Which way, Nigeria?

by Linda Diokpa

Nigeria marked her 50th anniversary as an independent country on October 1, 2010. The Jubilee celebration was however overshadowed by growing distrust and dread concerning the future in several quarters. This fear is fuelled by the malevolent nature of the on-going campaigns for the 2011 general elections.

At a time when we expect serious self examination on the part of the political elite about the failings and lost opportunities of the last 50 years, all we see are embellished displays of political campaigns, which do nothing but heat up the polity and push our plural society towards its delicate fault-lines.

While we have no problem with whatever ethnic or zonal colouration politicians come up with in the process of electing the next president and governors, the bottom line remains that it would be much more productive if the aspirants also begin to place more importance on the welfare of the people with a view to making the right policy choices.

With the landscape covered with broken dreams and wasted opportunities, what Nigeria today needs at practically all levels of governance are not those who can entertain the people with series of her failings since we can all see these. What the nation needs today are honest leaders who will accept responsibility for our past; men and women (both at home and in the Diaspora) who will stand up and be counted in the process of her regeneration, change agents who will reposition Nigeria for the future. Fortunately, the nation has an abundance of such men and women in all fields of human endeavour.

Nigeria is one hundred and fifty million citizens strong, yet, we seem to think that we are powerless and we endure this assumed powerlessness in the face of daily assaults by those at the helms of our nation’s affairs. We can actually confront poor leadership by organizing citizens’ power and expressing the citizens’ desire for quality leadership. The concern which we have about our citizenship these days is that too many Nigerians appear to have surrendered Nigeria to poor, visionless and uncommitted leaders. Good citizenship requires more.

Nigeria is like a corporation and our leaders should be seen as managing directors and board members. Nigeria is a corporation into which we are heavily invested. Nigeria should be seen as a corporation, which currently has poor returns on our investments or no dividends at all. The right thing for any smart investor or shareholder to do, in order to earn dividends, profits and return on investment, is to eject the errant managing director and board members. Instead, we engage in advertising the corporation to which we are heavily invested, as the worst company in the world. We publicly denounce Nigeria, as a corporation, which makes the worst products in the world, and then, we all wonder why no one would buy our products and same are not attracting customers interested in our products hence a lack of profits, dividends and return on investment.

Public shaming, scolding and ridiculing have, over the years, changed nothing. What do we then do? A change of tact! We should kick start the creation of progress, development and greatness for Nigeria by becoming good citizens who are actively involved in participatory democracy? We should be unwilling to rig elections, unwilling to allow smugglers of guns and dangerous goods into Nigeria, unwilling to be bribed and compromised. We should all become decent citizens, our brothers and sisters’ keeper, and reject injustice, oppression by whomever and at wherever in Nigeria! Our loyalty should henceforth be to the Nigerian nation and not to our ethnicity, state, or region. We should reject aberrant and criminal behaviors, even if committed by a member of our family or our friend. May we, on every individual level, reject and refuse election rigging, bribery, and corruption. In effect, the change we want in Nigeria begins with our individual selves. Our change at individual level will lead to Nigeria’s development, progress and greatness.

The 50th anniversary of our independence from Britain therefore offers our leaders (current and aspiring) a valuable moment to accept responsibility for the past and seize the opportunities of the future. They must begin to fashion out the required strategies necessary to overcome the human and institutional barriers that for decades have held the country back, with a focus on accountability and good governance. They must also become more serious about putting in place social and physical infrastructure that will deepen and unleash the capacities of Nigeria’s next generation. All these will mean charting a new course and embracing a new form of politics.

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