Nigeria At 52: Indeed, This House Has Fallen


By Peter Claver Oparah 

Fifty two years after what is largely described as our flag independence, Nigeria lies wrecked and hobbled. A country that breathed much hope and inspiration fifty two years ago is today a sad and regrettable instance of what a nation should not be. Nigeria is today a land of endless tears and misery where life operates at the level of the Hobbessian leviathan. It is a country that best typifies human failure. It is a country that best captures the failure of humanity and its case is worsened by the loss of hope that things may ever get better again. It is so bad that the majority of Nigerians don’t even know when their independence day comes. At most, the only thing that reminds them of independence is the public holidays and the boring and uninspiring speeches from their leaders, which is a rehash of past promises of a never-dawning Eldorado. The gaiety is gone together with the excitement and fun. There are no parades by school children and the armed forces. All those have become relics of a forgotten past Nigerians can only re-live in melancholic reflections. At best, most Nigerians rue our independence given the way and manner we had mismanaged our freedom.

At independence fifty two years ago, Nigeria held the hope of the black renaissance and held forth the candle of reinvention for the entire black race. With a citizenry fired by the zeal to leave an indelible imprimatur in the world space, Nigeria looked forward to the borderless prospects the country promised as the British Union Jack was lowered and the green-white-green ensemble of our independent status was unfurled in its stead. The lofty dream of a rising giant that would stamp its feet in the comity of nations in record time was writ large as Nigerians, with unmatched enthusiasm sang the words of the new national anthem and Nigerians pledged to build a nation, where everybody stands in brotherhood even with the differing tongues and tribes, a nation where no man is oppressed. The zeal with which the early nationalists fought the departing colonialists to surrender the seal of freedom served to rev the hope of limitless opportunities that abound in an independent Nigeria. Rich in natural resources and with the incipience of human resources potentials that promised to be a force in the world, there was no reason to see Nigeria in the storm tossed state it is today. Sadly, fifty two years after, Nigeria cuts a sorry image of a caricature of a nation as unbridled corruption and graft continue to freely ravage the country and her citizens.

Fifty two years after, all the high hopes, the lofty dreams and aspirations that heralded independence have all percolated, leaving a fractured, insecure and predatory nation where life is brutish, short and nasty. Fifty two years after independence, Nigeria is a sprawling land of tears where insecurity, poverty, disease and untamed want have combined to make mincemeat of a hopeless and hapless citizenry. Nigeria has transmogrified into a nation, loathed and despised in the comity of nations, avoided and quarantined in the theatre of civilization and held in high contempt by the citizens of a free world. Nigeria has been so debased and stripped of worth that it holds nothing but provocation, shame and odium for its citizens who forage every available space for opportunities to leave its shores. Nigeria has become a mere geographical expression as the centrifugal and centripetal forces that melded to form that artificial entity sue for divorce. No bond of unity, no creed, no philosophy and no ethos hold the disparate tendencies that were bonded to form the country in 1914 together and the fusing that brought Nigeria into being has developed un-mendable cracks and fissures that widen by the day. Patriotism is gone among bewildered Nigerians, leaving it in the forte where Samuel Johnson located it in April 1775, as the last refuge of the scoundrel. In Nigeria, patriotism is today domesticated in the scoundrels that eat away the life of the nation. For to them, patriotism comes in handy in furthering their ruinous enterprise.

For nearly all of its independent history, Nigeria seems to be cursed with horrible leadership whose trajectory worsens by the day. The leadership deficit that assails Nigeria is so legendary that the country, from all indications and purposes, appears leaderless in an emerging world order that emphasizes clear headed and competent leadership. With the possible exception of one or two leaders, Nigeria has been struck by a string of amoral, incompetent and ethically wrecked leadership, which had succeeded in running the country into a deep gorge where it rots away as humanity makes giant developmental leaps. With each day, Nigeria’s leadership woes worsen as our so called leaders remain impervious to change and rather deepen the morass they have burdened on a well endowed country for fifty two awful years. Life continues to worsen as all economic indices veer towards regression, even with increased oil revenue.

On the country’s fifty second birthday, life looks so dreary and gloomy for Nigerians as over eighty per cent of them live in abject poverty. With a leadership that fires the embers of corruption, official graft and public stealing, Nigeria holds no credible hope of revival from the atrophy that shackles it at present. The state of infrastructural decay is complemented by the penchant to see state resources as free meal for those that adopt guile and sly means to access political positions. Unemployment has reached a bestial height as industrial mortality and investment flight riddle the economic space. Nepotism and pandering to the gods of tribe and tongue have so debased a weak and ineffectual federal structure that it is a case of everyone to his tent. The educational and health sectors experience unceasing rot while the vicious circle of poverty makes its unimpeded rounds across the length and breadth of the country. Sectarian and ethnic mistrust have combined to worsen a security crisis that sows dread and fright through the lengths and corners of the country. Life has become so cheapened that death lurks in every nook and cranny of the country while the government looks on in pitiable helplessness. So helpless that the government, which should effuse hope in the face of this state of dread has been chased to the dark crevices by the forces of Hades. What better way to demonstrate this that our independent celebration, which should be with fanfare and élan has been reduced to a bedroom affair? In the confines of the presidential bedroom, expensive wines would be popped, orgies would be mounted and deep holes would be punched into our national treasury; all in queer celebration of the debasement of a nation through bad leadership.

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At fifty two years, Nigeria cannot guarantee a fairly stable electricity supply to the extent that what Nigerians get for the massive resources that have been stolen through the power sector is failed promises and darker space. The height of the jarring paradox that Nigeria has become at independence is that at the eve of its fifty second independence anniversary, the country is locked down by a fuel scarcity where petrol sells as high as N200 a litre in some parts of the sixth largest producer of oil in the world. It is so bad that the petroleum sector has become a scammer’s haven where record breaking acts of corruption and financial recklessness are perpetrated within the petroleum sector, which has become the hearth that fuels the massive corruption complex that is at the root of the Nigerian crisis. Fifty two years after independence, no credible electoral system exists to lead the leadership selection process. At best, what exists is a choreographed sham system that is pre-manipulated to turn out and perpetrate the worst in the system as leaders. A hugely corrupt judicial system holds no hope for judicial redemption and the legislature suffers the same rotten complex that has buried our collective hopes for survival in the face of encircling doom.

At fifty two, Nigeria continues to wobble and stumble into irrelevance and meaninglessness. Nigeria continues to feed the ravenous tongs of the consuming fire of underdevelopment and backwardness. At fifty two, Nigeria’s hope for redemption has waned, dealt a bad blow by its array of bad leaders who continue to wax increasingly intransigent by the day. With its leaders growing insensitive to the pitched cry of pains from the millions of trapped citizens, there is every possible indication that Nigeria’s soul is lost and what exists is an empty shell inhabited by trapped citizens who want out of so dysfunctional a nation. At fifty two, Nigeria has irrevocably broken down as it holds no hope for its teeming citizenry. It is a story in debauchery and prodigality. It is a story in wasted opportunities and it is a depiction of John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

In the description of Karl Maier’s award winning book, This House Has Fallen, Amazon posted thus:

“This House Has Fallen is a bracing and disturbing report on the state of Africa’s most populous, potentially richest, and most dangerously dysfunctional nation. Each year, with depressing consistency, Nigeria is declared the most corrupt state in the entire world. Though Nigeria is a nation into which billions of dollars of oil money flow, its per capita income has fallen dramatically in the past two decades. Military coup follows military coup. A bellwether for Africa, it is a country of rising ethnic tensions and falling standards of living, very possibly on the verge of utter collapse — a collapse that could dramatically overshadow even the massacres in Rwanda. A brilliant piece of reportage and travel writing, This House Has Fallen looks into the Nigerian abyss and comes away with insight, profound conclusions, and even some hope”.

This could suffice as an epitaph for Nigeria, a land that held so much promise at birth but which, at fifty two years, has become hell writ large on earth; a dark spot for humanity and a reproach to her citizens; no thanks to its slothful leaders.

•Oparah wrote in from Ikeja, Lagos. E-mail: [email protected] 

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