Nigeria @ 60: Shey na like dis we go dey dey
By: Deji Yesufu
About this time last year, I commenced a writing project that gave me the opportunity to condense the history of Nigeria’s nationhood from 1900 till date in one piece. My book “Victor Banjo” had been a summary of one man’s life from 1960 to 1967; so I reasoned that I could do the same with the story of Nigeria spanning some 120 years. My take away from that work was that Nigeria had indeed moved forward. We may not be where we want to be but we are definitely far away from where we started from. One of the major mistakes that commentators make when they talk about Nigeria is to refer to some “good old days”. The truth of the matter is that things are a lot better in Nigeria today than they were in the past. If we rue the “good old days” of a strong naira, we should not forget that much of that period, the 1970s, had Nigerians living under the harshest military rulers in our history. This is not to talk of the incessant coups and the instability that these events brought to our national life. Then some people talk about our great founders and rue the visionary leadership they brought to government. We however forget that the incessant bickering between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello is what led to the demise of the first republic, the coming of the military and the thirty month war that the country waged – a conflict that is still much unresolved in the minds of Nigerians. In my estimation, Nigeria is living its best times at the moment. What we can hope for is for better days; I would however not agree with commentators that things were better yesterday than today. They were not.
Regardless of what any of us might think of yesterday in relation to today, there is still the challenge of nationhood in our hands. There are 200 million people living in this country today and the country has almost as many opinions on how to move the nation forward. Thankfully the system of governance in modern times will not allow for a plurality of leadership that would have millions of people lead a country; we would have to make do with one leader, while the rest of us simply state our opinions with the hope that they can get to the ear of some person in authority who can implement them. While we all cannot lead this country, we all can do something: we can do our little bit in the little corner where we exist and see these things build up to making our country great. In fact this is what makes nations thrive; everyone doing the right thing in their own little corner and all of these adding up to a flourishing nation as a collective. While corruption exists among people in places of authority in this country, the greater corruption is perpetuated by Nigerians themselves. You may read up my little commentary on the recent investigative efforts of Fisayo Soyombo on the state of the rail system between Kaduna and Abuja. Obviously, the people perpetuating these horrors are not our so called leaders but Nigerians themselves. As long as we have a culture of corruption thriving amongst ourselves, we would continue to have the nation that we have today and we had better not point fingers at anyone. Or else the one finger you point at somebody, still shows four more fingers pointed at yourself. A new Nigeria will begin when every other Nigerian begins to do the right thing in his own corner.
If we can ever get to the point where every Nigerian is committed to a collective good, we can then begin to look up to having visionary leadership over us. Right now, Nigerians must stay content with the fact that we a leadership that has no drive, no imagination, no vision and no regrets for its lack of leadership acumen. It is the leadership that we all deserve but a people produce the leaders they get. The mistake has been done and we must have to bear with this leadership for another three years. The good thing is that the country has sufficient inertia to drive it through these times. I am positive we will survive this present leadership. I only hope that we do not make the mistake of putting into power people who have no zest for governance in 2023. The take-away from this present government will be that Nigerians now know the type of personalities that should never govern them again. Another thing these times has provided us is the progress we have made in our democratic processes. We have seen an incumbent removed from power in this country in 2015. Recently, we saw the phenomenon of god-fatherism fail in Edo State. We are beginning to have younger persons run for public office in the country – a case in point is Oyo State that had its two leading candidates in the 2019 gubernatorial election men in their 40s. I am hoping that the leadership of Nigerian will pass on to youthful, energetic and visionary persons in 2023. This will be an addition to our democracy and it would be a great victory indeed.
As I approached my computer to put this piece together, I saw that the Nigerian police was again stalling the “Revolution Now” protests that Omoyele Sowore and other young Nigerians were embarking on. Thankfully there have been no reports of arrests but some of the protesters were hindered from engaging in what is clearly a peaceful protest – something that is acceptable in every nation that pays even lip service to democracy in the world. I still think the Nigerian government continues to attract attention to Omoyele Sowore and his supporter when they continue to prevent lawful protests. One thing government in more developed climes have learnt is that if they give opportunity to people to vent their frustrations through protests, particularly when those protests are peaceful, the tendency for these same persons to embark of violence is reduced. But when you clamp down on every kind of protest, people have their ways of eventually getting their voices out and these could lead to violence, loss of lives and an embarrassment to government – further discrediting the government in power. I do not think that Nigeria should still be stifling protest at 60; or else one begins to wonder what we have learnt through our histories.
This article is not celebrating Nigeria at sixty; I am rather asking us to consider, in the words of one of our hip-hop singers, “shey na like dis we go dey dey?” Is this how we wish to continue our national life? Have we learnt anything from our failures? Does our government see where they have not gotten things right and plan to make amend? Do the governed plan to begin to do things differently; rather than the attitude of taking advantage of a failed system for one’s own gain? Is this how we wish to continue for another sixty years? Events like a nation celebrating 60 years of its existence should occasion its people and leaders much soul searching. There is no doubt that there has been much lost opportunities and resources in our past but thankfully there is a future we can all look up to with a lot of optimism. Nigeria’s greatest resource is not oil but its people. The mere fact that Nigerians go abroad and excel is a pointer to the fact that if its people have just a little enabling environment, this country can become the greatest nation on earth. So, we need not despair; rather, we can hope for a better tomorrow.
Happy 60th Anniversary, Nigeria.
Long live our fatherland.