Against the background of widespread uncertainty and eminent opinion leaders decrying the state of affairs in the country, it is apposite to carry out an introspective study on how well and firmly Nigeria currently stands on such issues as national security, education, transportation, health, the economy, unemployment, inter-group or ethnic relations, and level of infrastructure development. For, in the final analysis, a government is evaluated on the basis of certain standards and yardsticks, which are both local and international.
Why is there a perception that the nation’s affairs are being mismanaged to an incredible degree? Have there been any significant leaps in the health and education sectors? How well has the Federal Government dealt with issues of national security? Above all, how much hope and optimism has the government given the people amidst the harsh economic times we currently face? What can the government do to change the narrative and even perception of seeming despair in the land? Are we on the route to anarchy and the establishment of self-help as a viable means of survival?
It is not all cynicism, in any case. We must acknowledge that there are good things taking place in the country. For example, the rail network being expanded is commendable and if the government continues at that pace, railway transport would become part of the national haulage system. Also, the Second Niger Bridge is well under construction. The skepticism which accompanied the government’s announcement that work was on-going has given way to hope that indeed the project is not a phantom one. Also, on the positive side, there have been arrests of some highly placed appointees of government on charges of fraud and diversion of public funds. If there is some sense of urgency in all these areas – completion of projects and prosecution of suspects, there will be some glimmer of hope, after all.
President Buhari has also finally given orders to the military to shoot at brigands wherever they are, thus reducing the fear that he is soft on the notorious herdsmen who have been so complicit in acts of mass murders. Beyond these, Nigerians are deeply worried about the state of affairs in their dear country.
In the last two weeks, such individuals and groups as Professor Wole Soyinka, a Nobel laureate, Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Senator Bola Tinubu, Southwest governors, the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri and many others have expressed views on the fragile state of the nation. While some opinions can randomly be classified as politicking others are very serious expressions of the fundamental crisis, which we face as a people. Soyinka wants the Federal Government to declare a ‘‘state of emergency in the southwest.’’ While Archbishop J.V. Obinna believes that ‘‘Nigeria is bleeding from all angles just as hatred, mindless killings, kidnapping, raping and other serious crimes are expanding in Nigeria’’, Tinubu has called on Nigerians not to ‘‘embark on activities that could disintegrate the country,’’ On its part, the CNG has reacted to calls for national unity from those who technically supported centrifugal forces in the country.
These arguments and counter-discourses indicate uncertain times, which we live in. Fifty years after the civil war, no patriot ever believed that we would descend into discussing whether or not the Nigerian nation should be. We assumed it was a given. We assumed that Nigeria was worth fighting and dying for. But it would seem that the inheritors of that legacy have both by default and design, created an atmosphere that makes a vigorous interrogation of statehood and future of the country an imperative option. As we string together this reflection, there is a ‘‘revolution now’’ movement growing in the country championed by some erstwhile Buhari supporters. The government has clamped down on some individuals for daring to protest. There is a fear that the government is becoming increasingly intolerant and authoritarian.
Doubtless, the deepest worries are on national security. The impunity with which lives are taken by brigands of different social and quasi-religious hues is simply nightmarish. No credible government allows this to continue without a vigorous response. The security agencies are locked in inter-agency rivalry thus giving the impression of a fundamental incoherence and unity on the part of the government. It is unheard of for soldiers to kill policemen who were on official duty. There is something anarchic in the atmosphere that fertilises the mind for such callous and irresponsible actions. Too many people have got away with murder. Justice and fairness appear to have taken a backseat. Self-help syndrome is gaining ground. This is dangerous, unhealthy and incendiary. Violence begets violence particularly when the state fails to provide redress for the oppressed and exploited.
What is scarier, education and health facilities are still rudimentary. No nation ever develops without fully defining the cultural basis of its education policies and fully applying them to growth plans. Nearly 60 years after independence our political office holders still shamelessly travel to other countries for routine medical procedures. Buhari who made this a campaign issue has reneged on this and has made medical tourism one of his blind spots. This, itself, is a national security risk. If the physical wellbeing of a nation’s first citizen is in the hands of foreign doctors that nation cannot be said to be truly independent. No serious nation sends its leaders to other countries for medical attention. Was it not embarrassing for example that El-Zakzaky opted to be treated in an Indian hospital to which the government acquiesced and provided logistical support? Our hospitals have to be developed to cater to all categories of citizens.
Some leaders have continued to issue inflammatory comments on very sensitive issues. Across Africa, it is axiomatic that an ‘‘elder does not speak with all his mouth.’’ This is so metaphorically captured in the proverb: ‘‘an adult does not sit and watch while the she-goat suffers the pain of parturition.’’ Alas, some of our current elders seem to take delight in stoking the embers of disunity and fear. These may be high in social status. But in terms of the sense of moderation and mind development, they are indeed Lilliputians. Some state governors are not left out of this macabre spectacle of pulling down the house. What calibre of men and women has imposed themselves on the nation as leaders?
Buhari should use the occasion of the inauguration of his latest cabinet today to restructure the narrative of Nigeria on his watch. The situation is precarious. If the president lacks close confidantes who can tell him the truth, he must look beyond his closed circuit and reach out to patriots who know and feel the pains of the day. Nigeria’s leader should understand the times, notably, that the state of the nation is not cheery at the moment.