13th November, 2013
By Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu
The Bible says in Proverbs 29:18 that “where there is no vision the people perish.” This declaration is very true for a generation that has succumbed to unbelievable level of mediocrity that they sing and dance for governors or presidents who build a few roads and then endlessly justify all the other failings of government. There are now many agents of mediocrity across Nigeria who have made a career from justifying the inexcusable failure of the Nigerian government at all levels and count some mediocre projects as achievements even when 53 years after independence Nigeria is a certified failed state in spite of abundant human and material resources.
The phenomenon of mediocrity is not new, it has been with us for a considerable length of time; what is new however, is the extent to which the culture of mediocrity has been consolidated across the Nigerian society with a large section of the population becoming the defenders and justifiers of the mediocrity of government. This is 2013, not 1813. We live in the 21st century, an era that has heralded the most advanced technology ever known to man. From the internet to facebook, YouTube to twitter, solar energy to wind energy, GPS to space tourism, the world is ploughing through revolutionary technology in all spheres at a dizzying pace. Technology brings with it possibilities and solutions for all kinds of human challenges, it takes away the constraint and arduous task of needing to “reinvent the wheel,” yet in the age and midst of such possibilities, Nigeria has regressed into a failed state lacking the most basic infrastructure.
Sadly, there abound so many people soaked in the muddied waters of mediocrity, willing to applaud and defend the government in the open glare of colossal failings. Most worrying is the well travelled and educated elite who are now either the purveyors, enablers or chief defenders of mediocrity. Nigeria is the only country where so-called leaders are endlessly praised and celebrated for doing less than 10% of their job even when the 10% is mostly of doubtful quality. This trend is evident all across Nigeria as governors construct a few substandard roads, erect some cranky boreholes in a few communities and get treated to dance troupes and praise singers for failing in his job. Same goes for the president who is toasted and celebrated for patching up a few spots in some badly damaged federal roads that continues to kill thousands of victims annually.
Every year endless hypes and noise is made about the purported achievement of government; how things are improving; how this and that governor is ‘performing,’ but beneath all that deceit/ propaganda is the reality of failure across all strata of governance in Nigeria. Neither the president nor any of the governors are successful. None of them can pass even the most basic test of good governance and accountability. Government in this clime is all about scamming and mediocrity. They loot public funds, deceive the public with some mediocre projects and together with a mediocre populace celebrate their failings as success.
In this era of unprecedented technology and attendant possibilities, the nation has gone back in time. As a consequence of mediocrity and corruption, there is no remarkable development anywhere in Nigeria in spite of a sustained oil boom and consequent availability of financial resources. After more than fourteen years of democracy the nation is littered with bad roads. There is no pipe borne water, no electricity, no functional hospitals, no functional refineries, no functional steel plants, no functional public schools, no national airline, no social housing, no social welfare, no skills and vocational training centres, no functional railways, no waterways, no modern port facilities. The tragedy of Nigeria’s leadership failure is further appreciated when we ponder the irony of a nation that is the sixth largest crude oil producer in the world yet imports fuel for local consumption because the refineries are dysfunctional.
Mediocrity and its twin of corruption have ensured that there is increasing poverty, unemployment and massive infrastructure deficit at a time the nation is awash with petro-dollars. It has consigned the president and governors to mediocre projects while ignoring major and massive infrastructure projects that would build capacity for industrial growth and social investments that will insulate the citizens from poverty and destitution. A country with the resources, population and size of Nigeria should have a modern rail system with high speed trains ferrying goods and persons across the nation, state of the art federal roads in excess of ten lanes, inland waterways and state of the art river ports, modern steel plants and refineries, a comprehensive and free high quality medical system, twenty four hour uninterrupted electricity, pure and clean pipe borne water, special economic zones and cluster industrial parks, subsidised education at all levels, basic social security and safety net, job and vocational training centres amongst other basic social services and infrastructure that are indispensable attributes of any functional nation.
Notwithstanding the mechanics of state failure, all too present in Nigeria, the justifiers and enablers of mediocrity are everywhere singing praises of government for non performance and giving endless excuses why the much desired basic infrastructure and social services does not exist. A nation where so many are ever too willing to defend visionless and under-performing governments cannot succeed. At a time when so many ambitious and progressive nations around the world are blazing an audacious trail in economic, infrastructure and social development, Nigeria is behind in time. A dirty, stumbling, unambitious giant of failure consigned to the ignoble depths of penury.
It must be borne in mind that successful societies are constructed through the continuous social pressure put on the leadership by a citizenry disposed to holding their leaders accountable. The choice is clear, it is either we emancipate ourselves from the cult of mediocrity, and put our leaders under enormous pressure to fulfil our aspirations for economic, social and infrastructure development or continue with mediocrity and be consumed by the social violence of a failed dysfunctional state.
•Nwobu is a public affairs analyst.