Nigeria: Cleaning The Augean Stable -By Charles Anyiam

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Charles Anyiam

Charles Anyiam

 

For those of us who are still busy questioning President Muhammadu Buhari’s pace at “assembling his team” and coming up with his government’s policy, my response is simply this: Ladies and gentlemen! The horse has since left the barn. And it’s time to clean the augean stable.

Since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1960, Nigeria’s story has been a cavalcade of recurring political, social and
economic tragicomedy with the high point being the civil war (1967-70). After the founding fathers led by Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo literally wrestled power from the colonialists, hopes for the future were expectedly high. All sections of the new nation state held such promise that as far back as the early years of her existence, major communicators in America were already writing and talking of Nigeria in glowing terms.

It did not take long however for the story to go dour – the coups, the extra-judicial and ethnically-motivated murders, urban
dysfunction, tribalism, nepotism and of course, the 800-pound gorilla in the room – corruption – and the rest has become part of what the Nigerian historical fabric is woven.

In all areas of human endeavour, individual Nigerians excelled and a preponderance of her early intelligentsia walked the portals of Cambridge, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard and Yale and such Ivy league institutions of higher learning, matching wits with their European and American contemporaries, even post-independence. In the fields of the arts, medicine and the sciences, law and jurisprudence, engineering and economics, Nigerian names were scrolled in neon lights around the world. The horizon was clear for this African giant. Our neighbours even ate from the palms of our hands. And it was mouthed all around that an African circuit anywhere in the world was incomplete without the input of the Nigerian.

However, my belief in the amalgam that is Nigeria remains unshaken with the inner understanding that though it is a construct of convenience for those who cobbled it together, there is still a divine providence to its existence.

In the last 25 years however, all Nigeria has lived off has been her glory from the past. As a result, today, our neighbours fear us but have not much respect for us. Their fear of us is on the strength of our sheer numbers and our stupendous wealth which we all at least agree has been badly managed.

In all of this, beleaguered Nigerians have been forced to endure an orgy of coups and a macabre of rudderless leadership from civilian to the military. And from military to civilian. The result has been all-round ugly. National morale plummeted. A culture of cabalism and cultism became the order of the day – from the cradle to the grave. Brain drain followed suit and Nigeria, even with her genetic disposition for migration experienced the greatest dispersal of her citizens to all parts of the world. To worsen matters, it seemed as if no one cared. Across her borders, Nigerians were now infamously renowned for their nuisance factor. The Green passport also represented a curse. Even those of us with the blue American passport had to be routinely and embarrassingly pulled over at airports around the world simply for having one’s country of birth as “Nigeria”.

On my part, I have always told those who cared to listen that the floundering ship of the Nigerian nation will one day run aground if nothing is done drastically or otherwise. I have always argued that this charade will not last forever. However, my belief in the amalgam that is Nigeria remains unshaken with the inner understanding that though it is a construct of convenience for those who cobbled it together, there is still a divine providence to its existence. And I anchor my argument with my friends on the simple logic that Nigeria has been singularly unfortunate to have been bequeathed with mediocre and the most unimaginative group of leaders since her birth; those whose foibles were compounded by primordial and base human instincts.

As an incurable optimist in the Nigerian project, I believe that Nigeria could be back at the cusp of greatness. Projections from dependable international sources about her potentials and future are already in the public domain. Even her competitors believe it and know it. The Nigerian people everywhere in the world have on their part demonstrated that given the platform, the rest of mankind have nothing on us.

I believe that the season to re-write our laws to make corruption a treasonable offence has come upon us, as once prescribed by Tanzania’s founding father and one of Africa’s most iconic leaders, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere to his countrymen.

Our challenge though as a nation has always been that of the dearth of quality and visionary leadership. I believe that the quality of follower-ship is always determined by the quality of leadership, be it at the family, village, community or national level.

On the task currently at hand, I believe that the spate of sacks of officials and the dismantling of existing structures as they now stand in the country are perfectly in order. Some insane and retarded posturing from the usual culprits suggests that the exercise by the new administration in Abuja is lop-sided and parochial. And the ethnic card is already shamelessly being flashed by those who know too well that in the last few years, Nigeria has been hemorrhaging from all sides of her anatomy while some still have the audacity to whine about one being Igbo or Yoruba, Ijaw, Efik or Hausa. Who cares?

I have always told anyone who cares to listen that Nigeria’s problem as a nation has attained crisis proportion and anything, I mean anything, to resuscitate her should be administered as a panacea for her malaise. I am in no way advocating breaking of the law to accomplish this goal on the part of the executive. Far from it. All I am saying is that all the realms of governance – legislative, judiciary and the executive, and of course the fourth estate, the media must join forces, work in tandem, and with unreserved nationalistic fervour to rescue the tottering ship of state from going down. These are an unusual times, my friends.

I believe that the season to re-write our laws to make corruption a treasonable offence has come upon us, as once prescribed by Tanzania’s founding father and one of Africa’s most iconic leaders, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere to his countrymen. All the ensuing garbage about federal character must be re-examined in the light of where we are today as a nation, and where we want to be in the foreseeable future. I counsel that the era of meritocracy has to be ushered into our national psyche by the new leadership in Abuja. Let’s de-emphasise all other emotive and bland criteria for appointments to public service. And it’s time to have the best man or woman for the job. Period.

This is also definitely not the time to play politics as usual, be it ethnic, religious, or even gender politics. Our nation is in trouble. Can’t we get it? And as far as the campaign against corruption goes, I am not ignorant of the fact that there are those among us who will go up even to the gates of hell to derail this momentum that is gathering steam. Some of them we know have sought and gained access to the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly to wage another round of war against the Nigerian people. I can assure them that this time around they are doomed to failure.

Most importantly, I believe that those of us in the media have an onerous responsibility to take the side of the people. The role which the media played during the dark days of Sani Abacha must be replicated in the fight to rid our nation of corruption. I am also aware that filthy lucre has found its way into the confines of our beloved profession, with cursed money known to have been used to float and sustain a number of media houses. We all know this for a fact. In that regard, let me warn media practitioners and especially media house owners that the Nigerian public is not as gullible as you may think. All they have always lacked has been purposeful leadership. They know the compromised among us. And soon, they will know not to take some us seriously thus consigning some of the platforms to where they rightly belong – the garbage dump.

For those of us who are still busy questioning President Muhammadu Buhari’s pace at “assembling his team” and coming up with his government’s policy, my response is simply this: Ladies and gentlemen! The horse has since left the barn. And it’s time to clean the augean stable.

I rest my case.

Charles Anyiam is Editor-In-Chief, The African Times-USA.

 

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