Please read the preceding part - The Nigeria of Our Making (I) - here.
Our civil service provides a haven for the intellectual dregs among our graduates as the best of them will not want to touch the public service with a long pole. Even so, recruitment into the civil service is founded on high-level favouritism. Ironically, these not too savvy individuals are expected to run our polity and economy with little or no cerebral capability for generating ideas. Most of them can hardly administrate on a nuclear level yet we expect them to frugally manage resources and a complex, multi-billion naira economy like ours. It is satirical. In addition, our public buildings offices are filthy and cramped with ramshackle furniture and facilities; one wonders how the occupants work in such conditions. This might explain why most of the office personnel are always unruly and irritable (especially secretaries/front-desk officers). Moreover, it is only in our civil service a “tip” must compulsorily precede a service to be rendered; otherwise your file will eternally gather dust in the in-tray.
This mind frame of instant gratification has undermined the dignity of hard work and moral excellence. This is evident in the newly-found occupation of a lot of young Nigerians – the advance fee fraud, which in local parlance is called yahoo yahoo. Cyber cafes are overcrowded with able-bodied youths who spend a greater part of their time surfing the cyberspace looking for unsuspecting, greedy and gullible individuals to prey. If only these layabouts could divert their mental prowess to doing something honourable and more profitable….
Looking into security issues brings to the forefront our security agencies especially the police. The police force has remained a hydra which has persistently reared its ugly monstrous heads. It seems the force has a knack for attracting the most uncultured, aggressive and otiose individuals from the society. At any of their numerous check points (or more appropriately put, toll gates), they scrutinise vehicle particulars with fault-finding intensity in order to extort and not necessarily to correct. Moreover, one will be asking for trouble by conversing with a police officer in English. The situation does not differ for almost every rank within the police force. Besides, it all seems a systemic sleaze virus runs through the force. However, the blame lies not only with these individuals. A peep into the working and living conditions of a typical police station or barrack respectively, will make one understand why it is impossible for the Ethiopian to change his skin or a leopard, its spots. It cannot be more succinctly put.
This is the mire the political/ruling class has dragged the Nigerian sectors into while it perches on firm, comfortable grounds. It is in their voracious interest that it remains so. Otherwise, on their trips to industrialised countries abroad, why would they not yearn to imitate even a mirage of what obtains there? Or are they void of ideas? I think so, with particular reference to their usual election campaign briefs. In the 21st century, most of our politicians still employ the tactics of construction of roads, provision of pipe-borne water, etc to crusade, when real issues are being debated on campaign platforms in developed regions. What a shame! When they wish to feed their unquenchable desires for material wealth, quest for power or cover their despicable acts, they divide the masses on ethnic, socio-cultural and religious lines, while the evidences of their corrupt practices have no ethnic or religious boundary. This muddle has disenfranchised a lot of Nigerians. Many are nonchalant and totally disinterested in governance. A colleague once highlighted the irresponsibility of the Nigerian government: My friend provides his own power using a generator (which many Nigerians can identify with) due to a blackout situation that has come to stay. He bores the ground to supply his own water. He pays through his nose to send his children to private schools since our public schools are nothing but shambles. He arranges private security both for his house and within his neighbourhood. These are the essentials a responsible government should provide. If it fails to, why should any of its citizens hold it credible?
Paradoxically, our leaders are from among us – they are not imported. As a people, we only get the kind of leaders we warrant. We celebrate vanity, materialism and mediocrity rejecting integrity, values and astuteness. This explains why a confirmed villain public officer will parade himself as a heroic icon among the people he steals from. What manner of people are we? We desperately take advantage of ourselves at any level of power occupation irrespective of how diminutive it is (e.g. from the gate keeper to the treasury keeper). We live in a society where we care less for one another, why should our so-called leaders care about us? The other day I passed by a completely burnt car. I queried: How would a car incinerate to that extent while other vehicles passed by? All the poor driver would get were faces of bewilderment from passers-by instead of a couple of fire extinguishers to save him from his misfortune. In any case, how many vehicle owners have these extinguishers? Even at that, most are expired. I once read an article where the writer questioned the knowledge of Nigerian vehicle owners about their tyre pressure, fuel tank capacity, etc. We commute ourselves on death traps (called roads) and in rickety, perilous commercial transport vehicles that are not even suitable to convey animals. Our transportation system is degenerated to the extent that motorcycles popularly known as okadas have taken over our roads with high-handed recklessness. Accident victims are in a better position to elaborate. Are we progressing or evolving two or three cycles of development backward? Our elites may seem to live in apathy but they cannot deny and are not safe from the anxiety and impending uprising around them. It is just a matter of time.
Lastly, the society at large is uninformed. Our public libraries (if they still exist) are now national museums for outdated references. The tenets of Civics and Social studies have disappeared from our schools curricula. Most of us do not have even a copy of the constitution (no matter how flawed it is) not to mention knowing what it reads. We bastardise everything (that works in other places) including time and we call it the “Nigerian factor.” At social events, special guests and dignitaries are not expected to be at the venues on time as this will belittle their status. Our religion lacks strength of character. Despite the overflow of religious outreaches we have in this country, it seems as if the principles of good morals and integrity are inversely related to the number of churches and mosques around us. We have totally redefined what religion is all about. Most Nigerians abroad do not want to touch Nigeria with a long pole. They talk as if they are not Nigerians in the first place. Moreover, when interacting with them, most can be easily interpreted to have escaped from a war-torn zone, a crisis or a modern day hell. This might not be far from the truth.
The foregoing forlornly paints a picture of chaos, gloom, crisis and hopelessness. Nonetheless, ours is not an irredeemable destiny. Nigeria – the sleeping giant – is the key not only to its renascent but also, that of the black man. A branded, prestigious and industrialised Nigeria is not “a pie in the sky.” From our chaos we can teach the world a new social order and excellence. Our seeming hopelessness is the only raw material needed to crusade for a rejuvenated, hope-full future. We can rise from the ashes of our past and present crises to build a nation where its people can hold their own, anywhere in the world. We can begin by asking ourselves: Where do we go from here? Thereafter, collective and committed action must be taken to create a Nigeria of our dream.
Please read the sequel - The Nigeria of Our Dream - here.