Nigeria: A Nation in the Shadow of Its Former Self; By Owoicho Michael Alleh

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THE late literary icon, Chinua Achebe, once asserted that the problem with Nigeria is leadership. Achebe, who is one of the most quoted African authors in particular, and the world in general, had refused to receive any national award from the Federal Government of Nigeria till his death, citing his reason on the dismal and worsening state of leadership in the country.

There is no gainsaying that Nigerians are overwhelmed with the state of obliteration in all the sectors in the country. An average Nigerian, at present, relies on divine intervention to see the next day due to the consistent deterioration in accessing the basic necessities of life like food, water and shelter.

In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s; public primary and secondary schools were provided with instructional materials free of charge by the government. Conversely, the governments of the day are just paying mere lip service to education. It is sad that the Nigerian child currently contributes about 95% to get education. For instance, the child pays examination fees, sports levy, Ministry of Education charges, Area and Zonal office charges, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) dues and so on. At the tertiary levels, the charges the students pay are both hidden and non-hidden. The government cannot claim to be sponsoring education when the students are paying these enormous levies, yet schools cannot run a session without an intervening strike action, the school structures are dilapidating every day just as the cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains of the child are in a state of decadence.

On the large scale, one can mention the trauma of insecurity, paralysed educational system, poor and dilapidated medical facilities, corruption at its peak, economic and leadership failure, epileptic power supply, faulty electoral system, youth unemployment and restiveness, non-payment of salaries of workers, government’s insensitivity to the welfare of pensioners, dysfunctional local government administration, parliamentary idleness, ethnicity, tribalism, religious and political fanaticism, the list is endless.

These are the tragedies staring at an average Nigerian in the face as currently as the situations of the country are concerned. Even the non-living things are aware of the fate of Nigerians because of the bloodshed that litters all nooks and cranny of Nigeria as a result of Boko Haram attacks, banditry, highway robbery, kidnapping, ritual killing, rape, and herdsmen attack. There is no doubt that Nigeria is under really under siege in every sense of the word.

How Nigeria got into this deep mess is lack of accountability on the part of the leaders. For a country that prides herself as the giant of Africa to be going through these perennial challenges leaves much to be desired. The same politicians that canvassed for votes during electioneering have abruptly become the enemies of the electorate that gave them the mandate, so much so that the electorate could not boast of holding their leaders accountable due to culture of silence, fear of being attacked, or denial of certain favour. The leaders, aware of these have decided to surround themselves with high powered security and thugs who threatens whoever challenges their authorities, thereby leading to political rascality in Nigeria.

The Local Government Reform of 1979 under the administration of the then military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, had brought political awareness to the people at the grassroots, which many termed as one of the greatest achievements of the military ruler. The reform recognised the local government as the third tier of government which was entrenched in the 1979 Nigerian Constitution. This allowed council area elections to be conducted by the then Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) in order for the people to elect their council chairmen and councillors. There were tremendous developments and projects carried out by the elected chairmen, such as building of health clinics across council wards, classroom blocks, road constructions and building of bridges, local sports development, transport company of local government and befitting council secretariat, provision of fertilizers to farmers, to mention a few.

With the coming of the 4th Republic on May 29, 1999, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) followed the usual pattern of conducting elections beginning from local government council election, under the watchful eyes of the then military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, in a peaceful transition from military to civil rule.

Ironically, after the military left in 1999, everything changed during the first election conducted by the civilians in February 2003, when INEC altered the election time-table thereby fixing the council election to come last. That election marked the end of any active popular participation across the 774 in Nigeria in addition to the six area councils of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The strategies of the politicians have worked for them using INEC to achieve their aims. Today, there is no more development in local government as there is complete absence of democratic election. by so doing, the grassroots cannot hold the errand boys of the governors who posed as Caretaker Chairmen or even so-called elected Executive Chairmen accountable. Most local government secretariats are a shadow of their own right now, because development is not in the agenda of the new political elements manning them. In other words, they are mere cupbearers of the governor who imposed them on the people and remove them at will.

Education is anathema to our political leaders. Of course, the mentality, not the ideology of  most politicians in Nigeria, is not to govern by developing the educational institutions, but to occupy the office for self-aggrandizement, building estates within and outside Nigeria, purchasing of private jets, sending their children to the best schools abroad, and organising birthday parties outside the shores of Nigeria; all these expenditures are based on tax payers’ money who are languishing in penury as a result of the pain and disaffection caused by the misguided activities of these politicians.

This is not the kind of Nigeria that was handed over to our nationalists and freedom fighters on October 1, 1960. Any hope for a new Nigeria is largely dependent on the masses who feel the pain of all these shenanigans, and 2023 provides yet another opportunity for them to resuscitate Nigeria from her persistent state of comatose.

In the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s; public primary and secondary schools were provided with instructional materials free of charge by the government. Conversely, the governments of the day are just paying mere lip service to education. It is sad that the Nigerian child currently contributes about 95% to get education. For instance, the child pays examination fees, sports levy, Ministry of Education charges, Area and Zonal office charges, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) dues and so on. At the tertiary levels, the charges the students pay are both hidden and non-hidden. The government cannot claim to be sponsoring education when the students are paying these enormous levies, yet schools cannot run a session without an intervening strike action, the school structures are dilapidating every day just as the cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains of the child are in a state of decadence.

The health sector is in a serious mess. Medical personnel and the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) have been lamenting the poor state of health facilities in General Hospitals across the country, using all means possible to press home their demands, but the government has turned deaf ears to their plight. The situation in the nation’s hospitals has reached a stage where medical doctors are complaining about non-availability of hand gloves, and other personal protective equipment. The high mortality rate being witnessed in Nigeria today is as a result of a dysfunctional health sector that cannot provide basic medical attention to patients.

It is worthy of note at this juncture that there is little or no hope for our collective future if these abnormalities continue unabated. The country is overwhelmed by insecurity of lives, food, consistent hike in the prices of commodities and household items, inflation and a general threat to the sustainability of the nation’s continuous corporate existence owing to the heavy presence of terrorist organisations, religious sects and fanatics, political thugs, and other forms of criminality tormenting innocent citizens on a daily basis and they go scot-free in most cases.   

This is not the kind of Nigeria that was handed over to our nationalists and freedom fighters on October 1, 1960. Any hope for a new Nigeria is largely dependent on the masses who feel the pain of all these shenanigans, and 2023 provides yet another opportunity for them to resuscitate Nigeria from her persistent state of comatose.

Owoicho Michael Alleh is an educationist, a writer and language consultant and writes from Jos, Plateau State. He can be reached on WhatsApp: 08073524939 or Email: [email protected]

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