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Nigeria At 56 By Olagunju Olayinka Isaac

As Nigeria celebrates her 56th independent anniversary today. We celebrate nothing but the prodigal lifestyle of our public officials. One rankling reality of the Nigerian public life is the obtuse permissiveness to impunity in the lifestyles of elected and appointed officials, While government crows harshly about the parlous economy on a regular basis, our officials live like oil sheikhs off the fat of the land. It is a befuddling and pointed paradox.

At 56, Nigeria is but a crawling spoilt brat whose early years was spent so vainly and whose profligacy is beyond comprehension. The labour of our heroes past may just be in vain as none of them would have imagined we would be where we are today. Yes, Hebert Macaulay and co-dreamers. Fate can be treacherous and life cruel, but many disasters are self inflicted.

Here we are, still kidnapping ourselves, if the wife of the CBN governor can be so kidnapped then the wife of Nigeria’s number one citizen can not be said to be safe. Here we are still blowing oil pipelines and beckoning the Queen’s emissaries back to maternal duties – begging us to stop, explaining to us self-destruction. It may not be a sin to be blessed yet poor and wretched. The world is filled with wasted talents and gifts. What is unforgivable is collective resignation. Quota system we were told would soothe teething problems at infancy. Let her suck, so that she will not cry. We are supposed to be a country now. 56 years after, that finger sucking called quota system has left us retarded and infested with worms of mediocrity and indolence
At 56, national unity is a wild goose chase and national excellence is none idealistic. Despite its very evident prosperity, many people in Nigeria are in excruciating pain. That distress is most visible to the poor majority while the ruling elites do not see it or pretend not to see it. The broken covenant – the social contract – between the government and the governed illuminates the ineptitude and callousness of those elected by the people to fight on their behalf. We are in united in poverty and that is what we celebrate today.

Since independence, Nigeria has been blessed with non entities as leaders, and the new chanters of CHANGE are no different. Leaders, who perceive no need-spots for specific problems. Leaders who possess no gift and no competence to address the needs of the people. Leaders who cannot persuade people. Leaders who are not able to attract others to join a cause. Leaders who pursue no purpose and employ no measures to accomplish the desired goals. We lack a servant leader who could cast a national vision, all we have are some few motivational speakers who double as leaders. In these days, even the new sheriff in town can not be totally trusted: everyone and everything seem to thrive in chaos. Recession is just another grammar to them but it is the poor who must roast and get burnt in it. The federal economic and finance minister/coordinator, manipulators, and other self styled economic gurus, continue to deceive Nigerians with voodoo economic analyses that things are not as bad as they seem. They continue to blame the past administration for today’s problems. But behind closed doors, they sing different tunes. One thing however they cannot refute is the reality of the perpetual chasm separating the poor and the ruling class. The ruling class inflamed the anger and the pain of the working class by refusing to talk about it and being disinclined to listen.

Like Late Prof Chinua Achebe said: “The problem with Nigeria is Leadership”. Everything rises and falls on Leadership. Rather than be circumspect and unobtrusive, many elected and appointed public officials have consistently assaulted the sensibilities of the Nigerian public with their ostentatious consumption pattern which suggests impunity at its basest and crudest form. Then just when we thought we had found an hero in Abdulmumin Jubrin, the House of Reps suspended him for budgget padding must not equate corruption.

In saner climes, the growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership but the reverse is the case in Nigeria. Apart from seeking medical reprieve for their simplest afflictions abroad including going abroad for an ordinary ear infection, there have been the fairly regular tour of their children in foreign countries including UN gathering with tax payers money. No sooner were they appointed or elected into public office than known and established paupers began to actualise feats that could only have existed in their widest imaginations prior to their election or appointment.

Today’s 56th independence anniversary is a reminder of our collective failure as a people. I have since given up on the Nigerian people – the Nigerian hapless youth, docile old, prodigal public officials and the bunch of sods that call themselves intellectuals but it is the impoverishment of these same people that keeps me awake at night. I hear them in the darkness around me. It is the cries of these countless victims which rouse me in the long watches of the night. It is the willing silence and sheepish submission to subjugation, poverty, and oppression that infuriate me to write today and always. It is thinking of the martyrs who fought and died for the starved and strapped Nigerians that egg me on.

But the members of the ruling class have destroyed the vision of the future. They have turned their backs on the future and embraced the past. The addiction of these vultures to corruption which they also claim to be so sweatingly fighting, the wickedness, frankly and nakedly set them against all human values and democratic norms. The slightest opposition and the merest criticism expose the few Nigerians who dare the authorities to the severest penalties.

Today, Mr President will again motivate Nigerians, his speech will center on his one sided fight against corruption, he may as well slightly blame past administrations for Nigeria woes, he will then end his speech by reminding them that Nigeria is broke so the masses must continue to sacrifice for One Nigeria. He will however feign ignorance that people in our reform social ladder are instantly suppressed and those who stand out independently are mown down.

Government: local, state and federal attitude’s to the youths speaks eloquently of wrong priorities and judgment. Community, traditional and religious leaders are not any better. Their overriding focus is to feed their ever increasing greed. As long as they continue to get crumbs of breads, they will stop at nothing to demonstrate their support of this value that remains a mirage. What a country! Why do we keep eating our young?

There can only be little doubt that these are the unavoidable fallouts of the deeply entrenched paradigm of corruption that has consumed the value base of the society comprehensively. Corruption not merely meaning embezzlement of find but Since questions are rarely ever asked and voters(mostly youths) are also perpetually hungry for the proverbial crumbs of bread, our leaders are not only sure that their deeds will not be asked of them, they are also confident that they will not only retain their position but ascend on the ladder as long as they feed the hungry monster of poverty that has attacked the horde of hapless youths and continue to tell them that change begins with them.

Little wonder then the country has been confronted with crumbling infrastructure and debilitating institutional failure. It is even surprising that the country’s establishment expects civil servants nationwide to understand its regular plea of being cash-strapped whenever it cannot meet their legitimate demands. It is also equally surprising that the much touted foreign investment is expected against such a background of condemnable hypocritical profligacy. If the country’s economy is truly in a parlous state, its public officials’ lifestyle must reflect this sincerely and public expenditure must be tailored towards the rule of necessity. A one sided war against corruption can not be our formular for age long equations. Then there is the threat to our democracy, elections are no longer free and fair. If it is not inconclusive, it will a win at all cost for the ruling party.

Any creature with a pair of eye should see clearly that Nigeria needs a deliverance perhaps a miracle. Able-bodied Nigerians turned beggars wandered through the streets. Petty street hawkers of underwear, socks, rubber heels, corsets, silverware, and other ancient objects appeared like a rash over the face of Nigeria towns and cities yet we celebrate 56 years of freedom. Are we free indeed? Graduates at all levels across disciplines drive danfos, molues, and bolekajas for a niggardly amount. Others settle for the “Area Boys” specialties and dark alley businesses of assorted brands. Unemployed youths in the millions have become a wild and homeless lot, socially disinherited, candidates for Aro, morgues, prisons, and the electric chair. Our elderly are hungry. They depend on public charity and their good Samaritan neighbors for food and for a place to sleep. Days of somber discouragement follow our pensioners. Some died in penury, of hunger and disease. The rest of them live a vagabond, lonely, and perilous lives. Their depression soon reached that extreme stage when the will is paralyzed and physical resistance suddenly gives way.

But it is not all doom for Nigeria. Gradually being weaned off oil, staring at the teeth of a tempest, reason and repentance may well be forced on us. We must come to the green and white. Peace and agriculture will give us room to redeem ourselves. One Nigeria must be a Nigeria founded on equity, truth and fairness. The centre must be made powerless and materially unattractive. Healthy competition amongst the regions and states will spur growth and force ‘change’ organically.

This present administration must pay special attention to our youths instead of investing so much on propaganda and self appraisal. A country that has no plans whatsoever for the empowerment and development of her young is already doomed. Never in the history of the country have graduates experienced a period of aloofness, of deintoxification from government as presently witnessed. As Nigeria celebrates 56years of Independence. Government priority should be how to get the best out of graduates. For it is an insidious and corrosive threat to do nothing.

In todays Nigeria; Graduates are idling and less productive, the efforts of those that are entrepreneurs are been frustrated, our leaders can not be bothered, everything is politics to them, while Nigeria is the big loser. Nigeria is in dire need of leaders who will work for the benefits of others and not for personal gains; Leaders who continue to search for the best answers, not the familiar ones; Leaders who follow a moral compass that points in the right direction regardless of the trends.

The priority of government at all level must be how to get Nigerian youths working. Youths being the engine of the economy must be given an easy platform for standard performance and productivity. Youths must be involved in governance. Since everybody cannot be an entrepreneur and skill acquisition is not for everyone; Job creation becomes a necessity.

Government must be creative, they must start talking job creation now. Jobs! Jobs!! Jobs!!! and more jobs.

Happy Independence day Nigeria

Olagunju Olagunju Isaac is on twitter @whykaycares

About Editor

Otunba Sayo Akintola is a 1992 graduate of Linguistics from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. He holds a post-graduate diploma in Financial Management and MBA from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. He started his 12-year sojourn in journalism at the Nigerian Tribune in 1993 as Business and Economy reporter. He rose through the ranks to become the Group Business Editor of the nation’s oldest surviving private national newspaper, the Nigerian Tribune. He set up World Street Journal magazine in 2018.

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