By Tony Ochelebe
Nigeria marks her 57th independence anniversary on 1st October, 2017. When it became very clear that the black nation was going to secure her independence in 1960, the general mood was that of excitement. Expectations were high that self-rule was going to deliver to the people the enabling environment for every citizen to realise their God-given potentials.
On the contrary today, those expectations have become a fool’s dream. Citizens are in total doubt if self-rule is preferable to colonialism. They are in doubt because promises that once hung in the horizon of independence have failed to translate to better life for them and their hopes for a one united, prosperous nation have been dashed into several pieces.
Successive governments at all levels have failed abysmally to provide any semblance of leadership. Citizens have not been galvanized, empowered and orientated to view the once perceived prosperous entity as their own. There is no sense of pride in citizens for their country. Little wonder then that politicians have stolen the nation blind and people who should challenge these rogues end up cheering them on because of endemic hunger and deprivation that ravish their sensibilities.
True, the prison of the mind is worse than physical shackles and iron bars. Religion, ethnicity, tribalism and other such debilitating concepts have been sold to citizens and their collective gullibility has made them buy in hook, line and sinker. Hence, government policies, programmes and procedures are tailored to suit these factors which ordinarily should not really matter.
In like manner, merit has taken back seat while those factors are given pride of place. This is why 57 years after, government services still fail the poor for whom those services were designed. This is why JAMB, a body responsible for qualifying students into the ivory towers would wake up from the wrong side of her bed and reduce her standards (not as if the standards were too high in the first place). Only to proffer some flimsy excuses at the hues and cries of concerned Nigerians. This is why the poor still die of malaria and policy makers who should put functional health facilities in place for all and sundry travel abroad to treat headache. This is why Nigerians keep paying for darkness and government feigns handicap at their plight. This is why Nigerians still struggle for water from the same pools as camels.
You see, it has been said severally that in Nigeria, every man is a local government unto himself. This too is true. The man provides security for himself and family, provides water, provides roads, provides electricity and every other social amenities. Even in the face of this, there is still high rate of armed robbery, kidnapping, fraud, etc. How can a citizen be made to be patriotic and pay their tax to the nation that obviously provides little or nothing for them?
In my view, Nigerians are prisoners, even though they are politically independent. A closer look at government officials and how they conduct themselves confirms this. What would a serving minister be doing with 5 to 10 police officers? Is it not only prisoners that are conducted in like manner when they are to make appearances in court? Government officials spend the people’s collective patrimony lavishly while languishing in the prison of constant fear of imminent wrath of the people being visited on them one way or the other.
The poor of the land continue to wallow in lack, hunger and deprivation. The more daring once of this stuck take to crime and visit mayhem on the entire society. This is indeed why 50 years after, there is the resurgence of secessionists who erroneously see another non-existent Eldorado in the horizon.
To get out of these wood, policy makers, reformers, strategists of all strata must come back (as they say,) to the drawing table and work out a different arrangement from what currently obtains. While that is on, there is need for the deployment of communication experts to every nook and cranny of the nation to begin to carry out subtle reorientation to instil the spirit of patriotism in all.
Tony Ochelebe is a Development Communication enthusiast and he writes in from Abuja. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org