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Nigeria: A Toddler Nation



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Today, as I flew into Port Harcourt ‘International ‘airport from Lagos, I finally came to terms with the fact that Nigeria, my beloved country, the ‘giant’ of Africa is still a toddler nation, 51years and counting after it attained its flag independence. To be sure, like millions of our country men and women, I had always felt that our leaders in the past, perhaps because they were lacking in knowledge and were bereft of proper formal education, had laid the nation bare and stolen her blind. I have known all along that our infrastructure was shambolic and that our systems did not conform to world standards. But somewhere inside of me, I had this feeling that what we needed was a decent, university-educated young man or woman at the helm of affairs of the nation to ‘move us forward’.

Thus, when Yar’ Adua took up the mantle of leadership, I heaved a sigh of relief and looked forward to the coming of a quantum leap forward. But ill-health intervened and we all understood the President was severely incapacitated by this act of God. Knowing Nigeria, one was not surprised that Yar’ Adua’s kitchen cabinet took over and kept a stranglehold on the country until his demise. Then comes  Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. And I thought at last, God has looked upon our nation with a smile on His face. He has given us a man who has attained the ultimate price in learning- a Phd. And the man has had strokes of good luck attending to him all along over the last decade. From a non-partisan at OMPADEC, he had been picked as Deputy to Alams; had become Governor when Alams desecrated his office and thenceforth to VP and as the saying goes, the rest is history. As extras he hails from the minority Niger Delta region and he has a wife who goes by the name patience. To cap it, he took for himself an Architect as Vice President. I honestly felt that the time to build a new Nigeria was with us. When during his proper election campaign he promised Nigerians a dose of his good luck, my joy knew no bounds.

Alas, I was a fool. I failed to remember that the dress does not make the monk. I was blind to the fact that you could go to school and acquire all the degrees in the world but the school may not go through you and you are worse than the uneducated. When he made his speeches at home and abroad and he sounded and reasoned like an Ijaw fisherman (Please my brothers, no offence is intended, we are together), I thought he was just suffering from stage fright and that soon he will come to his own and be a master of statecraft. Was I mistaken? You bet! 

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Back to today. I fly into Port Harcourt and the entire nation is milling around. I am shocked but not surprised. While in Lagos I had read the papers which suggested that the PDP was to hold its gubernatorial primary election in Bayelsa State tomorrow in spite of a Court Order directing it not to do so. I had also heard that the President would personally be on hand to pick who will govern him in Bayelsa while he governs Nigeria. Every Nigerian already knows that the President does not want the incumbent governor (T. Sylva) to even contest the primary thereby abridging the latter’s constitutionally guaranteed rights. And I thought- where is the Phd?  Where is the learning? Where is the refinement that comes with education? I was forced to come to the painful conclusion that what we have as President is an ‘educated” brute. Bayelsa has been flooded with ‘foreign’ troops (Police and military) over the past several days. The entire PDP machinery has been mobilised to Bayelsa to neutralise Chief Sylva. But that is not enough for President Jonathan and his Dame (coincidentally she is also flying into Port Harcourt today). The President has to personally be on ground in Yenagoa to subvert and pervert the rule of law- his mantra.

It is unfortunate that Nigerians, unlike the rest of the civilized world does not put a price on acts and or omissions of people in power. Otherwise, Nigerians would have been shocked (some say we are beyond shock) to know what it is costing the nation for this mobilisation of the Federal might by Mr. President to fight a political battle even within his own party and kitchen. You may call me partisan, but I have it on good authority that the President’s fear is that even if he, the no 1 citizen was to face Mr. Sylva in an open contest in Bayelsa, he will lose to the governor. The reason is obvious. It is not because the governor is a super star or miracle man. It is the nature of our politics. The governor of each State controls the party structure of that state. Mr. Sylva did not invent this situation. The President cannot and must not be allowed to use even worse illegality to correct the apparent anomaly.

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Finally, it has dawned on me that we as a nation will remain toddlers for a long time to come. The rest of mankind are pushing the boundaries of knowledge and here we are, messing around with brute force, sharing offices and the spoils thereof. Boko Haram has put paid to foreign investment (except perhaps in oil and gas), we have no roads, our airports are a national disgrace, our boys and girls cue to find places in Ghanaian schools, our hospitals are still consulting clinics or worse still, mortuaries, electricity is still a luxury and unemployment remains dangerously high. Yet all that this man with a Phd can think is to fight for who rules Bayelsa State. The only picture that readily comes to my mind is the Igbo hunter who, having gunned down the elephant and put it on his shoulder, attempts to use his toe to pick a snail. Absurd, you may say. But that is all I see.

Henceforth, I will take any insult thrown at our nation without batting an eyelid. When they call us monkeys, I can understand. We are not so different. When they call us pigs, I see where they are coming from-are we not so dirty, literally and metaphorically? When they say we are lawless, it is a truth that is as bright as daylight. Bring on the insults. We are Nigerians. We deserve them all. Thanks to the Goodlucks of this nation.

Ekiye Benibo


18th November, 2011.

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