By Chiedu Uche Okoye
BEFORE the White imperialists came to Nigeria, the diverse ethnic groups in the country had their peculiar systems of government. And the pre-colonial systems of government practised by Nigerians during the pre-colonial era guaranteed peace and unity among the peoples living in the area now called Nigeria.
However, our coming into contact with Western culture nearly caused the obliteration of our cultural practices. And it is an indisputable fact that the imposition of White rule on us disrupted our pre-colonial system of government.
But is representative government, which the White people brought to us, not the best type of government? Is democracy, which originated in Greece, not better than aristocracy, plutocracy and military rule? In addition to bringing democracy to us, they established schools in our country where native Africans were taught subjects like English Language, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and others.
Education, we all know, is the light which illuminates the stygian night of ignorance on the African continent. So, armed with quality education, African nationalists like Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Senghor, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and others fought for the decolonisation of Africa. Not a few African people died while fighting for the political emancipation of African countries.
That’s why shouts of immense joy greeted Nigeria’s attainment of self-rule in 1960, which was marked by the symbolic lowering of the British Union Jack and the hoisting of our Green and White flag. At that time, Nigerians reposed trust and confidence in our First Republic politicians, believing that they would better the lots of the hoipolloi by giving them good and responsible political leadership. However, the First Republic politicians, who were deemed ethnic chauvinists, religious bigots and so on, frittered away the golden opportunity offered to them to build a virile, peaceful, united, and progressive country.
They sacrificed the national interests on the altar of primordial sentiments, ethnic loyalties, religious affiliations, and base selfish interests.
Not surprisingly, Nigeria was soon embroiled in a civil war which devastated it and caused its economic stagnation and technology underdevelopment.
Thereafter, the country suffered and experienced military interregnum with its calamitous and devastating effects. Military rule is characterised by the suspension of the Constitution in which our fundamental human rights are enshrined. It is an incontestable fact that the military incursion into our politics caused the economic retardation and technological stagnation of Nigeria.
So, we heaved a sigh of relief when representative democracy was restored to Nigeria in 1999. We have had 20 years of uninterrupted political leadership in Nigeria. However, it’s incredible that Nigeria, which is touted as the Giant of Africa, has not realised its potential.
For all its oil-wealth, humungous population, large land mass, equable weather conditions, many waters, the country is still stuck in the mud of infrastructural rot, graduate unemployment, security challenges, electricity problem, and others.
But can Nigeria become an economic giant and hub of technological innovation when her educational system is in shambles? This is a rhetorical question. Rapid national development and dysfunctional educational system are diametrically opposed. Our tertiary institutions, which are legion, are not bastions of knowledge and centres of academic excellence where innovative scientific and educational researches are conducted to push back the frontiers of knowledge.
Our schools have failed to evolve and develop our own variant of technological culture to mass-produce assortment of goods for exportation, which will yield revenue to us. Consequently, today, we import things like toothbrush, toothpick, and others.
More so, a country with near anarchic condition cannot hope to achieve sustainable economic growth and technological advancement. Insecurity of lives and property is not a force for national development. No thoughtful and percipient foreigners would build industries in a country that is susceptible to violence and war. Here, in Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgents, who are opposed to the acquisition of Western education in schools, have continued to run amok, killing people and sacking farming communities in the North-East, especially in Borno State.
Can Nigeria achieve food sufficiency when farmers are on the run owing to the prevailing insecurity of lives and property in the country?
But it is not only Boko Haram insurgents dispatching people to their early graves in Nigeria. The cattle herders are no longer armed with sticks but guns with which they unleash mayhem on people in their host communities and cause needless fatalities. Indeed, they have killed a great number of people in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Enugu, Delta, Ondo and other states. Even men of God, including Reverend Fathers, were not spared as they were equally killed by the rampaging herdsmen.
Today, a river of blood is flowing in Nigeria on account of the killings plotted and deftly executed by Boko Haram insurgents, bandits, and cattle herders.
The security challenges ravaging Nigeria, can spark off war as our country is already polarised along ethnic and religious lines. To worsen this situation is the unhealthy rivalry among politicians which has increased political tension, thus turning Nigeria into a tinder-box which can explode any time. And the question is: Can Nigeria survive a political conflagration? Can that not be a sure invitation to dismembered? Are we better-off as one country? Or should Nigeria disintegrate into many nation-states?
The incontestable fact is that Nigeria’s greatness lies in its ethnic and religious diversities, large landmass, huge population, and abundant natural resources. But successive governments in Nigeria (both civilian and military ones) have failed to harness our human and material resources to build a virile, cohesive, united, economically prosperous, and technologically advanced country.
That is why Nigeria still brings up the rear on the global ladder of development in spite of the fact that it has immense human and natural resources, equable climatic conditions, many waters, and large land mass.
Over the years, Nigeria has not been governed by its best political leaders because the factors of religion and ethnicity have trumped and gained ascendancy over meritocracy when it comes to recruitment of political leaders in the country.
- Okoye, a poet, wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State