As usual, the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari from Nigeria due to a very curious ailment has yet again thrown up the underbelly of a very promising leviathan that is refusing to grow, to mature, or even to live up to the expectations of its citizens. From its birth, Africa and the world have anticipated Nigeria to become a powerful player, a great historical hub of cultures and civilizations, due to the convergent forces that come together to give it its unique attributes.
There is no excuse for Nigeria by refusing to become the spiritual home of the black race. Going by the calling of its historical trajectories, every black human person should ideally consider Nigeria as his or her spiritual home. But that’s not to be. Nigerians themselves are refusing to consciously recognize the need to serve as a home to members of the black race. Sometimes you can’t even understand what Nigerians want from their bizarre behavior in the place they call home. Nigerians can be overtly pretentious. One moment Nigerians are lamenting over how things are not working in their country; another moment they can be seen engaging in the very bad habit of pointing fingers of blame at every other person but themselves. Of known postcolonial species, only Nigerians can be found in such a fix. They are very quick at criticizing, but very slow at correcting anomalies. What an uncanny oxymoron!
Nigerians are indeed unique human beings. They want to have a nation they can proudly call their own, but they are unwilling to selflessly engage themselves in building a nation they can proudly showcase in the comity of nations. Is it that Nigerians need some basic tutoring on how to go about building a strong and enduring nation? What is really the matter with them? Something is definitely amiss. You can decipher that from the stories of their adventure or misadventure in foreign lands. Thus, when they travel abroad they marvel at the achievements of others and the sacrifices those people made in building their own countries. Back home, they pretend not to have known what it takes to make Nigeria great as they join the army of malcontents and professional complainants over virtually every conceivable little thing. Next they become unwilling or unable to contribute their quota constructively and meaningfully towards changing the deplorable conditions in their homeland, especially where it concerns those things that have ostensibly diminished the image of the only country in the whole wide world they can rightly call theirs. Nigerians are also part of that tribe of most wonderful people who take delight to excel, to work tirelessly, day and night, just to make other peoples’ country great, and be proud of it at the same time. What a bunch of loonies they are? Where do you find this type of thing happening? Only Nigerians do such a crazy thing!
In Nigeria, marginalized, disempowered and dispossessed people will always want to see themselves out of the doldrums, but their wish is somehow not materializing, and nobody seems to have any convincing explanation to it. Some people ascribe the problem to a structurally defective system that the country inherited from the British. Yet, others believe that the problem is completely that of Nigerians’ own making. This of course lends credence to what is always said of Nigerians and their weird mien. When the people are not doing the right thing even in instances where they are taught some good lessons on how to do the right things at the right time, they insist the wrong thing they are doing is right. In the same breath, where options are presented to Nigerians between doing what is right and what is wrong, the inclination of Nigerians is usually to opt for what is wrong, without minding the consequences of their obnoxious choices. Later on, when they suffered a reversal of their actions they then look for scapegoats to heap blame on, to transfer their aggression on them. In any case, they will never see that the fault is entirely theirs. Nigeria is one of the few places in the world where you find people deliberately refusing to own up to their mistakes, and their follies. Nigerians are simply ignoring the necessity to deploy their God-given abilities to distinguish between right and wrong, truth and false, good and evil. Average Nigerians believe they are always right even in circumstances where the impossibility to be right all the times becomes obvious to them. When people are wrong they should indeed have the courage to accept that they are wrong.
As other nations ensured that points of convergence or divergence are purposefully centered on the best policies and programs that should be evolved for the improvement of the living conditions of the citizens, Nigerians insist first on understanding the motivation of the person initiating those policies and programs, and then they factor the question of identity of the person shouldering the responsibility, fashioning a particular government policy, into the mix. Nigerians love to strenuously insist on knowing how the ethnicity or religion of such a person impacts whatever he or she is doing in the pursuit of the onerous task of nation building. Of course, how else do you rationalize the insistence by some people that Nigeria must be restructured along ethnic categories as if those considerations were initially at the fore of the logic that informed the creation of the country by British colonialists? Decolonization process does not in any way mean recoiling back into some imaginary pristine cocoons as those advocating restructuring of the country thinks it to be. Imagine the day when Nigeria would be disemboweled like a goat into more than 400 quisling exceptionalities or ethnic nations. What a chaotic situation such would be? But some Nigerians are still insisting on having it go that way without in the least giving any thought to the practicability, nay the futility, of such a crazy dream. Sometimes people wonder why such Nigerians think along the lines of primordial essences in a postcolonial world where more dynamic nations are beginning to explore the possibilities of convergence of identities. Could it be ignorance of history or total lack of its consciousness? Whatever the case, the nation must positively forge ahead. People need to start a dream of a Nigeria they can all be proud of.
Who is really going to knock it into the mucous infested skulls of Nigerians that it is high time to rethink their approach to handling their own affairs? All these brouhaha can be traced to two fundamental problems – political and economic – so to say, that are by all means interconnected. First, the major motivation of politics, our peculiar brand of politics, is simply to be there to control resources and common wealth. Therein enters the second factor, the economic reason. People trooped into partisan politics not for selfless reason, but purely to selfish reasons, for reasons to amass fortune for themselves and their immediate family. Do not add or subtract anything here. That’s the driving force that propels the do-or-die character of political participation in Nigeria. It is really hard to find persons that are in the political arena for some altruistic reasons, and if you find them, they are quite few in number. However, the political rat race in Nigeria has been deeply accentuated by a string of economic woes besetting the nation. Incompetent leadership cadres across the board have created a situation in which sense of vision and mission has since withered away. This is to the extent that even if you surrender all the resources of the world to the kind of leaders Nigeria is producing it will only multiply the agony of the generality of Nigerians. In Nigeria, people don’t understand what it is when it is said ideas rule the world. More so, in an age in which creativity and innovation attract lots of premium. Nigerians make so much noise about turning knowledge into a core value, and how that singular act has helped to produce development wonders in modern societies, but the irony of it all is that they easily become disorientated when opportunity is given to them to put into practice their ideas and dreams of a better Nigeria. Are we to blame the social circumstances in the country or what? Does it have to do with some fundamental misunderstanding of the processes of nation building? What is really the matter?
Conversely, one thing that is obviously missing in Nigeria is the absence of rational principles on a collective scale going by peoples’ conducts and practices. If a rational criterion is not made the guiding principle of human behavior and action, Nigeria will continue to cascade down the hill uncontrollably for a very long time to come, and all the dreams of a brighter future will never be actualized in so far as individual Nigerians continue to stick to the ugly habits of doing things the typical Nigerian way of doing everything. There is thus the urgent need to bring about positive change of attitude if Nigerians are to make some headway in the idea of restoring sanity in their country.
Mr Liman is professor of Comparative Literature and Popular Culture at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria