I have wondered what tonic can be applied to the ailing Nigeria society being strangled to death by greed, criminality and government corruption and have come up with the same answer. Change the leadership and allow people with different mind-set and ready to see the world differently to take over.
Nigerians must join hands together and retire the aged, corrupt but not tired Obasanjo, Chiroma, Babangida and Iwuanyanwu generation of politicians. They have messed up enough. They inherited a greatly endowed and vibrant nation and have reduced it to shadow of its real self, a den of thieves and kidnappers, where life is short, brutish and of very little value. A country where rules and laws mean nothing and there is no equal opportunity but nepotism, ethnicism, godfatherism and criminality.
Their continued participation, relevance and appointment to positions of responsibilities in Nigeria, is an insult on the intelligence of Nigerians and demonstration of their arrogance and contempt with which the corrupt ruling class holds Nigerians. If not, why would president Jonathan, appoint a man who was indicted by the national assembly for misappropriating over 300 billion Naira, budgeted for ministry of works during Obasanjo administration to the chairmanship of Nigerian Ports Authority?
Sometimes I wonder how a person can be proud to have served in a country like Nigeria where it is difficult to point out any real development since independence. The old excellent school system inherited from the British that produced, the Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka generation is no more. What we have is the Obasanjo- Babangida, inspired cash and carry education system inspired by leaders who embezzle public fund and use it to set up private schools and universities where money, instead of ability determines who gets educated, and a health system the rich lives and the poor dies.
Nigeria is worse than it was fifty years ago and all those who have held positions of responsibility should be rightly held accountable for this mess and very ashamed of themselves. The least they can do is step aside, and let other people with different mind-set, attitude to public office and money, take over to see what they can do for Nigeria. We need to begin to understand why Nigerians elites of the Achebe, Gowon, Obasanjo, and Babangida generation got it so wrong. We need to understand why our navy, army, air force, police force and universities have been in decline in spite of the billions that have been budgeted for it over the same period and why they has produced millionaire generals and ex-politicians.
As at today, those in charge in Nigeria have the mentality that created the problems in the first place. Their ethnic and religious prejudices have become stronger as they aged and they do not possess the attitude that will enable them solve the problems they created. I suppose, the right thing would be for them to leave willingly and peacefully with whatever honour people who have failed and destroyed their country can have. When Ghana came to this point, jerry Rawlings led a revolution. When Rumania came to the point Nigeria is today, the people rose up against the excesses of their dictator.
When France had enough of their royal family’s debauchery, the people rose up against them. Recently we are watching the fire of the Tunisian uprising still burning and devastating Syria, yet it seems that sub Saharan Africa is incapable of freeing itself from oppressive, ignorant, corrupt and bad government. All the dictators and bad government in Sub Saharan Africa have resisted the wind of change. At the beginning of the Arab spring, I predicted that Gaddafi, Mubarak, Assad, Mugabe and Other sub Saharan African dictators were at risk. My prediction for the Arab countries has come true but none of the sub Saharan dictator has taken notice of the wind of change. I wonder what this says about sub Saharan Africans.
This says more about the people than the leaders. Maybe, sub Saharan Africans are just too hungry to worry about liberty, probity, rule of law, justice, democracy and good government. Perhaps, it is as some people prefer to believe that sub Saharan Africa is cursed and doomed, and it is a land where no good government can flourish because of the evolutionary state of the people. If not, how come, no single country in sub Saharan Africa is showing signs of real progress?
This is a very rich and endowed region where the barest minimum required for a civil society is regarded as an achievement. I do not support nor advocate a bloody revolution in Nigeria because I am a believer in peaceful and democratic process. However, it is very clear that Nigerians everywhere should be doing more to bring about good government in Nigeria. No one can expect another to do it.
We must all accept that it is our individual responsibility to do whatever is in our power to promote good government in Nigeria. No people can do it but Nigerians, and the sooner we reject the cloaks of ethnic and religious prejudices and join hands together to build a civil society, the sooner our problems will end. As Bob Marley sang many years ago, ‘no one but ourselves can free our minds’.
What we need is a paradigm shift and new ideology that is based on the best of democratic social and liberal ideals which is not contaminated by sectarianism and ethnic prejudices. This should be our starting point, and then, we will subject would be leaders to what I would call the Nigerian test, which is a test to ascertain how detribalised, informed, enlightened, honest and patriotic they are in a multi ethnic country like Nigeria.
Once we get leaders who are not corrupt, see themselves first and foremost as Nigerians, and not as north as northerners, easterners or westerners; Nigeria will survive. It is futile to expect criminals or ethnic champions to bring an end to crimes perpetrated by Nigerians leaders against the people or those who benefit from corruption to end graft. Murders do not do campaign for the sanctity of human lives and those who currently benefit from the Nigerian fiasco that enable then fly in private jets afford many exotic holidays abroad, build mansions in Nigeria and abroad, send their children to private schools abroad and pray for change and smile to the banks, cannot be part of the solution. They do not want a new Nigeria because they have prospered under the current corrupt, depraved and decadent system. The change must come from those who have suffered and continue to suffer from the corrupt system that sustains the high life of the corrupt elites.
I suppose, it is time for Nigerians to accept that the way we think contributes to our problems more than we have acknowledged. Many of our leaders think in religious and ethnic terms and have attitudes rooted in the worst of our traditions which has remained the same since antiquities. They do not think in terms of stewardship, probity, justice, truth, equality, tolerance and fundamental human rights and liberty.
They believe that age is everything and perpetuates ignorance and injustice through their appeal to tradition and culture. We must break this mould to survive as a country and people. The dinosaurs became extinct because they could not adapt. They loved their traditions and culture so much that they could not survive in a changed world, and I see same happening to sub Saharan Africa, if we do not review our traditions and culture.
We have to modernise our traditional institutions and bring them to the 21st century. What is the use of a tradition and culture that persists in explaining the world in metaphysical terms, subjugates women, and perpetuates inequality, autocracy and corruption in the face of the advances in science that has explained what many African still believe is caused by evil spirits or God? How can we survive in the 21st century with tenth century beliefs, attitudes and world view?
Many Africans are simply believers. People who have accepted the dogmas of a particular religion as truth and devote their lives to accenting to the doctrines as truth, and ready to justify the death of those who do not share their view of truth. Religion and traditions have made bigots out of us all. When an African see another African the first thing he or she wants to know is where do you come from and then the next question is to find out what religion or church one belongs to. Woe betides you, if you belong to the wrong ethnic group, church or religion.
We have ignored the values which built western democracies and enable its citizens to be innovative and creative. It is not by accident that many of world inventors are from the west. It is not by accident that the Silicon Valley is in the US. It is the way they think, the values they hold dear and that guide their lives and the standard they uphold that have enable them to have the many breakthroughs they have had, and any nation that applies the same principle will be successful.
We cannot develop when our leaders continues to defend a system where 80% of recurrent expenditure is spent on the cost of government, in criminal remunerations to politicians and corruption, when the maximum a country can spend in governance an remain viable is about 35% of its recurrent expenditure. My plea is to all educated Nigerians in Nigeria, and in diaspora is to come together wherever they are as Nigerians and form an organisation to work for good government in Nigeria.
However we decide to organise themselves, let us have one aim of enthroning good government, civil values, liberty and the rule of law in Nigeria. Unless we embrace civil society, due process, accountability and probity in public life, Nigeria has no future. The recent events and the utterances of the players in the evolving Nigerian night mare have too many similarities to the last days of Yugoslavia. When I think of the evils of Srebrenica and the atrocities the Serbs committed, I think of Boko Haram and the Fulani herdsmen and the evil and terror they are unleashing on Nigerians.
Today in Nigeria, the average Fulani man has an AK 47 and is well trained in weapon usage. Boko Haram has training camps and is preparing for war, yet the Nigerian government has refused to prepare the people for what is coming and when their members are arrested, someone within the government enable them to escape justice because of ethnic and religious ties. I do not want to panic the people, but the fact is that when an unarmed people have enemies who are armed, they have no future.
A gun, and guns alone, has determined world history and in the end, no matter what kind of god a people believe in, history tells us that those who have guns always rule those who do not. Even Jesus Christ learnt that prophets who do not bear arms come to ruin.
For the sake of the future of Nigeria, Nigerians should arm for peace. No man ever gains his freedom while negotiating unarmed. Every sensible person in Nigeria should begin to think about how to arm and defend himself and family, from Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen who are desperate to cease large part of Nigeria as grazing grounds for their cattle, kidnappers and armed robbers.
The bad guys already have guns. The only way to deter them is by giving guns to good people. Nigerians should not buy the argument that good people having guns makes the country more violent. This is not true. The country is already very violent because bad people have guns, and giving guns to good people will only enable then to use it for good. Nigeria is at war. Men with understanding of those perpetrating the problems are meeting their deaths in suspicious circumstances.
The governor of Kaduna state and ex-security adviser to the president died in a helicopter crash. What both high ranking officials share in common is that they were Christians who have occupied and occupying positions in Nigeria which no Christian have occupied in the past. Such position gave them insight into the Nigerian problems which is a threat to those who wants to perpetrate the status quo. President Goodluck Jonathan must be regretting the day he relieved Azazi of his post. Time will tell if he did the right thing. Maybe as a civilian, he does not understand what loyalty means to soldiers and people whom religion means everything.
Nigeria should wake up. We are in a difficult time. Every Nigerian should start preparing for a long struggle. We will have to fight for our freedom and like in all wars, many will pay the ultimate price. This war has claimed thousands of Nigerians particularly Igbos and Christians in the north, and for some times now, planes have been falling off the skies of Nigeria and villages burnt down and sacked.
The war has started and there is no going back. It is war waged by the forces of intolerance, prejudice greed and injustice and corruption and those who refuse to fight will be killed or become salves. We can at least start by changing the leadership to people who are sensitive to the suffering of the people and have the honesty and integrity to do what is right.
E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.