With Nigeria turning 58, I am full of mixed emotions as, on one hand, I am happy to see this great nation reach such a milestone and indeed it is a milestone to not have given way to war, natural disasters and more. On the other hand, I am saddened by how far we have gone down the drain of bad leadership, corruption and all things bad.
Barely three years ago, I recall that the then President of the United States, Barack Obama, made a video address to the Nigerian people in the run-up to the March 28 election, asking them to shun violence. He said “all Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear,” and called on “all candidates to make it clear to their supporters that violence has no place in democratic elections.” Fast-forward to 2018 as the country is gearing up for elections in a few months, it almost feels as if the address could have been made now and would still be relevant.
The issues that plagued the country leading up to last elections seem even bigger now, something we probably didn’t think possible. Issues that should ideally be the driving force of development like in so many countries. Our different cultures should be a source of attraction, not division; our oil should transform our nation into a better Dubai and so much more.
You see, I know what it means for a United States President to send a goodwill message to a country like Nigeria on the eve of a very crucial and challenging election like the one held in 2015. It must have been a wide-ranging diplomatic conversation among the friendly nations of the world that fear the slippery slope that Nigeria was about to enter. I was also made to understand that the message was very well received by not only Nigerians in this part of the world but by Nigerians in the diaspora. It was also viewed by hundreds, if not millions, of the entire black world.
That goes to show how much Nigeria was and is loved by particularly the black world. Therefore, the leaders and politicians of our country must not take the message for granted and brush the content of the message aside as we prepare for another general election. This is because the unity of the country is even more at stake now with people feeling more divided than ever. Some weeks back, I had written about the 3 Rs threatening the development and the existence of Nigeria, namely, resource control, religion, and restructuring. I believe that, until we are ready to address these 3 Rs in an efficient fashion, the country won’t advance.
In his address, Obama highlighted some issues that we had to address. The unfortunate thing, of course, is that some, if not all of the issues, have been with us for decades but we have continued to turn a blind eye to them, hoping we can sweep them under the carpet. One important issue he touched on was insurgency, which, of course, can be linked to resource control in some areas. He also mentioned free and fair elections, which can be linked to the restructuring that everyone is clamoring for.
Despite our disappointments and failures, many African countries still look up to us for leadership. Yet we have never even bothered to find out why the different systems failed before starting a new one, so we cannot be talking of restructuring without looking at why we failed in the past. An example of how we have become too adapted to leaping before looking is the collapse of Nigeria Air before it even began. The government’s plan to re-fleet the national carrier before the end of 2018 has been halted as the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, recently announced the suspension of the project.
The suspension, which was greeted with absolute bewilderment across the country, came barely two months after a glamorous roadshow, which must have cost a fortune, was organized during the Farnborough Airshow in London, where the name and logo of the new airline were unveiled on July 18.
But the question I ask is, what happened to the last national carrier that was liquidated without any recourse to Nigerians and has a debt of N43 billion, which is required to pay all outstanding claims of the ex-Nigeria Airways workers? We so easily dust our hands from ‘failure’ without dissecting the parts of it that could be useful for any future projects to learn from.
In my essay on resource control, religion, and restructuring, I had mentioned that the only way of getting out of the crisis of the three Rs is by getting to the root cause of these problems. You see, I believe that, as a country, we need not shy away from seeking help from outside, if need be. It is possible we are too buried in the dirt to see clearly, which may be preventing us from seeking a lasting peaceful solution.
My first recommendation for such help would have come in a man called Kofi Annan because of his diplomatic disposition, integrity and the fact that his first wife was a Nigerian. I met Kofi Annan some years ago through Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari but, unfortunately, we have lost Kofi Annan, who passed away some weeks ago.
Nigeria must seek somebody with a similar stature and integrity to help mediate the peace and reconciliation talks. In doing so, we must remember that the Northern Ireland crisis that lasted almost three decades was finally taken to a Good Friday agreement by American Senator, George Mitchell.
It took him and his team many years to resolve the crisis. People like Senator Mitchell, Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu are difficult to find but not impossible. In fact, I believe my second recommendation would be feasible as it is another man who shares the disposition of the people we require. Barack Obama is a great choice because he displays a clear understanding of our unique problems and has shown himself capable of carrying the leadership mantle. So, we must seek him out or someone similar for the sake of unity and peaceful co-existence of the people of our land. We cannot continue to at every stage or at every crisis sweep the dirt under the rug as we have been doing because, one day, the rug will be overturned and the dirt will return to haunt us indefinitely.
It is interesting that so many countries still see Nigeria as a big brother and long to see what we
can offer time and time again. I believe that the love shown to us from most countries in the world
is what has sustained us this long or thus far despite our failures and disappointment. We have suffered civil war, numerous military changes two or three political dispensations, etc, and still remain strong, but for how long?
If we continue to take our resilience for granted, we will only live to regret that decision. We need help and it’s time we learn to seek it even if it’s from the outside world without greed and corruption tainting good intentions.