Opinion: Birthday Reflection: Why Nigeria is Largely Backward, By John Abhuere

… Killing our institutions softly through ‘collective ruination’

It is early morning on 21 April – my birthday. And I am happily up and now in the living room for prayers with my family. The Radio DJ is already at work, playing some beautiful tuns. And he is doing it as though contracted to play specially for me.
“Happy birthday, happy birthday daddy’ every one that comes to the room says to me. The volume of the music has been lowered for prayers- the business of the morning. Now praying session is over and I am listening to some sweet music-good oldies to my delight. Though unplanned, I am truly enjoying the music. It has been a long time ago that I listened to such programme .The DJ is now playing a song- ‘killing me softly ‘ which stuck and simmered my mind to many directions.
Some sad happenings in the polity that threaten our institutions come to mind. Of immediate concern are the slow erosion of some great values of our time- democracy, rule of law, ethical conduct in public office, honesty, shame, decency etc.
Today there is much disregard for morality, denigration of our institutions, corruption, discovery of orphaned money in the market, farms, cemeteries, airport, misuse of institutions especially security agencies, ritual killings, growing ethnic animosities, mistrust and above all the unwillingness of the elite to make necessary sacrifice in the national interest.
Deep down, I am seeing the reason Nigeria is failing and has remained on the list of poor and backward nations for long- despite her abundance of materials of wealth. It has to do wanton waste and misuse of resources for selfish reasons by the elite. The music continues: ‘Killing me softly with a song, telling my whole life’. And it strikes a new chord with me and a larger meaning and application !
‘Wait a minute’, I told myself: ‘this song is truly better suited for Nigeria – a country whose institutions were being softly but steadily killed by her elite with harsh words and unpatriotic actions.
Is the DJ therefore mocking the country and her elite for past failures? In a word the country’s institutions are dying as a result of the uncaring and unfeeling attitude of the Nigerian elite to them. I recall how very far away we are still from achieving the goals of independence including flourishing representative democracy, modernization of society, development, justice and fair- play for all because of the collective failure of the elite – their poor leadership, including their utter disrespect for the rule of law. It is certainly not the right way to go.
Right now we are doing the wrong thinking, emphasising the wrong things and looking at the wrong direction with unnecessary focus on individuals rather than on institutions. We are demanding for the wrong thing such as restructuring instead of good governance based on principles of justice and fairness for all. Is it poor structure that accounts for wrong recruitments and lopsided appointments in a country that has a Federal Character Commission?
There is what Tatalo of the Nation on Sunday calls ‘collective ruination’ of our institutions going on in the country.
There are human errors and unpardonable elite’s failure we have failed to correct or punished over time due to tribalism, nepotism and religious reasons. Yet we daily cry for great institutions and rapid development of the country but without being prepared to do the needful. But how can there be national greatness in a lazy and putrefying atmosphere of moral decay, profanity, wanton disrespect for rule of law and crippling inabilities to confront identified problems such as corruption, low productivity, etc.
The music is still on- ‘killing me softly with a song’… Now, I am thinking slowly trying to identify which of the national institutions that had not been polluted and denigrated by the Nigerian elite largely for selfish reasons. I can hardly find an exception.
There are probes of corruption but none is held responsible or punished for it.The National Assembly, Judiciary, Executive institutions such as the Police, the SSS, etc have been assailed to a point of ineffectiveness. In other words, from the whole to the parts, it has been a sad story of ignominy, levity and unpatriotic acts in the more recent history of our country. There has been little or no iota of patriotism, nationalism or respect for the rule of law in the air. We appear to be good only in doing and inventing bad things.
Truly, it has been so for ages as I recall how some time ago an Inspector General of Police in the late 1970s- early 1980s turned the force almost to a security wing of the ruling party – the NPN by terrorizing the opposition parties of that time.
Another Police chief in utter disregard for protocols barricaded the National Assembly ostensibly to prevent the then Speaker of the House of Representatives from entering his chambers. Also in my recollection is how a military commander used his troops wrongly during a recent gubernatorial election in some parts of the old western region. There is no pride in and respect for what we are even paid to do any longer.
Now I am remembering without much surprise that top – most manager of a federal agency who has refused to wear the prescribed uniform of his organisation even when urged by the National Assembly to do so.
What’s in a dress some had asked, but as Mark Twain once quipped: go to the market naked and you know the meaning and essence of wearing clothes appropriately. Yes it may not be be legal to wear uniforms as some have argued but the boss of an organisation wearing the prescribed uniform could have immense motivational value on staff. It could promote a collective sense of ownership, common identity and pride. What a pity? It is a big shame that we are no longer even proud of the work we have accepted to do even as we pray to have great institutions in the country.
As many more annoying obscens, misuse of institutions to the detriment of our collective development were streaming down for reckoning, I am truly down- cast and low in morale. Elsewhere leaders dream of institutions and mobilise the elite to build and strengthen them. So why is Nigeria so different – given as it were to primordial values such as ethnicity, religion? Why has it been so difficult to make a positive change from the extremely bad situation to good position since independence?
The sad and frightening reality is that the situation is even degenerating . Otherwise how do you explain the ingenuity or madness of hiding monies in the cemetery, farms and such odd places?
The elite have desecrated our values and assailed institutions at will. The institutions are under their unrelenting assault and cherished social and cultural values are under serious threat of erosion. It is now strange to talk of ethics in public life of Nigeria. Truly the willful acts of the Nigerian elite who are most unwilling to make the littlest sacrifice in the national interest but are engaged in the denigration of all things sacred in the country have reached alarming proportions and unbearable level.
Once more I began to recount for review some recent happenings which suggest the steady killing of our institutions by the Nigerian elite with both thoughtless words and hurtful actions.
Decency has disappeared and in its place shameless greed for power and wealth .At the general level, I see an elite’s attempt to destroy the economy by promoting corruption in high places and frustrating some genuine effort to check it.
Take for instance the discovery of ‘orphaned money’ here and there in a season of recession and at a time we are seeking for foreign loans to bail out the economy.
Why should a few people have so much to hide while the majority citizens wallow in abject poverty and unemployment? Why would the economy of a country not decline when its elite warehouse large sum of money in houses, farms, cemeteries, airport rather than the banks for purposeful investment to create more wealth and employment?
But how can we check corruption without punishing the corrupt? And who will bell the cat? These are moral questions especially for our lawyers who seem very determined to defend even Mr Evil for the right fees no matter how filthy.
I used to think that we all have moral conscience and cherish such values as justice, fair-play, honestly, sound ethical conducts in public life, good governance, modernisation, etc.
I used to believe that we all desired to promote and sustain them for the rapid development and unity of the country until recently when the elite began to seriously undermine them. I now know better.
The Nigerian elite really do not care about them any longer. Greed for insane wealth and power is on the prowl. For me there is much shenanigans in the air by the Nigerian elite. It has not been helpful. As a people, I believe we must think beyond now into the far future. And in doing this, we must think right and look in the right direction.
There is knock on the door and I know who the person could be- my son. So let’s do the ‘first thing first’. Today is also my son-Ojie’s birthday and I wish him the best in life. Fifty years are between son and father but we are great pals. Shared values which hold family strong and tight have held us together ever since his birth fifteen years ago including the joint celebration of birth day. He has been busy down-stairs preparing things for his day.
He is now around around my study to invite me to join in cutting his I beg your pardon, our birthday cake. It’s been so for the past fifteen years. He is the king! And her sister Ivie is the queen- the golden girl of the family. It is his day and I know I cannot say no. May God bless him always.
I also wish to appreciate the bold and patriotic step taken by Mr President in suspending the SGF and DG NIA over some embarrassing reports of alleged misconduct. The President’s action has largely restored much faith and confidence in our anti- corruption crusade and drive for positive change in Nigeria. For sure, the war against corruption cannot be won unless driven from a position of moral high horse. We must strengthen our moral armament as a basis of cleansing society of filth and building and strengthening our institutions.
Now, I am back to my study. Though the radio has stopped its music presentation, yet the song ‘Killing me softly’ wouldn’t just leave my mind. I am troubled by the many sins of the Nigerian elite against our society and her institutions with disastrous effect on the economy.
Right now things appear to be getting out of gear into the danger zones. The country is sliding steadily to the edge of the cliff as a result of institutional failures caused by the the Nigerian elite. No one seems to care about the collective good. It is only self-interest that counts. But I worry the more because as they say in Ishan, ‘the little child doesn’t know when sleep is taking away food from him’.
From all indications, we are making a childish play of our collective destiny especially through disregard for morality by our elite.
In frustration , I decided to do this piece for public consumption- call it ‘birthday reflections of an angry senior citizen on why Nigeria is backwards.
However, for now I am signing off to play a game of tennis planned earlier for the day to pave way for some drinks and small chops later to mark our birthday. When next we meet I shall be elaborating on the many sins of the Nigerian elites against our own country . Their misdeeds have been responsible for the failure and backwardness of our country so far.

Dr. Abhuere FNIM, is the founder of Centre for Child Care and Youth Development, Abuja .

Author: News Editor

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