By Emmanuel Chigozie Osuchukwu
Now the USA and other world powers are here, we may have an opportunity to ask questions and let the truth be told and heard. It is not every day that a country commands the centre of world attention. It has taken the sordid abduction of possibly over 200 school girls for the world to turn their search light on us and offered to help our rescue efforts. It is a pity that it has taken such an odious event for Nigeria to be the headline news across the globe. But we knew that Nigeria is an accident waiting to happen and let’s hope this is not the beginning of a dark chapter in our history. Let’s hope the arrival of USA and co is not the beginning of the Afghanistanization of Nigeria. It always starts with a few advisers and technical experts - ask Vietnam and Afghanistan.
Last year in an article that brought out the salient points in my book, 1966 Crisis and the Evolution of Nigerian Politics and Achebe’s There was a country a Country I wrote that, ‘suppose and God forbid that Nigeria is invaded today by a foreign power, who in honesty will be fighting for Nigeria with his life’. This has now turned to be a prophetic statement. It preempted the possibility that if Nigeria is attacked there are many prevailing factors that will incapacitate the country as strong and united nation capable of overcoming a serious challenge. Those factors are beginning to crystallize. If we are looking for evidence the upsurge and ruthlessness of the insurgents; the wives of our military men at Enugu protesting that their husbands should not be sent to fight the Boko Haram insurgents; recent report of our soldiers firing at their Commander at Maiduguri, and reports of ill equipped and ill motivated military are serious matters of concern.
This article is by the way not an indictment of President Jonathan and his administration because the country was heading towards an irredeemable status before he came to power. He is a victim as any of us. In any case the man emerged from the unconscionable political gimmicks of the last of the military dictators turned ‘democrat’. Our country is simply in trouble and we have to face up to that fact. Our sovereignty is being seriously questioned.
It is no longer news that our concerned and benevolent international friends have decided to lend us some support to deal with our present quagmire. But our friends need to know a few home truths about us. Our problem goes deeper than missing school children. This is not the statement of a callous Nigerian oblivious to the pains of unfortunate and innocent parents. This is the lamentation of a Nigerian who is well aware that life is worthless in the country and our leaders do not care if Nigerians are dropping like flies. After all Nigerians die needlessly in their thousands daily and our leaders do not bother. Nigerians have been dying in ethno-religious and community conflicts without our leaders blinking an eyelid. Luxuries buses and fuel tankers have been wasting lives in thousands and no one cares. People are lynched in public or missing without trace and no one cares. No member of the public to my recollection has ever read reports of any commission of enquiry on the legion of outrageous waste of lives in Nigeria. In fact if the world did not explode with disgust who knows what our reaction would be to the Chibok abductions. I guess we would politicize it and even deny that it ever happened or as usual dish out fake figures to minimize the event.
Now the world is beaming their torch light on us we may take the opportunity to let them know who they have come to help. I will start by telling this story of an Igbo widow. A young Igbo man died leaving a young widow behind. In accordance with Igbo tradition his kinsmen gathered to arrange his funeral. His crying widow uninvitedly appeared before the assembled kinsmen and made this important request - ‘I know my brothers in law that you are discussing how to bury your brother, my own dear husband but please as you do so can you also discuss who amongst you will inherit me and provide for me for the rest of my life’. Well the poor widow knows that after the burial the kinsmen will disperse and she will be left to her hopeless devices. Therefore our powerful rescuers before you go we have other matters you need to listen to. If you are here just to rescue our girls, we appreciate your concerns but we are in deeper trouble and we are beginning to wonder whether left alone we can cope with our overwhelming conditions.
The countries offering to help us know that we could do better than we are doing. We need to tell them that our main problem is our political leadership irrespective of political party affiliation. To our visiting helpers, we need to advise you that we are ruled by Imperial gods far disconnected with the realities of the country. Be not deceived by the razzmatazz they are dazzling you with. The endless convoys with sirens ushering you to their imperial palaces; the sumptuous meals and expensive wines has nothing to do with the realities of our country. Our political leaders constitute a great burden to us. We run one of the world’s most expensive democracies and yet the people have nothing to show that they have a leadership in place. Our leaders are the most selfish, self seeking, self indulgent and lacking in any sense of altruism. Power is sought and acquired for purposes not necessarily for the good of the populace. They believe that the legitimacy of their positions of power is derived from their conquest of us. They apparently believe so because our electoral process can be described as one big farce. They collude, squabble amongst themselves and ultimately buy their way to their positions. Mediocrity and criminality are not uncommon descriptions of our political class. When they get to their positions of power and authority they discard us and remember us only when the next election draws near. We are never in their reckoning and they are only accountable to themselves.
Resultantly Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Any country more corrupt than Nigeria must be hell on earth. Can you imagine that on record Nigeria has spent trillions of Naira in defense and security matters but we can’t encircle and rout a bunch of armed hooligans camping in a forest inside our own country. It begs the serious question of the state of the nation: the cohesiveness of Nigeria as a nation with a common destiny, common vision and a common will to die for a common purpose. Our history, recent events and the utterances of our political leaders do not leave us with a positive and exciting conclusion. The complicity of some of our leaders in the emergence of Boko Haram has been the subject of open discussion. Suffice to say that we are a much divided, corrupt, and ineptly run country. It has not much to do with the present administration. Those outside the seat of power are equally culprits in our despicable conditions. The President is as much a victim as also a perpetrator.
We therefore beg you not to listen to our leaders. They will beg for aids to equip our security forces. When they do, please for ask them why the richest country in Africa should be begging. They will beg for aids to ameliorate stifling poverty and other forms of socially unacceptable conditions particularly in the North. They will try to convince you that these are the underlying reasons for armed insurrections. Please respond in the negative, otherwise you would be adding to what we call more grease to their elbows. Do also ask for an account of trillions of Naira of annual budgetary allocations in education, health and other areas of public infrastructure. Do not leave until you have asked our leaders why they have discarded Nigeria’s once proclaimed motto of one nation, one destiny or strength in diversity; why they have abandoned our constitutional stipulation of a secular society and by insidiously using religion as a political weapon they left the door open for Boko Haram to sneak in. To our sympathetic international friends, please do ask questions because no one listens to us and I doubt if our democracy can rescue us.