Writing on this topic at this time in the history of Nigeria cannot be more better. Nigeria as a country has had its highs and lows, from the colonial period to the present time. This piece is more concerned not with history of the past, but with the present and possibly, our contribution towards making the best out of today and thereby making the future better. Nigeria, today, is plagued by so many ills: from the shambolic state of the economy, to the inadequate power supply, the increasing mortality rate and low life expectancy, the endless agitations either for self-determination or for inclusion, herdsmen attacks, the anti-corruption debate, and the Boko haram insurgency. All these are realities of this day in our country. When the common man looks at the state of affairs in Nigeria at this point in time, he sees not goodies and roses everywhere. He is confronted with the myriad of problems facing this country and of course, the common man is the beneficiary who is directly affected by the ills of the society. While, President Buhari may say he cares for the plight of the people, I doubt there has ever been a time when he stepped into his car to go anywhere and was confronted with one of the realities of the common man - the unavailability of petroleum products!
ON THE PRESENT DAY NIGERIA:
While writing on the above topic, my mind was cast on the thoughts of Thomas Hobbes, a British philosopher of the 17th century who in his book “The Leviathan” described the life of man in the pre-civil society. Hobbes saw this era as a state, although hypothetical; he calls it, “the state of nature”. Within the Hobbesian standard, man's life and existence are “nasty, brutish, poor and short”, where the rule is “a war of all man against all man”. I believe that this model is apt in stating, explaining and giving a vivid picture of Nigeria today. I will go about this task of creating a picture of Nigeria today in five sections of economy, education, security, fight against corruption and finally, where we fit-in in the equation of the burden of failure and the hope of success for our dear country.
I am not an economist, but I think I don’t need to be one before I can give a common sense account of the state of Nigeria's economy. Nigeria is one instant of a failed economy. The fact that she is purportedly the giant of Africa and the biggest economy in Africa having a GDP of $492.968 billion according to Wikipedia, notwithstanding, these figures do not translate to food on the table of Nigerians. In fact, more than half of Nigeria's population live in abject poverty – what a shame! Times are past when the success of a state is measured only by the strength of the Army it commands or the number of war ammunition it possesses. The economy of a country, being the life-wire of the country, stands out as a force to reckon with globally. This is why we have “developed economies” and “underdeveloped” or more soothingly, “developing economies”. It is a shame that Nigeria belongs to the latter category. The state of the Nigerian economy is anything but stable. Currently, Nigeria is suffering from depletion of foreign reserves, the depreciation of Naira, the fuel scarcity and fuel pump price problems, the hike in electricity tariff and price of goods (it has become an effort in futility, the attainment of stable power supply in this country), the inability of government to pay salaries, the dearth of infrastructure and the rest. Our decision to abandon agriculture and over-dependence on oil has backfired, and over the years, we paid lip service to the issue of diversification. The 2016 budget which has just been signed is to be financed partly with both local and foreign loans. This, in my view and estimation, is a very bad approach as the country will keep paying for these loans for so many years to come. Thus, the future of our generation yet unborn is being mortgaged.
The present administration has seized every opportunity to cast to constant culpability, the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan for the woes of the country. This, I see as a sort of escapism, in that the populace were well aware of this fact and this was why they chose to vote President Buhari instead. The past administrations have their own lot of blame to carry, and so does this present administration. The failure to harmonize governance through timely appointment of key members of cabinet also contributed largely towards the economic woes. To be sure, their unavailability at that point in time created a lacuna of some sorts, and nature, we know, abhors vacuum.
Passed are the times when Nigeria occupied a pride of place in the League of Nations with high standards in education. And the consequence of this, stares us right in the face - we produce some graduates who cannot compete with their likes elsewhere. Hence, the certificates awarded by our citadels of learning especially as regards some professional courses like medicine and pharmacy are called to serious question and subjected to verification when they are presented outside. When we compare our learning environments with what is obtainable at other places – and in some cases, more annoyingly, countries we were better than, in years past – we cannot but feel that ours is a glorification of stress as a part of the learning process. I have a friend who studies in India and according to him and garnished with pictorial evidence, the accommodation is superb (one man one room), fruits are free – imagine – and classes are very comfortable. We seem to believe that unless we study at a place which offers us some discomfort, then we cannot learn. This, then, might explain why some persons who find themselves in very comfortable offices are not productive and would always sleep on their job. I think the solution is simple: give them a little discomfort and they will surely perform.
Nigerian universities, as a case study, have failed to feature among the first fifty (50) in the world according to statistics by webometrics and it does not seem to bother us; we are content with any positon we occupy – 'who position help?' There seem not to be a continuity of learning in our syllables running from nursery; primary; secondary and then, to tertiary level, and we are content with that.
Finally, strike action has become a twin to our learning process. My friend, James is of the view that the possibility of going through school in Nigeria without witnessing at least one strike action is a miracle. The statement in itself is an exaggeration of some sort, but not without some truths. Whatever the case may be, I believe it is the duty of all stakeholders involved in our educational system to see to it that strikes of this sort are forestalled, or else, the system would continue to sit on a keg of gun powder, readily awaiting detonation.
SECURITY AND UNEMPLOYMENT:
Plato, the renowned Greek Philosopher in his Republic, described a vivid picture of the factors which necessitate the emergence of state. Here, he include the security of lives and property. Locke also agreed with this, for in his consideration, the civil society existed out of the need for protection of lives and private property. This is clearly suggestive of the fact that the security of lives and property together with the territorial integrity of a country is a basic function of the state. In the case of Nigeria, the twin bomb blast in Abuja on October 1st 2010 signaled the beginning of 'intense' security challenges in Nigeria, which fast-forward to this day, is bedeviled by the Boko Haram insurgency, endless kidnappings, menace of Herdsmen attacks, oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism. The high rate of unemployment is really on the high and this in some respects is proportional to the crime rate in Nigeria.
The Nigerian Police has through the years proven to be underfunded, undermanned and lack the technological wherewithal necessary for effective functioning. For some Nigerians, the Police is about the most corrupt institution, owing to cases as bribery, intimidation and extra-judicial killing. But a cursory look at our security structures would suggest that we cannot expect our policing system to advance nor thrive. How possibly can we expect courtesy from a police officer who lives in a ragtag apartment because the state which he is expected to protect, could not provide for him? It is even worrisome that whilst the number of policemen is way below the standard 300 officers per 100,000 inhabitants, the federal government through the Okiro-led Police Service Commission (PSC) is on the quest towards employing ten thousand more, when the welfare of those who are already in the service is problematic.
The botched 2014 Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment, and more currently, the ongoing recruitment into the Nigerian Police Force – where over 800,000 persons have registered for a vacancy of 10,000 - is an eye opener. It is estimated that about 80% Nigerian youths are unemployed. There is a wide gap – too much to be normal - between the rich and the poor in Nigeria. A country where majority go home with a little above 10,000 Naira, while the politicians and their cronies smile to the bank with large sums of money every month.
FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION:
David Cameron, the United Kingdom Prime Minister, recently described Nigeria as being “fantastically corrupt”. Although this raised issues with some agreeing with him and others disagreeing, I make bold to say that there is no place, no country in the world where corruption and more precisely, corrupt persons are not found. But I will agree with him on the degree of prevalent corruption in Nigeria. From the lowly stables of the poor to the high castles of the rich, Nigeria and Nigerians are not bereft of corruption and corrupt practices. In fact one argued that corruption is part of a Nigerian person, such that to be a Nigerian is to be corrupt. These days, it is not so easy to find little children who would help the elderly freely without some material gains (brother find me something!).
Mr. President has pledged to “kill corruption” in Nigeria. This is one area that has drawn both accolades and condemnation to the government of the day. For me, in so far as this fight is done within the ambits of the law and the respect of the fundamental human right, then, there is no problem. The last few months have been very eventful. The media has been awash with series of revelation of how this country was being run, where diversion of public funds became the order of the day. Personally, I did not believe that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has such investigative strength as it shows now. This clearly shows that we do not lack the power and the capacity to eradicate corruption not just at the level of public office holders, but more specifically on individuals, as this is the most important of all. Plato, in his political philosophy described the state as “man writ large”, and opined that just as the virtues is achieved in the body, so also it is achieved in the state.
NIGERIA'S PROBLEMS: SOLUTIONS AND OUR ROLE IN THE NIGERIAN PROJECT
In the Platonic model of the state, although highly utopic, the state is divided into three cadres: the artisans, the guardians and rulers. Plato was of the view that when each group and each person is fulfilling his or her function, virtue is achieved in the state. Virtue, thus, for Plato is “the fulfilment of function” and hence, “a things function is that which it can do or do better more than anything else”. Therefore, it is my consideration, aside from prayers, the performance of our individual and collective functions as Nigerians can lift our country out of its woes. These functions are not far-fetched: respect for ourselves and others, doing away with African time and seeing time as precious, avoidance of cheating in examinations and tests, voting for persons who we are convinced about their abilities to provide good governance to the people and finally, being proactive. Proactivity seems not to be in the to-do list of Nigerians. Ours is more of correction than prevention. Most times we see situations that could be prevented culminate into more serious issues. This is the case with the Boko Haram insurgency and the economic woes we are facing today.
Nigeria is in dire need of comprehensive policy direction in all aspects: economy, education, security, labour and employment, agriculture, import and export, manufacturing and so on. These policies are not to be treated with kid gloves like those of the infamous vision 2015 and vision 2020. The recurrent practice of policy summersault should be checkmated and a culture of keeping records embraced.
I am a very staunch advocate of the practice of true federation where the 36 states (or the six geopolitical zones as Senator Ike Ekweremmadu would argue) would be granted autonomy and power to develop at their own pace. This is because, the present practice of going to Abuja at the end of each month to get a 'share' of the 'national cake' has proved not to be effective; and we also know that where competition exists, development and innovation abounds.
Where then, do we as patroits fit in the equation here? For me, I believe that while it is very easy for us to heap all the blames on the elites, it is at the same time prejudicial to do so. This is because, as youths, we have our own share of the blames for the state of our country today. I think that as youths, we do not fight for our self-definition. We are content with the cash thrown at us by the same people who are used to stealing our collective patrimony! This begs the question, “Are we cursed?”
This is thus an avenue for us, to reflect on our actions and inactions which directly or indirectly compounds our woes as a country. This is the time for us to strengthen such virtues as the dignity of labour, time consciousness, patriotism, etc. We have to develop not only a different mindset towards the growth and development of our country, but also concerted practical efforts towards same; then, Nigeria will be better for it!