Posted by Emeka Ugwuonye | 1 October 2013 | 4,648 times
To be, or not to be! Fifty-three years after independence, it will be an understatement to describe Nigeria as a country at the crossroads. The country is better described as one that is battling with the existentialist challenge of whether it is to remain one united country, and if so, what manner of country.
From whatever angle you start the Nigerian story, it would reveal monumental and mounting failures: failures of leadership, failures of imagination, and failure of citizenship responsibility. You have seen these failures in form of the colossal corruption and mindless pillaging and plundering of the commonwealth. You have seen it in form of unprecedented degradation and total abandonment of public infrastructure. You have seen it in the continued failure of the country to raise quality and competent people to lead it. You have seen it in the mediocrity there is everywhere across the spectrum of the present Nigerian leadership elite.
You have also seen it in the blinding poverty across the land, crimes and insecurity, and even an escalation of civil strife, militancy and insurgency that currently grip this country and tear ferociously at every joint. Of the most scandalous and pathetic of all the neglect and failure of the Nigerian leadership is the fact that since three months today, the most promising of our population, the Nigerian university students, have been involuntarily forced out of the university campuses simply because the Government officials chose to divert funds meant for the running of the nation’s universities, into their private pockets.
In the standoff between the Government and the university staff union, millions of Nigerian youth suffer untold hardship. The immediate and extended implications of this are devastating. To keep millions out of the universities for three months without end is tantamount to waging war against Nigeria. Its impact will reverberate for decades to come during which Nigeria would be placed at a competitive disadvantage among other nations by a wide margin. To cut an entire generation of our youths off from the normal pace of human development and progress is an act of war against the country and its people. The fact that this is happening in a democracy is in itself a profound contradiction. Note that since the latest wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan, never have the university students of those countries stayed out of school for four months at a stretch. If countries at war could do better than Nigeria in this one area, what else do we need to show that Nigeria is a failure?
The gravity of the above crisis remains even without mentioning the dangerous conditions in our hospitals, the primitive levels of electricity supply in Nigeria, the violence, the kidnappings and killings of the innocent all over the country, etc. Every person with any modicum of conscience and courage must understand that time has come to face the leaders of Nigeria and tell them some home truth. We must say to the President of Nigeria, the legislative and judicial arms of Government, the Army, the Police, and all the political parties in the land that they failed in the most shameful manner possible.
We must also admit that the Nigerian citizenry has its share in these failures. It is rare to find any other country where the citizens have been as docile as Nigerians. We have a duty to challenge our government and demand that we be governed in accordance with the standards of human dignity and the constitution. We cannot fold our arms and watch as leaders of the country compromise their sacred oaths of office – among them, the oath to protect the interest of Nigerians. In the past months and weeks, members of the Nigerian leadership have been consumed by their anticipatory maneuvers calculated to give each politician an edge in the 2015 elections. In all that, no attention has been paid to the needs of the average Nigerian. Poverty widens. Apathy and indifference become the order of the day. Rancor and resentment and ethnic hatred equally abound, all the while our leaders are busy seeking only to preserve themselves in privileged positions, from where they have never helped the people.
As at this moment, the situation with Boko Haram insurgency seems to have gotten worse in the past weeks. At the same time a gladiator of the Niger Delta militancy has been issuing all manner of threats of dire consequences if the President did not win a full second term in office in 2015. These drums of war had only grown louder with each passing day. In the mean time, average Nigerians suffer.
In view of this, I am compelled to state that the independence of Nigeria as a sovereign state would only amount to something when Nigerians are ready and willing to demand for their rights. As a lawyer, particularly as an international human rights lawyer, I must challenge the President of Nigeria and other leaders in this country to live up to their oath of office and stop compromising the future of our country ever so readily.
All the social conditions and the ominous characteristics Nigeria had in the 1960s are present today in Nigeria. The only difference is that those who ruled Nigeria at independence were many times better trained and better informed than those in power today. Yet, those leaders were not able to prevent the cataclysmic events that tormented this country in the second half of 1960s. The implications of this reality are troubling. We are faced with crisis in all aspects of Nigerian life. It is a pity that our leaders have been insensitive to this dire situation. Today, instead of celebrating a country that ought to have come of age at 53, we are lamenting the senseless and preventable killings of innocent Nigerians, the mind burgling looting of our national resources, the disastrous failures of leadership and permanent tensions and threats to the survival of the country as one united country. Time has come for the citizens to rise to demand for what is due to them. If the country remains an infant, let the people at least grow up and act like adults.
•Emeka Ugwuonye, Esquire, whose photo appears alongside this piece, is President, ECULAW GROUP Founder, and Due Process Advocates (DPA).
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