Nigeria, dear native land!

Kony 2012

child soldier

by bimbo amole

It’s amazing to realize I was living a few kilometres away from those poor Ugandan children and I never even as much as heard of anyone like Kony. My! The question that kept coming while I watched the video strip on this villain is “how come a country is held to ransom and her citizens, particularly the most fragile (children) harassed by a single man for over 20 years? A sovereign country held by the pincers of terror and fear for two decades?” Twenty years is no joke man. It’s just a bit shy of eternity when you live it in suffering! And a generation of youths have lived through it. For 20 years! You can best imagine the decades it shall take to correct their lives. Perhaps not within their lifetime.

But I calmed myself and recalled that even the giant of Africa has lived under a yoke for over 60 years and it’s going on! The Nigerian experience might not be anything near to the Ugandan agony. But it is a story of a great misery considering the potentials and possibilities being wasted, the full impact of which, for now, remains incalculable. And thinking of the years and appellation of underdevelopment that this waste has fostered upon us makes one groan. Whether we like it or not, it is a reality we cannot deny and whose consequences we shall suffer. The loss of 60 years cannot be repaired in a year, not even in a decade. A guy asked me two weeks ago “why is it you guys don’t have a train network at least around your international airport? The traffic jam was nasty and I wished I never went into it. It was my first time in Nigeria.” It made me reflect later how many things have gone wrong gradually for a long time and the years and amount of energy and resources which shall be necessary to put things right. Simply because they have been left to go wrong for such an unbelievably-long time. That is the story of our own Kony. No not Kony, but Konies. The story of our nation is that of a land flowing with milk and honey, but turned into gall by a set of powerful Konies. And they walk among us, are hailed by us, they make our eyes red and we in return throw them salutes! They are condemned abroad, we on our part empty the market of ankara in their celebration. The irony is that the foreign countries to which these Konies siphon their loots are the ones prompt in condemning them. The bleeding nation where this loot is siphoned from celebrates them. Sometimes the local law struggles to burn them with its flickering, dying flame and gives them some mild jail sentences. As soon as they are released in a matter of months, we take to the streets in gorgeous aso ebi. (common celebration dress). We want a change yet we are not ready to change an obnoxious culture and retrogressive value system. And we say such Konies should not continue to spring up and make a nonsense of our existence? Such they will, with such conducive ambience.

It is bitter to think of these realities. And it is not because the writer relishes in thinking only about the dark side of Nigeria. It is rather because I do know it should not, it should never have been like this. A society ticks when its thinkers are up and doing. It ticks when there are enough minds who incessantly ask “why?” as corroboration to the initiatives on ground, and as caution to bad elements that are wont to surface in the society.  A thinking nation is a growing nation. And a constant introspective search could be never be put on hold by a nation without going into an oblivion of mediocrity and rot.

In practical terms and by manner of enumeration, for no reason should a standard railway system not be in full working position in the Nigeria of 2012, whereas this project has been awarded and re-awarded for only-God-knows-how-many-times. And no Senate, the people’s voice, could say “why, what’s going on here?” And not only to say this in a manner to raise a dust that will give way in a matter of days but to investigate the issue to its logical conclusion. For no reason should the country not be able to generate and distribute adequate energy in partnership with private groups who will make their legitimate gain and in turn make the people productive, the society happy and the nation proud. (Thank God at last some initiatives are now in the pipe line. May the pipes not burst before the initiatives mature.)

For no reason should Nigeria have a failed ID scheme, and the only thing that could be said about that is to lay the blame on a poor dead man as if he executed the deal all by himself. On this issue I remember a man asking me “that is the least of our problems for now. We want food on the table.” Yet the failure of such a scheme whose remote objective includes a monitoring and eventual digitization of social transactions is now costing the nation a fortune in the form of insecurity posed by groups like Boko Haram who can have a field day since there is no ample link with which their activities could be successfully traced. In consequence, it is also sorely affecting the economy since the government concentrates on battling a rag-tag of criminals for months on end rather than attending to development issues which need attention urgently. At the end of the chain, that “food” does not eventually arrive on any table. That is of course not to mention the lives lost, the sorrows caused.

For no reason should a multi-billion naira fraud be discovered in the Siemens deal and the only place where the law, at least for now, has taken a tangible course of action is in Germany, understandably the location of Siemens. But what of the Nigerian accomplices who allegedly received the bribes, who have further taken the country back in her bid to better her communications sector? They are walking about, dodging all legal attempt to bring them to book (if any truly exists) and as a matter of fact with an effrontery jostling for positions in the country. While foreign countries stood by the rule of law, one of the alleged accomplices back home was still nominated a minister as late as last year! It is the same story with the Halliburton fraud deal. While Albert Stanley and his cohorts were jailed by the United States for giving bribes in the special project of building a liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny, Rivers State, first of its kind in Africa, no substantive action is yet recorded back home. The only standing prosecution of this fraud case in Nigeria has just been struck out by an Abuja high court a few days ago, citing a lack of seriousness on the part of the EFCC. And thus begins yet a murky history of a potent natural resource, bigger in deposit than oil which itself has nearly torn our nation apart.  The challenges and division which the mis-management of oil has posed to Nigeria seems not to offer us enough practical lessons to manage prudently this new and immense gas reserve.

There is no reason why Nigerians should die in ill-equipped hospitals and scantily manned health-institutions just because poor attention is paid to our health facilities since there is a fine albeit unwritten distinction already made: the elites are to be treated abroad, the rest can bear the sub-standard quality treatment at home.

The only reason why all these sad and annoying realities remain so is because the Konies of our nation still loom large. They are still allowed to call the shots. The laws are not beefed up to work nor the constitution adapted for a forceful relevance in a country with a tough situation and which therefore needs a tough solution. In a way, I agree with the gentleman who comments that the primary set of people that should be held responsible for a deeper failure of the country are our  honourable men of the benches, men of the law. After all, if those Konies we spoke about do their evil deeds and the law catches up on them, meting out adequate justice at each instance (not just some senseless plea-gaining which would encourage others to go do the exact thing these fellows are plea-bargaining, the pros and cons considered), we would have had less and less Nigerian Konies and we would be way up right now. We however also remember distinguished honourable men of the benches (like Justice Oputa and the Muhammad Uwais electoral reform panel) who have done eminently well but whose work has been dumped in the coolers of executive incompetence and dishonesty.

We cannot continue the lamentation song though. The essence of introspections like this is to bring us to actions. History is replete of scores of wrongs done in the past. What is important right now is how do we right them? How shall we begin to lay a foundation for a nation where the law works, where corruption is not only simply discouraged but practically rendered a risk to those who engage in it? How shall our leaders not only be made accountable to the people but also be encouraged, with the aid of a sacrosanct constitution, to raise the country from its kneeling position? The answer to those questions are not easily arrived at. But what is certain is that very little can be done unless we all begin to get involved in the process of change which is filling the air. The academic, the civil service worker, the priest, the artist, the market woman. We must all begin to engage in a positive democracy monitoring in the present setting while not losing sight of preparing the polity for a 2015 of our dream. Nigerians leave a lot to chance and to fate, wishing and praying that things change. At best, this is a wishful and merely whimsical thinking.  Heaven, indeed, will help those who help themselves.

The rot of the country was effected by human actions, even though principally of few. The desired good in the country can only be established by several counter-actions. Unfortunately the rot of a few needs the action of many in order to be adequately corrected. And that correction goes further than calling for votes when elections arrive in three years. Essentially the point in question right now is “to vote for who?” If two incapable moneybags, two Konies end up as contesting, Nigerians shall invariably have no option but to vote for the less incapable. And the country shall all the same be led by an incapable! Experience has amply taught us enough on that. To prevent such a scenario, the very best of our nation have to be tapped right now and tipped forward to lead us out of this long and fearfully dark tunnel. The time to initiate useful awareness is now. The Konies in their different forms must be stopped and brought to book. But it is not a job to be left to “some politicians” to decide at an appropriate time. It is a job for you and for me, for anyone who means well for a Nigeria of the 21st century. And a job to be done beginning from yesterday.

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