice, and where employment, quality education, adequate health, reasonable shelter, electricity and even the most basic of all human needs – food and shelter – can not be guaranteed is a failed state and thus a nation at war with herself.

Nigeria is one of several countries in Africa and around the globe rated as third world countries. Yet, what makes the country's case sordid is the immense possibilities it possesses for greatness – huge human and natural resources that once were the pride of the citizens and the envy of foes – but which now tell the story of the failure of leadership in bold relief. In the beginning when there was hope in her greatness, Nigeria was christened the 'Giant of Africa'. Later, when this 'greatness' turned out a mirage and the hopes of all, also other African countries, which had reasoned that Nigeria would be the nation to rescue the continent from the grips of poverty and decadence, were smashed to smithereens, Nigeria became the 'crippled giant'.

The state fails in a nation when her political, economic and cultural elite fail in their duties to serve the nation. A country such as Nigeria where, historically, majority of the political office holders see governance as self-serving, an exercise in self - aggrandizement, is a failed state. Nigeria's policy makers and political elite – principal agents of injustice - are at war with Nigeria. And what does injustice breed? Suspicion, distrust, hate, insecurity! Since 1960, Nigeria has not enjoyed a decade of true peace.

Barely six years after independence, the military, through a coup and counter-coup plunged the country into a bloody civil war. There followed more years of instability and a short-lived Second Republic. Finally in 1999, the country was ushered into an era of democratic experiment that has now lasted for 13 years. There are still challenges. First, sectarian groups like the Oodua Peoples Congress in the Southwest, the MASSOB in the Southeast and the Niger Delta militants have at different times thrown up demands and violence in the mix. The militancy of the Niger Delta region has since subsided with the offer of amnesty to the militant youths and promise of more infrastructure for the region. Injustice has bred and continued to breed violent agitations.

The current idiom of fear in the psychology of our nation is what is called Boko Haram – a faceless group of terrorists that destroys, kills, bombs, shoots and displaces on a daily basis. For the Boko Haram, a popular name for a sect that appears not to respect the peaceful tenets of Islam which it claims to represent nor the civility of humanity, nowhere is sacred for its mission of destruction – churches, mosques, educational institutions, military barracks, police stations, even the United Nations secretariat! Boko Haram may well be a metaphor for the destructive tendencies of our leaders over the years, for which there seem to be no end in sight.

Leaders at the local, state and federal levels of governance are cast in the mould of the Boko Haram insurgents, locked in a perpetual war with their motherland. They engage in destructive battles with Nigeria through commission and omission. Most of their policies and actions in governance could be likened to a declaration of war that erodes the dignity of Nigerians. It is sacrilegious for leaders to threaten the sanity and resilience of the citizenry by dropping hints about a policy they know would be unpopular and unacceptable. When a government that has barely a year ago increased the pump price of petrol decides to test the waters as to the possibility of another increase, such a government is guilty of committing psychological arson on its citizenry. Such a government obviously lacks respect and compassion for the people. Such a government positions itself at war with the people. Though the report has been refuted by the president, our leaders must be told that the citizens of a nation are not a testing site for a 'war-monger's' experimental 'bomb'! Nigerians are still licking the wounds inflicted by the January 2012 increase which has had a spiral effect on prices and cost of sundry services including food, transportation, medicare, housing and private power generation.

The economy of Nigeria is not where it should be because her economic and political elite are at war with the country. Majority live below the poverty line, while the country's eminent enemy-citizens who, unfortunately, occupy positions of authority have taken the malaise of corruption and self-enrichment to levels of absurdity never seen in the history of our beloved nation. This absurdity cannot be excluded from indices that continue to suggest that the responsibility of government to its people is misplaced in terms of how priorities and goals are being set and executed. When the overall ethos and ethics of government does not engender development and happiness for all, then those who are running that government are at war with the country. It is only a Federal government that is at war with the country that will yield to the pressures of forces with vested interest by denying the petroleum industry and the entire country the implementation of the Petroleum Revenue Task Force report.

Religion is supposed to encourage peaceful co-existence and shun materialism. But, sadly, our religious leaders have turned the two heavily subscribed religions – Islam and Christianity – into instruments of warfare against the nation. Some exploit the bestiality of their faith and turn it into a tool of destruction and an ideology of fraud. Religious leaders exploit the spiritual dependency and hopelessness of a socially plundered poor to realize their ambition of becoming billionaires. What is in vogue now are pastors and bishops acquiring private jets and moving in convoys of expensive automobiles with fully armed security escorts. Faith leaders who should teach the people the virtues of humility and long suffering are themselves slaves to arrogance, vanity and intolerance. Religious leaders and their various establishments may have to be taxed heavily since they extort their congregations so heavily. It is obvious that God has been sidetracked in the practice of Christianity and Islam in Nigeria!

For Nigeria to be a state and a true nation, the country must be reconciled to herself. And this duty belongs to Nigerians themselves and not outsiders. First, the intelligence and sincerity of leadership must be reviewed. In the current highly competitive global politics, no country can afford to put forward her third team. The intelligence of leadership is the measure of the intelligence of a nation. No country eager to build or consolidate statehood would merely manage leadership materials. The greatness of nations commences from the greatness of their leaders. Great nations target, scout and install true leaders who then set agendas for their greatness. A great people do not 'siddon-look' while the mostly unintelligent and criminally-persuaded take over the reins of power and manipulate the intelligence of their country the way the present crop of Nigerian leaders behave. It is the duty of the truly sophisticated elite of the nation to chart a course of development for her. The resources of this country must be translated into wealth for the generality of the people. The existing wide gulf between the rich and the poor is a gap occasioned by gross injustice and a deformed federalism. That gap is the duty of a truly nationalistic elite to close.

Nigerians know that Nigeria can be great because it possesses the potentials for greatness in both human and material dimensions. Nigerians are aware that if cured of its huge viral load of corruption, the country has no business being ranked among the 'most corrupt' of the world. As Nigeria approaches its centenary in 2014, the elite of this nation must change its warring disposition to its motherland. A new developmental framework for national integration spanning 30 years has just been announced for the country. For it not to be an impotent framework and a sightless vision like 'Vision 20-2020', politicization of developmental initiatives must cease. What this nation needs are good women and men who, rather than warring against her, would fight on her behalf.

Ide Owodiong-Idemeko
NAS Cap'n

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