OPINION: THE PROBLEM WITH NIGERIA

We are a country of over two hundred million people of different tribes and religions but one basic problem facing us is we are not united. Although we live within one country we are different people and more attached to our ethnic groups than to the union forming the nation.

History tells us that we were brought together by the British who colonized us and through Lord Lugard in 1914 joined the Southern and Northern Protectorates and on October 1, 1960 we became an independent country.

Before colonization we were told different groups of people based on culture, language, religion and other factors had their own means of self-governance and there were heads who oversaw the smooth administration of their territories. The Yorubas for example had Obas while in the North there were Emirs who were in charge of their people and in the South there were also kingdoms and monarchs who ruled over their people for example King Jaja of Opobo. They lived together as one people and collectively worked for the growth of their kingdoms and territories but today we are so divided when the British brought us together.

Although we are Nigerians we are more attached to where we come from than to our collective unity such that even as a government official we talk as people closely tied to our ethnic groups and not to national interest which means that where we come from becomes more important to us than the country as a whole.

We speak to protect our interests which is the interest of where we come from and this collides greatly with national interest and we do not care. This means that you see those from other areas as enemies not compatriots and you give the impression that you could do what you could to protect your interest which should not be as we are people of one country and be united in our diversity.

The fact that we practise different religions should also not separate us.

When we claim we are Nigerians we should remain true to national interest and not do anything that would threaten the country’s existence. Although we speak on national issues we become sectional when it concerns the areas we come from and forget  that we are Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or culture.

If you protect your people in speech against others in other parts of the country you give the impression that you associate only with your people and not others so you create your own country out of the country and you see others as enemies. I think this has been why there have been killings in parts of the country where people feel hatred towards others although they are citizens of the country.

Another problem we face is incapable leadership and the country seems to have suffered because of poor leadership so it was no wonder the Singapore-based Chandler Institute of Governance recently said that Nigeria is the third worst governed country in the world after Zimbabwe and Venezuela. The report said Nigeria was low in governance, leadership and foresight and Nigerians would agree this is so.

In months preceding elections political parties would campaign and say what they would do if candidates on their party platforms get elected but as they get elected it becomes a problem to fulfil their promises as those who get into office on their party platforms seem incapable of performing to fulfil their promises or would blame the party in office before them for the problems the government faces.

You find that leaders would lack political will to deal with situations and turn the fortunes of the country around. Where leaders in other countries performed wonders and turned the fortunes of their countries around you would not see this happening in Nigeria.

Most youths have complained of unemployment in the country with the Bureau of Statistics saying that the unemployment rate for the fourth quarter of last year stood at 33.3 per cent. The lack of jobs for the youths means that there would be nothing to engage them and this could create room for crime. To avoid this the government should create jobs to engage youths. Quite a number of graduates are without jobs and it is the duty of the government to create jobs to engage them. A measure of success by any government would be the creation of jobs for the population who are jobless.

The report by the Chandler Institute of Governance said that it exposed the strengths and weaknesses in institutions, laws and leadership in countries around the world as the report was released to show countries’ strengths and weaknesses in the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report said that “good governance begins with good leadership. The culture of government leadership varies from country to country” but said its highest-performing governments were united in commitment to integrity, strong vision and plan for their country’s future as well as ability to make the most of available resources.

The problem of greed among Nigerians is also an issue where those in government, especially, acquire wealth and forget about those who elected them.

The desire to acquire wealth could be a temptation to be corrupt where politicians could dishonestly enrich themselves at the expense of the vast majority and have sums of money in their possession which could be money meant for public use.

There is clamour by most Nigerians for the government in power to sincerely fight corruption. Nigeria is widely known as a very corrupt country where elected representatives are believed to enrich themselves with public funds. We are an oil-producing country and should have much money to develop the country but this is not happening as expected. No government has ever brought about any breakthrough that should have turned the fortunes of the country around to let people say that Nigeria has become advanced and making amazing progress.

This has not happened because instead of putting the country first those in government think of themselves and their well-being so the country suffers and makes little progress. Leaders have not challenged themselves to transform the country as done in other countries where leaders took decisive action and turned things around and today they have moved forward and recognized throughout the world.

A non-resident scholar at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Matthew Page, said  corruption was the single greatest obstacle preventing the country from achieving its enormous potentials and said it drains billions of dollars from the country’s economy. He also said corruption limits the country’s development and weakens the social contract between government and the people.

The greed for personal wealth drives politicians to encourage violence in elections and ensure they win so they could be in power and amass wealth. Legitimacy should come from the people and not through violence. This means that those who may run for election should allow the votes of the people decide whether they will be in office to represent them but more importantly as they get elected to represent the people they should put the interest of voters ahead of their own interest. The situation where any government in power has not done much for the people is the reason why things have not turned around in the country. The people should come first and government should know their primary responsibility is to the people. The well-being of the people should be guaranteed and there should be good governance to ensure this. The government will succeed only when the people are contented and there should be no room for complaints. Nigerians complain because things are hard, no jobs, high cost of living and high fuel pump price which drives up the price of essential commodities which Nigerians need for their day to day living.

Things should improve in Nigeria to create better prospects for the country so that the country can move to a better future.

In spite of our differences we should live as one and work for the development of the country. The cracks currently existing in the country should no longer continue.

A security expert Efe Wanagor said there were cracks existing in the country and alleged they were magnified by the current administration and called for national integration.

As a people there should be national integration. Although we live in different parts of the country we are one and should protect it and when either acting or speaking we should have national integration in mind. The Hausa-Fulani should not see those in the South or East as enemies and those in the East or South should also not see those in the North as enemies. So there should be fairness among Nigerians and we should forget about our backgrounds in relating with others.

The security expert said that the issue of nomadic cattle rearing causes security crisis in the country and said it should be addressed. He also said the President should convene a national convention to discuss the differences existing in the country and address discordant tunes and issues of marginalization.

The National Assembly should play key roles in unifying the country and act where they must to save any imminent situation. They should not be a rubber stamp to the executive and act through legislation to address issues confronting the country. It is clear they are the voice of the people.

 

*** James Febebebo wrote from Port Harcourt. jamespfebebebo@gmail.com