SIR: In one of the bargaining tables for Nigeria’s Independence, Zik famously implored Sardauna: ‘Let us forget our differences.’ To that the enigmatic northern leader responded, ‘No, let us understand our differences. I am a Muslim and northerner. You are a Christian and easterner. By understanding our differences, we can build unity in our country.’
Sixty years to the above conversation, Nigeria is still as divided as it was when the flag independence was achieved on October 1, 1960. Just as Zik, Awo and Sardauna engaged on futile negotiations on the best and generally agreed image to which to remold the independent Nigeria, today political leaders are yet to resolve the puzzle of “who gets what when and how.”
Zik’s observation that Nigeria achieved its independence on a platter of gold was not an indication that the process was all bed of roses for the nationalists but a comparative analysis to what was obtainable from other African countries say, Congo, Algeria, Kenya, etc. where guerrilla warfare were resorted to.
Like what happened in other newly independent African States, the NPC-NCNC Coalition Government continued the colonial political system. This culture among the first indigenous African political leaders to follow the footsteps of their former colonial masters was aptly captured by Prof Daron Acemoglu, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Prof James A. Robinson, of University of Chicago, in their 15years intellectual inquiry on “Why Nations Fail.”
“It is not only that many of the post-independence leaders of Africa moved into the same residence, made use of the same patronage networks and, employed the same ways of manipulating markets and extracting resources as had the colonial regimes and the emperor they replaced; but they also made things worse.”
The ethno-religious colouration of political decisions bloated Nigeria’s chances of being distinguished in the comity of nations. Meritocracy paved way for mediocrity and nepotism. Therefore, the nation’s diversity that ought to be transformed to strength became an albatross on the neck of its national development.
The incursion by the men in Khaki to save the situation finally brought Nigeria to its knees and thus the appellation “the sleeping giant.” From 1966-1979, 1983-1993, and 1993-1999 that military was in charge of the administration of this country, they made drastic decrees that deterred national development as well as tilted the North against the South.
Presumably, Nigeria is today poised on threshold of monumental historical contradictions. Since the return to the civilian rule in 1999, the country is still gasping for leadership. Leadership that that will proffer lasting solutions to the perennial crisis of insecurity of lives and properties, ethno-religious intolerance, vicious circle of poverty, power tussle, and farmers-headers conflict.
At 60, Nigeria is faced with the eternal question once posed by Chernychevsky and taken up by Lenin in old Russia: “What is to be done?”
In 2015, the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration inaugurated the National Conference to diagnose and proffer solution to many of the countries socio-political problems but the incumbent administration on the assumption of office classified it as “jobs for the boys.”
Truth be told: delegates to the National Conference made sound and pragmatic recommendations on the best way to steer the ship of Nigerian state. If extant administration is not comfortable with some recommendations of the conference, it is pertinent to call for the review of those parts of the report. For it makes no sense throwing away the child and the bathwater.
That said, at 60, all hope is not lost. Nigeria can still be stood on its feet if we start today to put square pegs in square holes.
Asikason Jonathan, Enugwu-Ukwu, Anambra State.
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