NIGERIA @ 59: STILL A WOBBLING NATION

Were Nigeria to be a civil servant, a human person, by next year, she would have been going on retirement. By that time, that is, by the year 2020, Nigeria would have clocked 60 years as an independent nation.

According to the Nigerian Civil Service rule, any civil servant who attains the age of 60 years, except for some category of public officers like judges and university teachers, must proceed on retirement. The understanding is that any such a person would have put in his or her best productive years into the system, and as such, granting him or her any extra year would only lead to diminishing returns.

That was why in the days of yore, retired civil servants were treated with honour and respect, and their pensions and gratuities guaranteed and placed on first payment charge, because they had adequately paid their dues.

Ideally, Nigeria at 59 years, ought to have been a grown up adult, ought to have been on a firm and sound footing, ought to have charted a proper course of direction for her citizens, and ought to have taken its proper place in the comity of nations. In real life, on the existential plane, however, both on domestic and international arena, Nigeria has failed to be all these. She is still a kindergarten baby, a delinquent adult, struggling to take her bearing, still learning the ropes, her feet trembling or shaking, wobbling.

Nigeria’s journey through history was not only laced with disappointments, but also full of ugly narratives. At 59 years, Nigeria is still not a nation, but is constituted of disparate and atomistic groups, each running its individual race, struggling to have a space on the planet, the battle for survival, survival of the fittest.

At 59 years, every Nigerian still sees him or herself in his or her ethnic group, and as distinct from every other ethnic group, as different, and as enemy to one another. They hardly see themselves as members of the same family, but from their different ethnic perspectives. That is why the country has refused to grow.

In Nigeria, there is distrust, there is suspicion, there is uncertainty, and there is fear among Nigerians, arising from various stereotypes built over the years, and which has refused to heal. Nigeria’s unity therefore, is at best ephemeral, a chimera, something unattainable.

At 59 years, Nigeria is still learning the process and practice of democracy. This was as a result of frequent changes of baton between the men in flowing gown or babariga, and those in khaki uniform, with the latter often putting off their khaki, to adorn babariga, and begin to dominate the political space.

But these “converted” democrats, these military men turned politicians, would hardly obey or observe the democratic tenets or the rule of law. They would continue to bastardize the democratic system, to exhibit their military tendencies. As Aimee Cesare would say, they are simply white men in black clothing, “black mask, white skin”, with their same pigmentation, and changing nothing. That is why democracy has not grown in Nigeria at 59 years, and is still at an elementary stage.

This was amply demonstrated during the last general elections, which was not only a sham, but also a rape of democracy, when the various voting centres were turned into battlefields, completely taken over by men in military uniform, in combat gear, who used their position to intimidate both the electoral officials and the electorate, and in the process, prevented many people from freely exercising their franchise.

At 59 years, corruption is still very endemic in Nigeria, while the country has assumed an enviable position as new headquarters of global poverty. With almost half of her 200 million estimated population living below the universally accepted $1.90 a day, Nigeria has now taken over from India, notwithstanding her enormous potentials, in men and natural resources.

At 59 years, thousands of Nigerian children still die daily of malnutrition and other childhood diseases, while many pregnant women also die because of their inability to access good medical facilities.

At 59 years, many Nigerians still live in fear, and sleep with only one eye closed, as a result of of insecurity. People are killed like fowls almost on daily basis, killed by Boko Haram and by Fulani herdsmen and other criminal elements prowling all over the place, bandits, cultists, etc., while kidnapping has assumed an alarming dimension because it has become a lucrative business.

Nigeria is a very big cake which everybody wants to have a bite, but which none will truthfully participate in its baking. If there is guilty in leadership, there is also guilty in the followership. Nobody is exempted. Many Nigerians are not doing what they are supposed to be doing to make Nigeria great. As the Holy Book would say: “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. That is why we all should be doing a “mea culpa”, have mercy on us, and endeavour to turn a new leaf.

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