Fifty-nine years after independence, the topsy-turvy state that has over the years−and pathetically in many decades−held Nigeria to ransom, requires a thorough x-ray of the system that operates the corporate existence of the African giant. This piece examines a number of factors as they affect the political progress of Nigeria and make her stuck in a pathetic position on development map. And some logical theses are applied to understanding the real issues of concern, which have killed the spirit of nationhood (patriotism) in us.
Viewed from the leadership-institutions-followership synthesis, one would understand our problems thus:
Leadership wise, our political quagmire is imbedded in our leaders’ failure to identify the national interest and pursue same as a national course, irrespective of the form of government−presidential or parliamentary; irrespective of regime−civilian or military. This is a very serious impediment that strains all development plans.
As for the institutions, they have been formed to serve certain class interests−ignoring the dynamics of a modern society and the ideal aspirations of the nation. The institutions−I mean the political parties−invoke class dichotomy to restrict the democratization process from being an open business for all citizens, irrespective of economic wherewithal or social status. Entry into race for elective posts has deliberately been made expensive, thereby keeping the financially unfit at bay. This seems to be a very serious impairment to the potentials of our democratic practice, as leadership would continue to be class-based. In this kind of situation only leaders come and go but the leadership system and the political order do not change.
The followership must be examined from the perspective of social contract, to see whether the salient principles of the contract between the citizens and the state are given much regard as far as the Nigeria’s case is concerned. The bilateral contract imposes duties on both citizens and the state, and it also confers certain rights on the citizens−the rights that are benefits for dutiful citizens of an ideal state. The civic duties of the citizens are: abiding by law and order, payment of taxes, military or paramilitary services, respect for constituted authorities, general goodwill to the state, and participating in any national civic exercise such as election, population census, etc. In consideration of citizens’ discharge of their duties and their loyalty to the state, the state in return guarantees the citizens’ security and welfare−as her duties to citizens.
The security and welfare are the primary duties of the state, of the citizens are the main benefits that come with citizenship. Citizens feel obliged to appreciate these benefits through patriotism. But in Nigeria, the regrettable absence of these benefits has made the question of citizenship irrelevant to many Nigerians−as a citizen from one part of Nigeria does not feel safe in another part of the country; his educational potentials cannot be realised because of discriminatory policies in that part of the country where he does not belong to; employment is made impossible for him. Having no enjoyment of these benefits, Nigeria lacks the spirit of nationhood, as presently we, according late Chinua Achebe of blessed memory, in his book The Trouble with Nigeria, represent the most unpatriotic people in the world.
Nigeria’s problems of nation building started with the 1914 amalgamation of the North and the South, the development we ill-viewed as a British ploy to perpetuate her control over Nigeria. We failed to accept that evolution of Nigeria, like any other country, happened under the political circumstances of the time, but nursing of which wholly lies in our hands. We developed−along regional and ethnic lines−the divergent models of how we want Nigeria, rather than how Nigeria should ideally be. The result of this is self-denial of certain economic, social and political rights through stereotypes, prejudice and stigmatizations. This phenomenon has nothing to do with the leadership or the institutions of the leadership; it is an exclusive social dealing of the Nigerian masses.
With respect to economic rights, difficulties relating to acquisition of land have been compounded by obnoxious policies in all states of the federation. The Land Use Act aside, such policies hold sway in the states and narrow the horizon of one’s economic aspirations outside one’s state. Another denial of economic rights manifests in the lack of a uniform taxation system and administration across the federation. In most cases, extortionate taxation takes a destructive toll on business enterprises (both big and small). This almost makes no difference to Nigerians in terms of comparison between investing in Nigeria and investing abroad.
Talking of social rights, they are the least a Nigerian of one part of the same Nigeria would expect to enjoy in another part of the same Nigeria. It is a generally acknowledged fact that we identify with our ethnic groups more than we identify with Nigeria. Once amidst another ethnic nationality, a Nigerian who does not culturally or linguistically belong to that ethnic nationality becomes a subject of discrimination by his fellow Nigerians. This problem has made inter-ethnic marriage a rare possibility in Nigeria, despite the imagined benefit of unity in such a marriage. This divisive dealing is detrimental to harmonious human coexistence.
With the present self-antagonism, nothing important has been achieved in terms of political, social and economic developments since attainment of our independence in 1960. We cannot pretend that all is well with Nigeria, so wretched that the nation has been! The problems are very obvious. What always worsens the situation is the existing fragmentation and lack of common spirit of nationhood among us. The country has been enmeshed in an endless politics of suspicion and distrust among the citizens. Our national experience since after the war has been that of despair and gloom, governments after governments. Basil Davidson rightly, and truthfully too, states that the black man’s burden has been and will always be tribalism/identity crisis. And of course this is a common peculiarity to Nigeria.
All our problems stem from disunity. This multi-ethnic union that can best be described as marriage without love, after attainment of political status of an independent nation for nearly six decades, has never made any remarkable progress politically, economically or socially. I must state, for the umpteenth time, that disunity is a deadly disease that Nigeria must be rid of before the country can prosper. As far as development of Nigeria is concerned, unity and disunity seem to be the poison and medicine. We have the prospect to develop; it is only one little termite that corrodes Nigeria’s soul. That termite is disunity among us. When we kill it, unity has the impetus of our development as a nation. Until we understand that unity is the only invisible vehicle that can take Nigeria to the Promised Land, we will forever remain distraught and wailers.
Said writes from Kano. 08039329260