Whither Nigeria? – By Valentine Obienyem



The wise one says that education comes one-forth from others, one-forth from experience, one-forth from travel and one-forth from the classrooms. Should we agree with him, it means that any time we travel is an opportunity to broaden our knowledge about the world and its peoples. If we are critical, it also offers us the opportunity to compare our country with others in terms of progress and development. This experience is many times magnified when we venture into alien states/countries that do not share the same culture with us.


I have had the opportunity to travel to over 20 countries. I must confess that apart fromHaiti, I have always felt dejected and a certain sense of regret on coming back toNigeriafrom any of these trips. I cannot here talk about Arab countries. The last Arab country I visited wasBahrainand the common observation is that these people are busy deploying their oil money in building their countries. EvenBangladesh, with poverty written all over her, is much more organized than we are. Though lacking in natural resources, countries likeEthiopiaandKenyaare busy building and perfecting those little things that generate income for them. All overKenya, one sees flowers that are exported toEurope. These countries National Carriers: Kenyan and Ethiopian Airlines are study in patriotism even when we could not sustain ours. But whatever one observes aboutNigeriais a call for all of us to sit up and contribute our quotas to make it work in a positive, healthy manner for it remains our country. A certain Moroccan traveler, on returning from a visit toEurope, exclaimed: “What a comfort to be getting back to civilisation.” The man, like us, had no other country and is affected by provincialism.

If we want to be truthful to ourselves, many things are wrong inNigeria. I am one of those who regret the timing of our independence. Events of today have shown that we were not psychologically prepared for that momentous event in history. Many of our nationalists evidently did not even understand what independence means. What was supposed to be an epochal liberation of Nigerians from shackles of slavery ended up enslaving us all the more! Let us face it, what have we achieved since independence? Colonialists, without oil money, succeeded in providing some basics things of life for our people in the spirit of the times. Look at the railway, for example, rather than build on their legacy, we succeeded in killing that institution. One can go on and on.

When one travels out, the inadequacies of our country stares one on the face. The moment we arrivedAtlantaHartsfieldAirportfor immigration formalities, I said to my colleague, that if any of our airports were to handle 1% of the traffic this airport handled, that it would be catastrophic for the country. One noticed over 50 immigration clearance cubicles that are professionally handled. On the contrary, on entering the Murtala Mohammed airport, one is confronted by faulty mechanized staircases, acute shortage of spaces, air conditioners that are not working and annoying cathartic reaction to situations. One notices about three or at most four cubicles handling immigration matters amidst a host of immigration officers busy prancing all over the place looking for those they will support to breach the rules for pittances. In other climes, on arrival at baggage claiming points, the luggage are already at those points, but in our own case, one is compelled to wait for hours!

I have even forgotten to start from check-in formalities at the point of travel. I have not witnessed any country where today, one sees combined forces of Immigration, Customs, NDLEA and many other unidentifiable bodies, gloves in hands, searching one’s luggage menacingly. Does it mean our screening machines do not work like those of other countries?

We must at this juncture commend the present Minister of Aviation, Princess Stella Odua. In her one could see the efforts of one who was equally disenchanted with the State of our airports. If other past Ministers individually or collectively did 20% of what she is doing now, that sector would have not been a problem today.

We also commend the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Muhammed Abubakar for showing signs of preparedness to reform one of the most problematic institutions in Nigeria, the Police Force. The abolishing of road blocks is one necessary step he has taken that he will for a long time be remembered for. It signaled to observers, the first step towards the return of professionalism to the Police, which Nigerians perennially yearn for. Nigerians do not know that all those AK 47 that Nigerian Police carry are meant for war. In many countries of the world, the presence of such weapon on the street will only signify a state of war. The IG should strengthen the intelligence arm of the force since crime is better fought through intelligence than display of raw force. If not for intelligence deployed in the arrest of Ofe Akwu, at whose compound military ammunition were found, that contingent of Police that arrested him would have been over powered by the array of ammunition in Ofe Akwu’s superior amoury .

One of the problems of fighting crime in our country is that our security personnel talk too much. The Americans prepared for the storming of Bin Laden’s abode for almost a year and yet nobody heard of it. What are the gains of telling us that the confession of Ofe Akwu led to the arrest of another armed robber at Ihiala? If there are other armed robbers connected to him and they hear this, would they not run for dear life always believing that he may have also confessed about them as well? The police would achieve more results if they even told us that the man became deaf and dumb the moment he was arrested, while secretly making use of information they got from him.

As I fiddled with my computer, light did not go off and all amenities seem to work. But vis-à-vis our country, one is bound to be angry with the system. The energy we should by now be deploying in other areas is now deployed to those things that we ought to have taken for granted. What is painful is that when quantified, you will see thatNigeriahad actually sunk in more money into those areas than the countries where they are working ever did. Our critics, rather than consistently point this out, forget criticisms once a carrot is dangled before them.

One of our greatest problems is lack of genuine critics in the country. In Anambra for example, we have many armchair critics some of who have not visited the State in 6 years and analyses events only by synthesis. The more the State has a Governor ready to do the right things the more the criticisms are mounting. Those people do not devote a moment’s reflection on the future of the State. They are ready to bring down the roof on everybody once they are not benefiting, directly or indirectly. Today, rather than point out the infrastructural deficit to those that govern states, we have some who want us to believe they are critics labouring in vain and amusingly to stop the President from visiting Anambra State to lend support to obvious efforts to emancipate the State. I think that all in all, they do not actually know what they are doing and deserve our sympathy.

From a State where bedlam, rape and rapine reigned, Obi has returned it to civilization through tortuous efforts that almost consumed him as he had to fight against Principalities and Powers. Today, rather than a subject for dinner jollity, Anambra has become a changed state used as an example when one intends to discuss good and focused leadership, but the opposition he gets is from the home front. This is tragic!

Today, we also have a President who is truthful to the country and to himself. You can
only appreciate him if you have followed his policies. Sometimes he treads carefully because the monster that has been created inNigeria needs a Hercules to deal with it. Take the issue of petroleum subsidy and you will shudder at how a clique steal our common patrimony and are infinitely ready to deploy it to fight any person that challenges them. So far, the President is doing well, we only ask that he does not relent nor give in to the pressure from these buccaneers.

I laugh when some people associate timidity or naivety with our President. I was inFrancewhen he met with the President of that country. I remember that answering one question posed to him, he spoke aboutNigeriain a manner that made me to be proud of him. He talked aboutNigeria, including her different vegetations, fromSahelthrough Guinea/Savannah to tropical rainforest in a manner that made us proud of him. His comments aboutNigeriaare devoid of pretences. We have a President that acknowledges thatNigeriahas problems created over the years and is genuinely committed to our getting it right.

We cannot solve Anambra or Nigeria’s problems through protecting our narrow interests as most Nigerians do. If you have followed development in Anambra, you will agree with me that what we need is not a Chudi Offodile, who is busy doing trubom trubom ka amaru onye o ga ato be ya with me, but genuine critics who should be ready at all times to criticise and commend, as well as offer ideas without looking at their cash values for they are priceless.

Obienyem is based at Awka



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here