by Osyman Dias
The UK is not a developed nation because the people are more intelligent or superior to us; they are developed because even their worst leaders have been better than our best.
On Sunday June 3, there was a suicide bomb attack on a church in Yelwa, Bauchi State Nigeria, and a Dana Air plane crashed into a residential area in Lagos on its way from Abuja. In London there was a boat procession along the River Thames to celebrate the Queens 60 years on the throne.
In Nigeria the fire engines ran out of water with which to fight the fire, in London people braved the rain to cheer their monarch. Other than the fact that these two events occurred on the same day there would seem to be no link but to my depressed mind the links are too obvious to be ignored.
What we saw in the United Kingdom (UK) was the perfection and perpetuation of the current national story that the UK is a tolerant, liberal democracy that despite its diversity is united around a constitutional monarch. In order to ensure this was the prevailing story the UK government put in place the Jubilee celebrations. To make sure people could get to see it transport plans were in place, huge screens put up, sponsors arranged.
What was in fact a massive, logistical and security operation passed off without people noticing a discernible change in their lives. Roads were blocked not to allow dignitaries to pass but to allow ordinary people view the spectacle.
What we saw in Nigeria was the continuation of our national tragedy, crisis, to be followed by regrets, condolences, enquiries, committees, and inaction.
In the UK when you hear sirens you know the authorities in the guise of the ambulance, police or fire service on their way to help someone and you get out of the way to help a common citizen, in Nigeria when you hear sirens you know the government is on its way to help itself and you get out of the way so the big man (or his wife, children, mistress or houseboy) can pass unimpeded.
The UK ensures that it holds these periodic celebrations to tie people into the psyche of the country. It uses its history as a tool by which to define its present. In Nigeria we ignore our history; we ignore the lessons of previous crashes, of previous periods of tribal, ethnic and religious violence and allow standards to slip, perpetrators to go scot free, and then award them chieftaincy titles for good measure.
The UK is not a developed nation because the people are more intelligent or superior to us; they are developed because even their worst leaders have been better than our best. But this did not come for free, this came by people constantly holding their leaders to account, first via the Magna Carta signed by King John to the Acts of Parliament which bind the powers of the Monarch. These were not accepted or derived easily, England fought a civil war to ensure the supremacy of an elected parliament over a monarch, yet hundreds of years later people line the streets in the rain to cheer their monarch. The Nigerian civil war was precipitated by a coup to oust corrupt politicians, followed by a coup to separate one side of the country form the other, rapidly followed by a civil war prosecuted by that self-same side to keep the country together.
In the UK there are a plethora of books covering both sides of the civil war, both sides of the polity, and the history of the constituent nations. In Nigeria, other than the memoirs of Obasanjo, the civil war is recorded almost completely from the perspective of the losing side, with none of the lessons, achievements or failures of that period used as lessons for the future.
The key lesson of all of this to those of us in Nigeria is that power all over the world corrupts and can only be usefully harnessed when the powerful are strenuously held to account and the history of those struggles are recorded and analysed and used to remind the powerful of their vulnerability.
In the aftermath of the air crash the Nigerian aviation minister announced that Nigeria’s airspace is the safest in the world. Yet the aircraft that crashed was 22 years old and Nigerian law clearly states no Nigerian airline can fly an aircraft more than 20 years old. Who certified this aircraft? Will they be held to account? Will they be sacked and prosecuted?
It was stated that numerous complaints had been registered about this aircraft, who logged them and what action was taken. Will the person responsible be prosecuted?
In the UK a government minister’s aide was accused of profiting from his position and the minister resigned. There was no question of the minister profiting in any way from the activity yet he left the office. In Nigeria governors get perpetual injunctions when accused of corruption.
Planes fall from the sky, churches explode, ministers get richer, and pastors get fatter.
This is Nigeria, there is no consequence, when our leaders are sick they fly abroad, when they need food they fly it in from abroad, as Abacha showed our leaders even import prostitutes.
There’s a saying in the UK, referring to people leaving in a dangerous situation – ‘Will the last person, please turn out the lights’. I was going to use this in the Nigerian context but what’s the point? The last plane to depart Abuja will be a private jet full of politicians heading for Dubai and there will be no need, the lights haven’t worked properly for 50 years.
About the author: Osyman Dias is former British Army officer with service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Born and raised in Nigeria, he is an expert in international affairs, defense, and geo politics. He lives in London and Enugu.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.