Last week, I talked about the futility of new year’s resolutions especially since many times people and even nations make them without proper evaluation of the past mistakes and lessons. Reflecting on the past has inspired this week’s article. I stated in last week’s piece that it has been two years of putting to paper my varied and wise thoughts of a senior citizen concerned about his country and environment. I would like to review my two years’ writings on the issues that have bedeviled Nigeria into the following areas;
• Acute Unemployment and Poverty
• Climate Change
• Environmental Pollution
• Leadership, Governance, and Nation Building
• Our History, Lost Heritage, and The Future
• Power, Corruption, and the Economy
In this second installment of a three-part summary of the past two years, I will review the main foci of these groupings.
Acute unemployment and poverty
The Industrial Revolution of the West was driven by an Agricultural Revolution. These economic sectors were sustained by the invention of the wheel, tools, and machines that also aided the Mining Industries that sourced the raw materials for all the industries. The developmental forays of these industries into the Nigerian economy ended with the Murtala-Obasanjo regime who abolished the Rolling Plan development strategies of the First Republic. Over time the machine tools companies, steel rolling mills, vehicle assembling plants, papermills, rice mills, textile mills, refineries, food processing plants, etc all collapsed, died, or remain comatose to this day. The graduates produced from our Universities and Polytechnique as well as those returning from overseas colleges found no industries to employ them.
While some decided to emigrate, some engaged in small businesses, and others turned to crimes. Above all, a good population of our youths in certain parts of the country became disinterested in acquiring any form of education, or not enough, to make them productive. The result is millions of unproductive youth roaming the streets. The productive emigres remain abroad, lost to their nation. Others become slaves and prostitutes in their adopted countries. Some died during their exodus or were killed and dismembered for body parts.
There are now more poor people living in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world. In a recent report by the World Poverty Clock, the number of extremely poor Nigerians has risen to over 91 million. This is an increase of over four million Nigerians from the figure released in June 2018 when we overtook India’s 73 million poor people to become the poverty capital of the world. To put the poverty statistics in another context, if poor Nigerians were a country it would be more populous than Germany. Almost six people in Nigeria fall into this trap every minute. It is disheartening to see that despite this the preset government hasn’t presented a clear blueprint to tackling the many issues facing the country.
This is the singular most critical issue threatening the long-term survival of planet earth as we know it. For over 50 years, I have been an advocate and crusader of actions to mitigate the effects of climate change on our planet in general and on Nigeria in particular. Whereas it may take a while to get rid of earth or completely destroy it, individual countries or portions of a country may face imminent disasters from climate change phenomena. In this regard, the greatest threat to Nigeria is desert encroachment by the Sahara, and desertification of our forests from bad farming practices, logging, and over grazing. These occurrences lead to loss of vegetative cover, loss of fertile lands and grazing fields.
Consequent on these losses, migration of people seeking greener pastures become inevitable. What are neither natural, nor acceptable are the criminal activities of the Fulani herdsmen. Food therefore, or lack of it, is a security issue that must be taken seriously. And so is unemployment.
There are so many facets of this phenomenon. Being an environmentalist, this is a pet subject to me. Whereas it is closely linked to Climate Change, it has so many distinct elements that make it a subject matter of its own. The well being of the environment affects our quality of life and health. The topics we looked at included poor waste management leading to air, ground water, and surface water pollution; contamination of soil and ground water from street trading and vehicle mechanics; clogging of road drains and overgrown road verges leading to flooding of roads, pothole developments, and road failures; traffic congestions arising from failed roads and consequent carbon pollution; poor town and city planning leading to housing and traffic congestion; poor dust control from unclean streets and sandy property set-backs leading to the creation of blocked drains and puddles of stagnant water on roads, flooding, property destruction, and even loss of lives. These issues illustrate both a poor understanding of the mechanics of pollution control and waste management.
Leadership, governance, and nation-building
The nation Nigeria did not exist before 1914. It was created not out of love and desire, but as a cost cutting measure for a colonial power who hitherto was running two administrations for their rules over Southern and Northern Protectorates. The people’s opinions were not sought nor listened to. Subsequent governance therefore, was not done to engender unity and nation building. Rather, it was done to ease the administrative burden of pillorying our natural resources and trade with the British. Institutions that would foster patriotism were not vigorously developed at any time. The instruments of justice were seen as means of coercion by the colonial masters and the rich, rather than the bedrock of the principles of the rule of law in a democracy.
The military coups of the mid-sixties were reportedly staged to correct the flaws, thievery, and corruption of the First Republic, but their greatest achievement was to plunge Nigeria into a 30-month civil war that devastated all vestiges of national unity. Right onto 1999, subsequent military governments succeeded in destroying the federal principles of our union, entrenched corruption in unprecedented fashion, and eliminated true, patriotic governance in our polity. At the two occasions that politicians were returned to power, the structures of true governance, rule of law, and patriotism were completely destroyed.
The nation today, more than ever, is in search of leadership. The presidency and the national assembly govern as if we are, at best, in a one-party system, and more as a dictatorship. The courts are not independent and there is no check on the excesses and short comings of the government. Under such circumstances, nation building is difficult, and the country is truly in a downward spiral.
Our history, lost heritage, and future
It is said that he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches him. The Missionaries, jihadists, and colonialists plundered, destroyed, and stole a lot of our indigenous artifacts, arts, books, and writings during their murderous incursions into our lands. Wherever these lost and stolen treasures are found, we will endeavour to bring them back, so must be our resolve. It is ironic and insulting that the same people that accused us of ignorance are the ones who stole and destroyed our history and heritage to trample on us.
Since the civil war, attempts have been made by both sides to present revisionist accounts of what happened. This is wrong; an inaccurate official account of what happened in our early days following independence does this country a great disservice. Our children need to know the truth in order to forge ahead. Indeed we need to seek true rehabilitation.
Power, corruption, and economy
Power in my essays means two things; one is the power of the State apparatuses, arrogated or grabbed by officials to coerce oppression. The other power is that required to move and light our homes and businesses – electric power. Both types of power have become instruments of corruption, and all three are devastating to our economy. Thanks to these, Nigeria remains a third world country in the 21st Century, with no end in sight. The thievery and the endemic incompetence of political leaders and public servants have so impoverished the country that we now have over 90million poor people in a country of 185million.
Nigeria is the only country in the world where the provision of electricity is seen as a favour and privilege, reminiscent of the telecommunication institution of pre 2000. Until we have uninterrupted power supply, the Nigerian economy will not diversify and the people will not get truly comfortable. The questions that confound me are: Why will the leaders not see this? Do they not have any shame?