Tunde Fagbenle: Nigeria, what a total mess

by Tunde Fagbenle


The helpless and hapless President withdraws into his own world of succour in liquor, waiting and hoping for things to ride.

It ‘s getting messier and messier as we wake up each day into the news of something, somewhere by someone in someplace, done to add to the catalogue of woes and absurdities in this country. It is one tomfoolery after another by those in government or leadership in the country as the responsibility of the office or position they are in is wasted on them.

First we have a president trapped in his own other-self: one that has office and greatness thrust upon him as a passive party and drowning in the cacophony of voices by unconscionable power manipulators around him. He cuts the image of someone torn between two loyalties: one to his good self (simple, modest, gentle and guileless),and the other to his primordial constituency. With the latter, he is emboldened and empowered as he acquires the guile needed for engagement with the increasingly hostile world. In that frame, loyalty to the country does not feature, and if it does it is only in a transposed context,one mistaken for the other.

In a national space where enduring and strong institutions do not exist, and are not encouraged, the stage is set for anything goes; it’s an open-sesame for looting spree and unbridled corruption. Minister after minister is exposed for recklessness and impunity in the abuse of office and mismanagement of resources. Pretty mesdames sway hips embroiled in scandals of armoured state-of-the-art automobiles purchased at mind-boggling and improbable sums, or of the flow of oil into thin air; oil that would a million lives have nourished. The helpless and hapless president withdraws into his own world of succour in liquor, waiting and hoping for things to ride.

Then one we know but needless to mention, whose past deeds (and non-deeds) should’ve made him bury his head in shame, to be heard from only at the risk of being stoned to death, jumps up, a troll, playing his customary Mr. All-knowing and Mr. Innocent rolled in one self. He finds his voice and cocks his head as he unleashes an 18-page unsolicited “save-the-nation” missive, full of vitriol but typically totally self-serving. Nonetheless, even in the evil he portends, unintended good doth reside, for the alarm of an evil does not get ignored simply because it is raised by an evildoer!

Then into the morass jumps another, a madam sired by the former, one bearinghis looks but possessed of far higher learning. When I first learnt of her 12 or more-page missive to her cranky father, I was dismissive of it. “O, well, what else would you expect of a dysfunctional family,” I had said. For was this not the same family from which the son had charged the father, even as a sitting president, of indecent affair with the daughter-in-law, adduced in court towards a plea for dissolution of his marriage? But to the woman’s missive I lent my heart, for her cry was pitiful – a merciless disrobing and disavowal of a father, one even she had once eloquently pleaded for the country to make president.

Then a running theatre ensues; theatre of the absurd. Someone said the madam’s letter was a forgery, another shot up to declaim the disclaimer. Yes, it was written by her; no it wasn’t; yes, it was; no, it wasn’t…and the denials and counter denials are still running!

The mess of an equally dysfunctional country continues with large decampment (I-don-port o!) from one party to another ahead of the 2015 general elections and warlords and opposing warlords swearing to set the whole country ablaze rather than lose the oil (honey)-pot. Insecurity – from mindless kidnappings through heartless armed robberies to senseless terrorism of Boko Haramists – and poverty rule the land.

There are no groups of elders in the land, elders who can be counted upon as repositories and guardians of the best values and development of the country. None. What a big mess!

The Youth and the future of Nigeria (2)

This is the promised continuation of the excerpts of my public lecture on “The Youth & the future of Nigeria – what role for the media” given on the occasion of the Lagos Television anniversary on 18/11/13. The first part ran in this column of 01/12/13. Enjoy:

The youth in history

History is replete with the dynamic role the youth of a country, including Nigeria, have played in changing the political or economic trajectory of their countries. Conscious that their future is at stake, the youth have many a time taken the bull of retrogression and negativity in their countries by the horns, and picked up the gauntlet to challenge and upset the status quo; asserted their own authority, and often at great sacrifices to their lives changed the course of history of their countries through revolutionary interventions.

We are reminded of the 28-year old Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, who doused himself in gasoline and burnt himself to death in protest of the Tunisian regime; and how that set the Arab world aflame in what has become known as the Arab Spring with the overthrow of the governments in Egypt and Tunisia and raging fire all across Arab land from Syria to Yemen, and Libya.

Nearer home, the example that still resonates in the Nigerian with relish is that of Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings who at 31 staged a coup d’etat in Ghana in 1979 and went on to execute a number of top-ranking Ghanaian political leaders in what he described as a purge of Ghanaian society of all the corruption and social injustices bedeviling the country. Many Nigerians still wonder if a Rawlings treatment may not be the answer to their own country’s stagnation if not retrogression.

Nigeria has had her own fair share of military putsches, also mostly by young military officers, from the first coup of 1966 by the “five majors” all in their early 30s, to subsequent ones that brought in Gowon, aged 31, Murtala Mohammed’s, Buhari’s, and Babangida’s who were all in the 40 age bracket. Military uprising and coup d’etat is, however, a different kettle of fish, an undesirable and anachronistic one, from a people’s revolt, the revolution of the youth ready to troop unto the streets and ready to sacrifice their lives rather than continue with a life with no direction and no hope.

The past tells a story of the Nigerian youth, educated, enlightened, motivated, conscious of their historic responsibilities and bringing about changes in the society through their valiant protests. These were periods when the student unions had internal cohesion, good organisation and networking.

1971 Student Protest at the University of Ibadan marked the first time a student would be killed in the course of student protests. Kunle Adepeju, a second-year agric student of the University of Ibadan was killed during students protest over feeding arrangements.

However, since the late 1980s, the collective identity of Nigerian students has changed dramatically. The effectiveness of student mobilisation and collective identity has waned. The students as a body have since become a less formidable force. What explains this radical change? The repressive actions of the various regimes since independence took a toll on the student movements since the 1990s. (Bolaji Akintola: The Perils of Protest: State Repression & Student Mobilisation in Nigeria).

(Note: To be continued)



This post is published with permission from Tunde Fagbenle


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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