By Chiedu Uche/Daily Independent/All Africa
Our freedom fighters envisaged and dreamed of a country that would be the bastion of democracy in Africa, an ocean of peace and unity, and a land filled with economic prosperity. Sadly, almost fifty years after we became a sovereign and independent state, Nigeria is like a toddling baby in diapers. I know for sure that Awolowo, Azikiwe, Tafewa Balewa and other early nationalists would turn in their graves whenever the news broke that a political leader diverted public money into his private pocket.
Nigeria, the so called giant of Africa with a potential to be a great country, is bringing up the rear in economic and technological development among the comity of nations because of some factors, chiefly among them is ethnicity, religious intolerance and bumbling, incompetent and corrupt political leadership.
Nigerians are very conscious of their ethnic origins, and owe allegiance to their ethnic group. They place the interest of their ethnic groups above the interest of Nigeria. This attitude undermines the unity of Nigeria. The Nigerian civil war which claimed millions of lives was partly caused by ethnic hatred which existed among Nigerians, then. Now, Igbos living in the north have dropped their cultural names to assume non-igbo names in order to be absorbed in schools in the north. As ethnicity plays a crucial role in one's securing a Job or admission into schools, many Nigerians who were qualified to be given jobs or admissions into schools were by-passed. Using ethnicity as a bench mark or criterion for offering jobs or admissions to people means the dethronement of meritocracy and enthronement of mediocrity. And, today, Nigeria is the worse for it. Can Nigeria advance when very gifted people are denied opportunity for self-actualization?
Ethnicity as well as incessant religious crisis, especially in the north, militates against development. The north is now a hotbed of religious violence. Many Nigerians who lived and did businesses in the north are now derelicts in their villages because their shops and wares were burnt by rampaging Moslem marauders. Non-Muslims in the north cannot afford to sleep with their two-eyes closed. Can economic activities boom and thrive in a milieu of fear, uncertainty and violence?
Now, Jos has last its innocence; it is the metaphor for ethnic religious conflicts. The recurrence as well as the frequency of bloody violence in Jos is an indication of the state insecurity of lives and properties in the country. The police and other state security outfits, ineffective as ever, can't gather intelligence and forestall the visitation of violence on innocent people in Jos by murderous religious gangs.
The Nigerian police men and women who mount road locks on our roads and extort money from commercial bus drivers can't combat criminal activities in the country. Armed robbers who wield dangerous weapons operate unchallenged on our roads. And, political killings have assumed a dangerous dimension in the south-west of the country. Recently, a roving band of blood thirsty human vampires invaded a village in Benue state and killed some people.
Do we still have a government in Nigeria? Is anarchy not looming in the horizons given the frequency of eruption of violence in Jos and north in general, the recent killing in Benue state, and the unresolved killing of politicians and journalists in Nigeria?
This is not the best of times for Nigeria. The constitutional imbroglio created by the failure of President Umaru Musa Yar'adua to transmit a letter to the national assembling informing them of his trip to Saudi-Arabia for medical treatment has not been successfully settled. Are some people not insisting that the acting president Dr. Jonathan Goodluck be made the president, and Umaru Musa Yar'adua impeached? Uneasy calm is reigning in the country. We are experiencing the peace of the grave-yard.
The ship of state is rocking to and fro, and moving towards the precipice considering the happenings in Nigeria. I would like the acting president to utilize and seize the opportunity offered him to lead; he should steady the floundering ship of state, offer us quality leadership and douse the tension in the land.
We should not be deluded by what Hugo Grotious says: "Government comes and goes; but a state remains forever". But, have U.S.S.R, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia not disintegrated? Nigeria is reputed to have come out of every major political crisis not dismembered. But, the bible warns those who think that they're standing firm to be careful least they fall.
May God save Nigeria.