MY TURN TO CHOP, NOT MY TURN TO FIX NIGERIA (PT III)

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a three-part article for this column titled ‘’Hope and Unfulfilled Expectations.” The article generated a lot of interests, comments and critics from readers all over the country and beyond. Most, not all, of the comments, have been very inspiring and have even contributed to my education as well as to subsequent articles that followed. The concluding part three of that article was co-written by AKIN OLUKIRAN. Akin started reading my column from the start almost four years ago and have now become a contributor. In fact, this introduction is to inform my readers that once again he has been kind enough to share his thoughts as the author for this third article in the series of “My Turn to Chop, Not my turn to Fix Nigeria.”

Akin’s writings in the last article generated a lot of debate among all generations having asked who among the present generation can fix Nigeria since the older Nigerians have given up and/or gone into denials. There were a number of interesting comments from that article that I will like to share the most incredulous of them all before passing on the baton to Akin:

  • Some commenters erroneously believe that when the air we breathe becomes too poisonous and acidic, they’ll stay in their air-conditioned cars and homes not knowing that it is the same air that powers their air conditioning.
  • Others think that when the water from the public water system is no longer there, they will drill a bole-hole with a treatment and filtration plant instead of fixing the water.
  • A few said that when our roads are impassable due to potholes and gullies, they will abandon their cars to buy SUVs and four wheels.
  • They also stated that Nigerians are the owners of over a hundred million power generators in a manner that connotes pride. Pride without minding the environmental and health implications.

We are indeed a country without water, power, transportation and health policy but even worse, on some level, we are a country of people willing to accept the status quo.

Over to Akin, Enjoy…

I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the title of the first part of this three-part article by Dr Newton Jibunoh and I immediately requested I wrote the third part.  I wonder how he comes up with such apt and engaging titles, week after week, with riveting and soul-searching contents.  “My Turn to Chop, Not my turn to Fix Nigeria” is indeed, our local way of describing the death of Patriotism in Nigeria.  The profundity of the title is simply buried in two key words of Chop and Fix.  It is about patriotism – or the lack of it.  Patriotism is the feeling of pride, love, devotion and a sense of attachment to one’s country and an alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment.  The pervading feeling of “My turn to chop, not to fix Nigeria” is one of the symptoms of the death of patriotism in the country.  You also do not fix what is not broken.  To fix, presupposes something is broken and is in need of restoration, repair, overhaul or simply, mending. 

The concluding paragraph of Part II by Dr Jibunoh is a good starting point for me.  His submission that the living elders need to tell the truth is a call to tell the history of this country – no matter how uncomfortable.  I couldn’t agree more as we cannot appreciate where we are, nor can we know where we are heading, if we have no understanding of where we are coming from.  A short snippet of our history is therefore in order, to understand the disaffection of Nigerians towards this beautiful but repeatedly raped geographic and political entity we call Nigeria – home to several ethnically and culturally complex and heterogeneous groups or nationalities. I don’t think there is a country in the world where the ordinary citizens engage in political discussions more that we do in Nigeria.  Everybody has an opinion as to how the state should be run.

Nigeria’s federalism is one of the legacies bequeathed to her by colonialism. It dates back to the 1946 and 1954 constitutions. The First Republic provided the first indigenous attempt at Nigeria’s experimentation with the inherited federal system of government.  Under this arrangement, the Nigerian state was structured into three regions. In 1963, a fourth region was added. These were the Northern, Eastern, Western and Mid-Western regions. Between the regions and the Federal Capital Territory of Lagos, political power was devolved in a manner that defined the federal character of the Nigerian state.  True and genuine federalism allows each of the federating units to develop at its own pace, with a healthy competition for regional development.  The 1966 coup undoubtedly led to the ossification of the modernizing agendas of the regions as the military went about the centralisation of political power in the manner that conformed to its unitary command structure and character.  This ostensibly put paid to the evolution of Nigeria’s federalism and the planned regional development agenda.

Many commentators have argued that the problems of Nigeria are much more recent and are traceable to military intervention in politics.  Whichever way one looks at it, it is universally agreed that the unitary system suits culturally homogeneous nations whilst federalism is the most appropriate for ethnically and culturally complex and heterogeneous states – as in the case of Nigeria.   With the un-federal nature of the 1999 constitution, it is obvious that the Nigeria project is failing, if it hasn’t failed (as some would have us believe)! 

To fix Nigeria, there has to be an admission that the country is broken and that it cannot continue as it is.  One should be forgiven for regarding our politicians as frauds, liars and egotistic parasites who are feeding off our collective ignorance and apathy, and our current political system as nothing more than crass bureaucratic channels of formalising the embezzlement of our common wealth by the corrupt political class.  These are essentially why majority of Nigerians feel they are waiting for their time to chop and celebrate the burial of the already dead patriotism.  This is summed up in an unusual telephone conversation I had with a politician friend a while ago when he heard from other friends that I was planning to return to Nigeria after three decades in the UK to contribute my quarter to the development of our broken country.  I was deep in sleep when I was woken by Ebenezer Obey’s “Òló mi jòwó” tune on my phone.  I normally switch my phone off when going to bed, but for whatever reason, on this fateful night, I forgot.  I sleepily looked at the time on the phone and realised it was 3.00am in the middle of the night.  Bleary eyed, I looked up the name and wondered why on earth he should be calling at this unholy time of the morning.

I said “Hello” with a gravelly voice that says, “I don’t appreciate being woken up at this hour”. 

The response from the other end of the line was unapologetic as he just coolly said “Akin, I can’t sleep and thought I should talk to you frankly about your said plans now”. 

I became instantly alert and all ears.  I wondered what he heard about me that must be keeping him up and causing insomnia at a time when he should be rejoicing and sleeping like a baby before the Abuja politics goes into full swing.  He then asked why I wanted to come and settle back down in Nigeria.  He said matter of factly that unless I was prepared to join in the “chopping” game, then Nigeria is not for me. 

“My brother, no pun intended o, but people who are more connected and politically adroit and sagacious than you have not been able to fix Nigeria, now it’s you that wants to make an impact abi?” He concluded. 

While I was adamant that I wasn’t coming to join them in the chopping frenzy, he reminded me rather jokingly that there is actually nothing there to chop again.  He surmised that I could come and join to pick up the pieces, not even to fix, as they have succeeded in chopping all there is to chop in a frenzy, over six decades.  This, unfortunately is the reality of our country today. 

Nigeria is beset with a myriad of problems and her case can be likened to a troubled and highly rancorous marriage.  Unless the parties to the marriage sit around a table and discuss the issues and agree to either change their ways and work on their marriage or they agree to amicably dissolve their union in a civilised way, a messy outcome of mutual destruction often accompany such choices where they choose to do nothing.  True federalism, coupled with major reforms of the emoluments of politicians that would make elective offices financially unattractive, thus weeding out a whole generation of reprobate politicians who are self-serving, impudent, saucy, uncouth, unscrupulous and nauseatingly covetous, subsisting as parasitic and exploitative burdens upon the rest of hard-working Nigerian masses, is the way out of this grave mess we are in.

Akin Olukiran

Email: OIukiran@yahoo.co.uk Tweeter: @olukiran2

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