Whither Nigeria?

I read this interesting interview by Peter Enahoro conducted by the Vanguard. Mr Enahoro said: I am not saying that people should not monopolize power but these people, they came with a purpose.  People think that corruption started now, it didn’t.  Corruption began then the difference is that today it is…. Today, when people talk about billions it is ridiculous because those people didn’t have billion.  But within the context of that period, there were a lot of corruption.  You are a Yoruba man?


What is Yoruba meaning for billion?  You cannot answer this because there is nothing like that in Yoruba language.  Also, talking about election, we had a Federal election which was openly rigged and I was critical of such thing.

Looking back, do you think anything has changed in the country?

Well, before I answer, let me say one thing that in a few weeks I will be 75 years old.  So, if I haven’t learnt anything then I must be a fool.  I hope I have learnt one thing, at least, that you cannot build a nation in one generation.|

We set very, very high standard for ourselves.  I mean journalists and people who were critical of the way things were going on.

We had no experience and we thought that almost overnight we could make changes if we wished to.  But carrying the people along, changing people’s way of thinking, those are all things that take time.  So in a sense, let’s accept that we don’t build a nation in one generation.

Having said that, we are going into 2010 and in October 1, 2010 Nigeria’s independence will be 50 years old.  I am grossly disappointed that our politics is still without a direction to say this is what we are trying to achieve, this is where we are headed.

And I have some practical experiences, when I was visiting Nigeria; I was saying to a chap there, that the thing I dread most is that I should not fall ill.  Because, I was in Nigeria here for four years, from 1992 to 1996 and I had pneumonia.

For three days I was being treated for a water-borne disease in a first class hospital here in Nigeria.

Luckily for me, my brother sitting there (pointing to Chris Enahoro) went to Professor Akinyanju who was with me in Government College Ughelli and said to him; your friend is seriously ill.  Akinyanju came, held up the x-ray picture and shouted at them in the hospital, shouted at the doctors there: What is wrong with you people?!  Can’t you see a left lung is occupied by the bacteria?

And he said this man has pneumonia!  He said if the bacteria had attacked the right lung, I would have passed away and, of course, they would say it was something else.

It is disgusting that when a man falls ill and he goes to the hospital, the first thing the doctor will tell him is to ask: Do you have the money to pay?  I can’t understand, upon all the oil money we have all these years, we don’t have a credible health service that people who are in need, not talking of expensive treatments but talking of a system where you, can be treated on quantity and quality.

When I was administrator of the Daily Times I saw applications written by people with graduate certificates: Their teachers should have been flogged.

I am not saying that everybody who has been to a university doesn’t deserve the certificate he has.  No.  What I am saying is that, generally speaking, the standard is low.

I didn’t go to a university but I observed the people who have gone and, I will be honest with you, my big question is what was it that went wrong with our education system?  Even at certain tertiary level, it is blind leading the blind.  Sometimes you sit watching a debate on the television and the quality of the debate is silly!

You watch the National Assembly at work on TV and again you watch the quality of the debate…
I have to be honest, if you look at our newspapers, like today (November 30, 2009) I saw ‘Revenue and expenditure to rise in 2010 and 2011’ and then they put the figures.  Our newspapers are very fond of doing that; they are mesmerized by the figures.

That is not what I am looking for.  I want to know where the revenue is going to rise from, by how much it is forecast to rise, I want to know what the expenditure will be for, what difference is it supposed to make in the life of an average person.

For example, if you say you are voting x amount for health service, what is it going to be spent on and what is going to be its impact on the health of the ordinary person.  We still have a long way to go.  We have so many unfinished projects, projects, which should not even have been started and the problems emanate from the fact that we do not have leaders who are loved by the people.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo and two others; three of them; one day they wanted to make a campaign at Yaba and before their arrival people were already on ground in large crowd.  They were loved.  We have these problems today because we don’t have leaders who can show us the direction of where we should go and what we want to achieve.

Olubunmi Abimbola (UK) responded:

I was just coming into secondary education in Nigeria when I familiarized myself with reading Peter Pan and Sad Sam’s columns. Even today, the content/context differentials only portray the down-spiral knowledge, skills and capabilities of Nigeria and Nigerians in progressive terms.

We continue to live in the olden age in modern age, with no indicative movement towards modernity and or valued culture of improvement, however miniscule.
The Nigeria today has comparably regressed by decades through various anomalous indicators – the roads I used to ply in the 60s-80s are now death traps to the populace, we used to walk from Oyingbo to Suru lere for parties etc; with the only fear being ‘gbomogbomos’ – child ritual kidnappers (more of a scare to prevent us from wandering) but today, our security system is so non-existent that even policemen have had to run for their lives from the angst of desperate individuals wanting to be rich ‘at all cost’ – a culture shared by the haves and have-nots in Nigeria of today.
As validly highlighted by Mr. Enahoro, a nation is not built in one generation. However, every generation develops through the legacy given by the predecessor – which is why we are still in the quagmire that continues to hold us down in a ‘quicksand’ of despair, with an inevitable drowning if the appropriate and timely intervention is not made available.
Where are we heading becomes a daily joke because we have been stagnating – marking time over the decades and even, worse, taking one step forward and several backwards. It is unimaginable that Nigeria regressed from the ability to supply neighboring countries with electric power for decades while its own supply has become obsolete, unreliable and epileptic over the same decades.
The rhetoric ‘we are still learning’ is the mindset of the unprogressive – whatever we have learnt must show and be demonstrated that we are good and effective learners.
I often look at the background of many public servants – presidents, governors, military leaders and their subordinates, who would have undertaken various program of learning in the more civilized nations, but without the conscience to transfer part of what was appreciable toward Nigeria’s development and self sufficiency. Instead, we have suffered a deluge of human rights depravity, relentless treasury looting with impunity, ridiculous governance and questionable national character – all of which compounds the notion that we are still in the olden age of civilization.
As it is said, not only money makes a man. Nigeria was only a week ago receiving the counsel of the Venezuelan ambassador to Nigeria – tutoring our minister to ‘learn about self management and prioritizing’ over our oil wealth. Is it not unpredictable that, 40 years into oil production, we still can’t get the economic arithmetic correct that we should not encourage the idea of conceding our natural resources to foreign refineries or ‘middle-men’ where we have sufficient resources of our own to execute all essential processes.
We are not even able to correctly translate our constitutional terms of reference – our president is on sickness absence, supported by national knowledge and professional affirmation and many self serving individuals have been shouting for his resignation or his removal. Worse still, we are lost in translation as some even more power greedy groups have been soliciting disunity by wanting to derail the constitution – where there is a deputy manager, he/she takes on the role and responsibility of the manager in his/her absence. For any group to prescribe which tribe, culture or geo-demography of Nigeria to take on the helm of administration if the present leader is no longer capable of serving his appointed purpose is a great disappointment and further acknowledgement of ‘how crude’ and uncivilized we remain as a nation.