‘Insanity is knowing that what you are doing is completely idiotic, but still, somehow, you just cannot stop it’ – Elizabeth Wurtzel
We were a people who were. We showed such promise it scared our enemies and arrested the attention of those who understood our potential. We had leaders who seemed to know where they were and where they wanted to be. We were strong and dominant, we dominated every sphere we showed any interest in.
We felt challenged and were driven by the singular purpose of surviving and winning. The support of the people blew strong, constant wind into the sail of leadership from every nook and cranny of the country. They knew they could overcome anything, even the white colonialists. And they won.
That support is bought in the flesh market these days at the price of a loaf of bread and casually spilled pints of blood.
The leaders were driven by the need to prove to both ‘oyinbo’ and their own people that it was not a mistake to aspire to self-determination; they wanted to succeed at leading their own people, make something of their inheritance and attain greatness to spite misanthropic sneers of their former ‘ogas’, the Oyinboman’. There was something to strive for, a need to make the white man eat his own cynicism. A common enemy.
Now, in our fellow countrymen, enemies are common everywhere in the country. No common enemy anymore and we eat ourselves up like the snake that consumes itself after giving birth.
Those men and women of yore were monster administrators. The eloquent Ahmadu Bello leading with power and vision from the North, a firm hold, rooted in the religion and traditions of his people, making the entire North impenetrable for any other political force, creating the famed ‘monolithic North’. There was the man with the oratory power to charm birds out of their nests and win the staunchest opposition to his side of an argument, educated, erudite and full of charm, the great Dr. Nnamdi ‘Zik of Africa’ Azikiwe. The incomparable Obafemi Jeremiah ‘Awo’ Awolowo, philosopher Premier of the Western Region, political engineer, visionary developer, articulate economist and principled match for any that the civilization of his time could throw up. There were the Dr Michael Oparas, Margaret Ekpos, Alvan Ikokus, colorful Adelabu ‘Penkelemeesi’, S.L.A. Akintola, brilliant lawyer Bode Thomas and a coterie of others too many to mention here.
They were not just names and words. They were people who carried their regions and peoples from ideas and visions to great advancement in physical and policy development. At the head, immediately after the colonialists, was the gentleman Tafawa Balewa. They created many firsts in law, medicine, administration and other fields.
Now, we have become first capital of poverty and corruption. We are number three on the terror index.
We met the promise we showed at our first tottering steps in nationhood under the guidance of those men and women. Ngozi was the best in my primary school class in Ibadan and Mallam Umaru, a Northerner was nominated and won the chairmanship of the local council in Enugu and the great Zik won an election in the Western Region. That was the beauty of the country we had.
We competed fiercely and healthily, till someone reminded how different we were and showed us how frail the other citizen’s jugular could be.
Today, young people who have learned to buy the dollar at close to four hundred naira for a piece of greenback, will be shocked to know that between 1979 and 1980, the naira exchanged for about fifty-five kobo; fluctuated between N.55k and N.66k between 1972 and 1981 before it started an inexorable climb from N.72 in 1983 to N9.91k in 1992, jumped to about N17 in 1993 (Black Market – about N22) and suddenly in 2000, sold at about N86. It never came down after that till 2006 when it sold at about N128.50.
Read up on your history to know who your leaders were in those years so that when you craft your questions, you can properly direct them to those who supervised the decline of a once-great nation.
At a point in our history, textile industries were the largest employers of labor, an economic phenomenon overseen by the leaders in immediate post-independence.
You would probably also not be aware that the 1960s saw a steady growth in the textile industry with the North leading the march in that sector. Post-Civil War 1970s saw a general economic boom, borne of the oil boom years and the textile sector also reacted positively, contributing immensely to employment, manufacturing, exports and other economic indices before the Economic Recession of the mid-80s pummeled the sector mercilessly into a coma.
The Daily Trust of May 8, 2019, quoted the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele as that saying that 130 textile industries had collapsed in recent times. One hundred and thirty major manufacturing businesses that employed hundreds of thousands of Nigerians and millions of households thrown into joblessness, hunger and poverty because someone in a moment of madness got their economic formulas wrong, to then benefit of a few greedy importing leeches who brought in inferior materials and totally changed our cultural footprints.
The Nigerian National Shipping Company, NNSL, was established in 1959. Yes, we did have a national shipping line at some point in our history and by 1979, it had 24 oceangoing ships. Though a World Bank study suggested that the company did not add much to GDP, image, employment or national security, it at least gave some degree of control and competition in marine economy to the country. And has history not proven that wherever you found the World Bank, IMF and others in Africa, things always ended up going south?
By the 1990s, several of the company’s vessels were seized in different parts of the world for contract breaches and unpaid bills. And our more infamous Nigeria Airways traveled the same road to extinction. What happened to the company’s many aircraft will be talked about some day when the overseers find release.
I have carefully chosen these four national disasters not because they are the most important and urgent in our lives but for their significant proof of who we have become. We have never really had a dictator in the strictest sense of it as a national leader so one man could not have brought this cataclysm upon us single-handedly. It was a group, always a small small clique of men and women who clawed their ways to power.
Friedrich Nietzsche said, ‘Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule’.
This most profound quote in my view best describes the mentality of governance at every level which has turned us into a people with such low value for history, disregard for inheritance and total lack of national pride. We have become a beggar nation, a pariah state, besieged by ethnic wars just short of open declaration, near totally helpless in the face of overwhelming external economic, military and socio-political invasion and crippling poverty.
It was not how we started out. The young should not be allowed to think that we have always been like this. We were a great nation, a powerful influence in regional, continental, global and economic conversations. Let someone teach our young their history to make them raise their heads again in national pride and identity.
We were not always on the verge of surrendering to religious intolerance, ethnic divisions and economic decrepitude. We were a great nation.
We were brought to this pass by deliberately schemed profligacy that sought only to enrich and empower a few to the domination of the larger number, an organized agenda cloaked in the lies of ethnic superiority and marginalization but designed to feed the gaping throats of crocodiles intent only on fattening themselves. It is a self-indulgence created by an extreme fear of poverty, a psychotic and incurable slavery mentality, a hangover from the ‘oga oyinbo’ days. While the Nigerian street struggles to assert itself in a new Nigerian identity, the leadership revels in the perversion of its reprobate chains.
How else do you explain such decline of our currency? What is the expert explanation for the death of all our industries for which Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his fellow travelers in the Western Region create the massive Ogba Industrial Estate which has now been shared out among real estate thieves and land robbers? I wait for someone of honesty to tell us in simple language what happened to over one hundred and thirty textile companies, Aswani, Five Star, etc and the Cocoa processing company in Ogba. Our national airline, the shipping line, FESTAC Village, National Theater, National Stadium, the Groundnut Pyramids of Kano, the Aba and Kaduna textile companies are all gone yet some people shamelessly explain why the Central Bank and commercial banks must do more to help importation and government policies must create friendlier economic environment that only enables more imports from China, Europe and others who got financial help from us in our heydays.
There is a madness in the air and until someone shows up to tell us to our faces that we are an insane people, we may not quite understand how low we have descended and how close to the edge we truly are. Maybe being told by an outsider like Donald J Trump will anger us enough into positive action.
Apart from poor management and unclear vision, one of the main killers of the NNSL, Nigeria Airways, textile industries and others and the subsequent loss of jobs by those in the key sectors of our local and export economy, was the political elite who used it to enrich themselves.
We must agree to relate all their actions to the vandalism, political robbery, kidnapping and other crimes and compel them and their hungry defenders, perverted by poverty to take responsibility.
They must as a collective show will, if they will not make way, to remedy the country’s situation.
Incentives must be provided to those who show proven expertise and honesty in management and production in the textile value chain; Katsina State which used to be the largest producer of cotton must be brought back into mainstream economy with honest and unshackled stimulants, direct access channels that eliminate or minimize middlemen intrusions must be created to a revitalized textile sector, fashion concerns must be further encouraged through quality local productions to truly ‘buy made in Nigeria’, not by compulsion and fiat but through genuine and considerate incentives of quality, pricing and protection and the massive young population must be engaged in the manufacturing and creative textile chain.
Honesty of intent and articulate, progressive vision must drive our march out of this morass. The insanity of the indolent group must be arrested by the genuine empowerment of the true patriots.
This insane season of violence by foreigners, restive youth and frustrated others must be arrested not just by increased spending on security but by more empathy for the yearnings of those who truly desire a decent life of honest work and fair reward. The rural to urban migration must be discouraged not by enforcing any laws that make anyone feel excluded and others privileged but by turning this present system on its head, spending more on practical education and returning power to the subsistence farmers who have lost all their land to ‘mechanized farming’ that lays golden eggs only for the rich through devious short cuts. The young who used to share their time between getting education and helping on their family farms must be made to feel the dignity of their labor and reward of their hard work. Abuja must formulate policy delivery systems that short-circuit and severely punish itchy fingers that steal fertilizer money and agricultural interventions, banks must be made to do even more than they presently do for agriculture. Central Bank policies must acknowledge that subsistence farmers cannot possibly hope to meet the present banking terms for loans and other facilities and therefore design true access to enable them survive. Our agricultural, educational, technology and manufacturing stimulants must disobey the archaic econ0oomic logic and traditions that have held us down. They must disregard the usual European Central Bank, US Aid terms, World Bank and IMF conditions and look to copy the daring of Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and more recently Rwanda.
A people whose needs are met are an invested people. Laws and force will not create conformity and it may be the sociological explanation for why Nigerians immediately went back to their old ways of crime and disorderliness immediately after the demise of the draconian Buhari-Idiagbon regime.
This insanity of violence, lethargic economy, extreme poverty, unimaginative education and disgraceful morality that has made total folderol, must be turned around to create an environment that encourages individual empathy in national objectives.
This government has three more years and it can write itself into history by the prism through which it views the major concerns of its citizens, not its own self-convinced objectives. That history can be of uniting the people, fair and firm expulsion of ruthless invaders, revival of true patriotism and refocusing national economic developing agenda by asking simple questions and answering its own queries in honesty.
We are in trouble and someone has to start asking questions and providing answers. Any other conversation pushed to national relevance is simply hot drivel.