Nigeria has had a turbulent history and continuing crisis, marked by upheavals such as riots, pogroms, a civil war or ethnic war as many more aptly prefer to call it and terrorism all of which has left the nation dripping in blood. Some have even suggested that all of Nigeria’s green white green flag should be replaced with red in recognition of the blood that has and continues to be shed on account of her existence. More blood still is spilled on a daily basis on account of decades of bad governance, misrule and looting which has resulted in accidents and all forms of carnages on our roads owing to bad roads, avoidable deaths from treatable and or manageable diseases owing to dysfunctional hospitals and poverty owing to the absence of social security.
Many more die through perilous trips; dangerous sea and desert crossings in their bid to escape the anarchy at home and seek greener pastures abroad where those who are able to survive the hazardous trips in one piece are sometimes trapped in very difficult situations in hostile lands, more often ending up in prison or dying untimely deaths. Nigeria is thus for a great majority of its supposed citizens a land of injustice and death whose very existence has been a nightmare. A nation state is supposed at the very minimum to provide for the security and welfare of its citizenry; that is after all the fundamental basis for which a state exists. But Nigeria has since independence failed in fulfilling the basic responsibilities of a state vis-à-vis the citizenry. It is no surprise then, that many voices increasingly loud and radical are asking if Nigeria is worth the bloodshed that has kept it afloat at the expense of the supposed citizenry.
But no nation fails by accident, just as no nation succeeds by accident. The success or failure of a nation is driven by the choices its leaders make and to a lesser extent the inherent values within the society. Nigeria has thus not failed by accident but because successive leaders chose to make Nigeria fail by the choices they made. These choices have bordered on the three cantankerous vices of tribalism, corruption and religious fundamentalism that have incrementally ruined the nation. From the earliest leadership in the first republic Nigeria had predominantly divisive leaders that thrived in exploiting and furthering ethnic divisions rather than investing in nation building. These leaders manifested and emphasised ethnic hatreds/divisions with which they consequently afflicted the larger society.
Corruption also crept up quite early in the nation’s history as the leaders proved to be willing to engage in electoral fraud and all forms of attendant corruption. Ethnic riots and later day religious fundamentalism and terrorism particularly in the North was likewise tolerated and in most cases sponsored by Northern leaders themselves. Successive Nigerian leaders have continued on the same train of tribalism, corruption and religious fundamentalism leading to the ethnic jungle, monumentally corrupt, dysfunctional and terrorised nation Nigeria has progressively become.
As the 2015 elections approaches, Nigerians must elect a leader who stands a better chance of addressing these fundamental issues. It is already an indictment of the present generation myself included that out of over a 100 million people we have surrendered to two candidates who are not inspiring and who are both implicated at varying levels in the vices that wrecked the nation. It is even more tragic that one of the candidates comes from the much older generation and from the notorious military constituency that from the first republic played the ignoble tribalistic roles that led to much bloodshed and subsequently became highly implicated in corruption, abuse of human rights and religious fundamentalism.
Our generation has missed the plot by not being able to field a candidate untainted from the evils of the past that can offer a credible choice for voters seeking a rejuvenated nation rescued from the dark ills of the past. However all hope is not lost as that opportunity might well present itself in the near future. In the interim Nigeria does not need a leader who thrives on divisions by supporting sharia in violation of the nation’s secular constitution even as thousands were being slaughtered in sharia riots. Nigeria does not need a leader who supports Boko Haram and politicises terrorism even as Boko Haram, the most murderous terrorist group in the world has slaughtered and continues to maim and kill in thousands. Nigeria does not need a sectional and tribal leader who disregards the nation’s diversity and who believes he and his ethnic group is divinely born to rule while others are slaves.
Nigeria does not need a violent leader who in the past serially abused human rights and who even now often incites violence, the most recent being the 2011 post-election violence in which more than a thousand people including youth corpers were brutally slain without any remorse or regret from the instigator. Nigeria does not need a leader who has severally failed to effectively manage or account for resources under his watch when as minister of petroleum in the 70’s more than 2 billion naira at a time when the naira was stronger than the American dollar went missing and who as chairman of the petroleum trust fund (PTF) could not account for 25 billion naira. All the vices from tribalism to religious fundamentalism that has ruined Nigeria since the first republic are overwhelmingly represented in this one man. Nigeria definitely does not need a leader who will return the nation to its darkest era from which it is desperately seeking to escape. Given the choices we presently have, it is clearly a case of making the best of a bad situation or choosing the lesser of two evils. The leader Nigeria needs while not being perfect will at least be a lesser evil who will ensure an incremental, slow but steady departure from the inequality of the past in the overall interest of nation building, for whether we like it or not we have to have a nation first before we can talk of consolidation. A word should be enough for the wise.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu
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