Oil prices have reached levels they have never reached in human history. Just a couple of weeks ago, a barrel of petroleum sold in international markets in excess of $80. Nigeria is in stupendous wealth. By Central Bank's account, the foreign reserves have reached nearly $50billion. Nigeria is rich, by all accounts - but are Nigerians doing better?
It is a fact that while some Nigerians are doing better, most Nigerians are not doing better. The society as a whole is doing far worse. Evidence: the police and the fire service in Nigeria's richest city, Lagos, looked on without any ability to help as some citizens died in an inferno right in front of the former National Stadium, Surulere. The fire service, without shame, matter-of-factly, told reporters even when a police station nearby was being burned by irate soldiers a few months before, they could not do anything. The fire service in Nigeria's biggest and richest city had no vehicles, no fire hydrants, no equipment whatsover, to do the job it institutionally was set up to do.
The same goes for the police, the army, the teachers, the public works crews, the railway service and all others who should be giving service but have been amputated by corruption and profligate spending.
What kind of nation do we have if, after all we have been through, and all we know, we still refuse to do what is right for ourselves? How far more can we expect to proceed without doing the right things before we implode? These are questions that must be answered now. Especially now that we have the money to get things done.
Nigeria's problem is no longer money. More money than can be expected is flowing in. More investments than can be envisaged are flowing in. More goodwill than can be anticipated is flowing in.
Nigeria's problem is not human resources. More graduates than are needed have been produced. More artisans than can be used are walking the streets without jobs. Professionals abound both at home and in the Diaspora, all ready to move the nation forward.
Nigeria's problem is not political. Military rule, at least in its pure form, is history. Democracy is in. Representatives are elected to run the government. More states and local governments have been created over the years, so government is less centralized and governance is closer to the governed.
Nigeria's problem is not religious. Most people have come to accept that Nigeria is a secular nation. Fanatics have resigned to the fact that there will always be christians, muslims and earthens in Nigeria. None is going to eraze the other. Churches and mosques have witnessed astounding growth in the past decades. Some of the largest crusades now hold on the streets of Nigeria, even as Nigeria has two cardinals in the Vatican for the first time in its history. Prayer has become one of the cheapest commodities available to Nigerians and Nigeria. A deeply spiritual nation, Nigeria cannot claim not to have the Jehovah, Allah, Obatala or Sango.
Nigeria's problem is not civic. People know what their obligations to society is. For the most part, Nigerians know their rights as well, but have very little hope those rights will ever be respected.
Even while children go on empty stomaches, the most exotic cars parade the streets of Nigeria. While people yearn for the most basic requirements of life - things that people in advanced nations take for granted - Nigerians live without expecting social services, support and resources from their government.
When the fire service in a nation as rich as Nigeria has no fire truck or water to do its job, we should be asking ourselves how far we can expect to go as a nation before the point of collapse. The level of decance is so high that it can't be allowed to get worse.
If Nigeria's problem is not money, human resources, political, civic or religious, what then is? What is at the heart of Nigeria's arrested development?
Nigeria's problem is for the most part not caused by the people, but to some extent retained by them.
A known and unsettling fact about Nigeria's history is that there was a form of concealed arrangement by the British colonialists to create a delicate, illusively strong and intricately-woven nation that would for ever be dependent on external help. British author, Harold Smith, and Nigerian author, Kole Omotoso, at various times, revealed through British colonial archives how the British put together an artificial nation based on lies it called Nigeria.
Harold is the former British colonial officer who served in Nigeria and was victimised by Harold Macmillan's Conservative government because he would not rig Nigeria's independence elections in 1960 for Britain's favourite politicians in a section of Nigeria.
In another account, a letter written by Sir Peter Smethers, who was a private parliamentary secretary at the British Colonial Office throughout most of the decolonization period and had been present at most of the independence negotiations, including that of Nigeria, butressed the same arguement. In fact, the governor-general, Sir James Robertson, wrote in his memoirs that in the elections that took place in 1959 to choose the government that would rule after independence, some arrangements had been made to deternine how Nigeria would be ruled.
In other accounts, we learned that the census was already fixed by the British. The British attempts to pre-determine the shape and form of what would eventually become a confused Nigeria was encouraged by the cold war of the 1960s and the discovery of oil in southern Nigeria. The British, realizing the great potentials of Nigeria because of its population, position and potential wealth, decided to keep it in a specific format for as long as was possible.
Sensitive British top secret files that could shed more light on how Nigeria's problems had been produced by the British colonialists are still being held as official secrets for 100 years.
Nigerians need not wait for 100 years to repair the damage done by the British. The 1960s were was a wild decade. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The 1970s and 1990s were mostly for the soldiers, another pre-conceived British infection. Three decades after the military were allowed to do as much damage as they could, power returned to the people of Nigera. This almost never happened. But when a calous military dictator by the name of Ibrahim Babangida played the game so smart that he out-smarted himself, Nigerians were ready for real democracy. The annulment of the 1993 national elections, won by the late M.K.O. Abiola, unleashed a public outcry that swept Babangida off power, and the next three administrations that followed.
In 1999, a somewhat different democracy was unveiled. Ironically, it was to be shepherded by a former solider, Olusegun Obasanjo, who had suffered greatly under one of his own surbodinates. Hopes were high that things would be different this time. Eight years, after, Obasanjo left most Nigerians gnashing their teeth about the mistake they made electing him. Bequeathing power through massive election rigging to the brother of his former military assistant, Obasanjo at least gave a ray of hope in that he did not succeed himself, although he tried and failed.
In all the political processes that shaped Nigeria, ordinary citizens were not idle participants. The Nigerian people were used as instruments by their own leaders to perpetuate confusion, instability, corruption, nepotism and lawlessness.The military and political elites found a way to use wedge issues to divide the nation and ensure the people never fought for their rights. Corruption became a bane of the society. Everybody stole - both the governors and the governed. It has become an accepted norm in Nigeria today that to succeed, you must be corrupt.
There is a great truth in the fact that it is almost impossible to succeed in Nigeria without engaging in some kind of corurption. It is, however, also true that there are millions of Nigerians who are fed up with the system and are very desirous of change in their society. People of goodwill are stepping forward, and asking that change must happen, and business as usual must become business unusual.
The leaders, mostly recruited in the shameful British plot to exploit, have continued in their wrong ways, and they have acquired so much power and followership that those who genuinely want change are infinitesimal in the struggle to make put the nation on the path of development and growth. Honest people can hardly win elections in the hijacked democracy, but rogues easily occupy public offices and fight over stolen wealth, a spectacle of which is the current scandal in the House of Representatives where for over 100 days after it sitting, no law had been passed but everyday had been about the sharing and misallocation of public funds for self-centered purposes. Nigerians have given their destiny to those who have no plans for them.
This explains why Nigeria is so rich, and the people are so poor. In Nigeria are those who want to selfishly benefit from the wealth of the nation - those who have been brought up in the colonial mentality of self over nation -who will not care what happens to the nation as long as their pockets are being lined. This class of people have been positioned from independence, either through family, profession or association. On the same side of this class are those who have no idea what is going on- those who follow the tide wherever it leads, and allow themselves to be misruled as long as they can get a paycheck.
At the other side of the coin are the majority of Nigerians, who feel the effect but have no role to play in the political process. They are called the electorate, but have never really voted any one to power. They are owed months of salaries. They have no drinking water. Their streets have potholes everywhere and they rise early and sleep late for wages that cannot sustain modest living. They can't seem to get out of the cyle of poverty unleashed on them by the ruling class.
They hope but it only gets worse with every hope.
There is time for action, not hope.
The Citizens for Nigeria believes the time for hope has passed. This is the time to demand for change. For Nigeria has no reason to remain in lack. The money is there, so why can't the people enjoy it? The citizens must begin to make serious demans now. The problem with Nigeria is mostly imposed, but the people have the power to change it. The time is ripe. We can no longer be a nation where the government is spending billions to lobby in foreign nation's governments, while basic services cannot be provided. Let the people begin to write, to donate and to form mass action groups. Enough is enough. It is time for change.
To contribute to the Citizens for Nigeria's forthcoming massive campaign "Enough is Enough" please make a donation: