Nigeria: Nation of our dream?
By Kunle Oderemi
Two issues now make most headlines about Nigeria across the world.One is about the ceaseless and mindless killings in the Northern part of the country on the one hand, and other forms of security challenges on another. The second sour grape is the vicious and endemic circle of corruption among public officials, including civil servants, which appears to have taken a weirder dimension, lately.
The plundering of state resources has become unimaginable because of the calibre of persons involved, coupled with the colossal amount of such looting. The criminal act defies logic, because of the case of an individual official or so, who was said to have kept billions of looted funds, not in a bank, but in his private home. Thus, the serial killings of innocent people by the Boko Haram and the avarice of some public officials have contrived to lower the estimation of Nigeria, the largest Black nation before the international community. This is in spite of the concerted efforts in different quarters to re-enact the glory of the country in international politics and diplomacy, such that paved the way for the political freedom of some African countries at the twilight of the 20th century.
In Africa, Nigeria is regarded as the largest economy, not withstanding its domestic challenges. It has a huge human resources, which if effectively and efficiently tapped, could give meaning to its Vision 20:2020, which many still perceive as another pipe dream and product of Nigeria’s penchant for nomenclature and sloganeering.
The country is also described as the largest democracy in the continent, given its population, especially the adult suffrage. Coupled with it is the fact that the country has been able to sustain civil rule since May 29, 1999, though in a fit and start manner. But, what is the beauty of the country being regarded as the largest economy and democracy in Africa, if its citizens live in perpetual fear of general insecurity?
Since it embarked on its nebulous campaign in July 2009, the sect, founded in 2002, has been targeting churches, police stations, military facilities, banks and private businesses and markets. And its tactics include contrived bombing devices and drive-by shootings. The global organisation, Human Rights Watch claimed that about 1,000 people may have been killed in 164 suspected attacks by the Boko Haram, with more than 500 of such killings carried out in 115 separate attacks in 2011 alone. According to the body, more than 253 people were killed in 21 separate attacks in the first three weeks of January alone.
We have almost exhausted all suitable adjectives to capture the madness that is going on in the North, owing to the activities of the Boko Haram sect, though there appears to be a deliberate official policy of recent time to label some of the murderers as unidentified gunmen. The latest of the wanton killings was witnessed in Kaduna on Easter Sunday, with no fewer than 36 people losing their lives.
If anyone had thought that such dastardly acts was completely evitable, because of reports of precautionary measures taken in official quarters, such individual probably was deluding himself, going by the nation’s experience in the last one year or so. All measures had not immeasurably deterred those murderers from prosecuting their wicked, terrorists’ acts. In fact, it is now common for people to ask on the streets or newsrooms, where next have those blood-thirsty elements struck again, especially on Fridays and during festive periods as witnessed in Kaduna and a couple of places in the last one week? In other words, there is a growing loss of public confidence in the ability of the state to effectively manage the crisis, in spite of consistent assurances that the problem could fizzle out with the next two months.
Conversely, corruption has almost destroyed the essence of the country. Enormous public funds meant to create an enabling environment for national development have been misappropriated. Millions allocated to agencies’ officials designated to provide social security services are illegally diverted into private pockets. Yet, the economy is everything, but booming; youth unemployment soaring, basic infrastructure virtually moribund, while there is no practical commitment to rural development and transformation. All these are consequent upon the monumental fraud in the Nigerian system, which to my mind, cannot be cured through ad hoc measures as we have seen in the last three decades under the military and now civilians.
There was a time we sang the chorus, Health for All by the year 2000. We dissipated a lot of energy on the crusade. There was a similar campaign on housing. Huge public resources went into this, and many other ‘lofty’ ideas, thus, giving the hapless citizens hope that the magic year was around the corner. Twelve years into the magic century, here we are, combating with the dangerous consequences of deceit and dishonesty by Nigerian leaders, who failed to renege on their promises and failed to give account of their stewardship.
For how long shall we continue to have hurried contingency plans that lack proper planning, cohesion and focus and have ultimately continued to fail us? How many ad hoc bodies shall we have to create, in order to take us to the path of honour and integrity? We once had the nomadic education programme, which primarily introduced for itinerant Fulani herdsmen? We committed a lot of public fund. But, what is its discernible impact? To stem the militancy in the Niger Delta, the government came up with the amnesty programme, which required those who had resorted to arms struggle to convey their grievances to the rest of the country to lay down their arms.
In return, be reintegrated into the Nigerian system through training and payment of salaries. Now, the government went back to the drawing board over the security problems in the North, and came up with a special education programme for social miscreants called the Almajiris. It is run in all the 19 states in the North, but it is contestable, if indeed, all those states face the menace of the Almajiris. Definitely, not Benue and Kogi states, as the most apt description of such class of people in those states could be area boys, who are like swarm of sparrows in all the nooks and crannies of the Southern part of the country. Then, should we advocate the government also considers an ad hoc arrangement for them? How many of these cosmetic measures can realistically tackle the malignant growth called youth unemployment caused by a grossly irresponsible political class? The reality is that, this cannot, indeed, be the nation of our dream.
Oderemi, 08023501874 (SMS only)