Economy and Development

Commitment to New Nigeria: Reminiscences and Escape Labyrinths

The paper possess challenging questions on different spheres of Nigeria’s life drawing from literature, history, law, politics and economy to shine the new path for the country’s new dawn. It ponders on some of the vital issues that is holding the country back such as nepotism, sycophancy and the ostensible lack of a strong willpower to transmute thoughts into words, and words into actions that will plant tress which will produce the desired fruits and shelter for the generations to come. It did not use any theory or critical lenses so as to avoid the mistake of going too academic. Because the essence is not to display scholarly prowess but to remind us of what we all know, but, we have to take them to heart by acting consciously and jealously too, so that we can bring about the change we are craving for as a nation.

The entity called Nigeria has shortly after its attainment of self-government remained political and economically enigma. An object of aesthetic inquisition, engulfed with barrage of challenges, which kept going and coming as though a spiritual child whose aim on earth is to torment the parents. Perhaps, what Ben Okri referred to in his novel, The Famished Road, Abiku. “The rigours of existence, the unfulfilled longings, the enshrined injustices of [leaders], the labyrinths of [hate], the ignorance of some [us], the fact of endless [suffering] and the amazing indifference of the living in the midst of the simple beauties of Nigerian society’(Okri, 234).
And to the dismay of millions, despite our fervent prayers for change, the change refused to come instead, those old ugly faces of difficulties kept on going and coming like a spirit child, not in a fictional terms as Okri viewed it, but in a real and material life of Nigeria, swallowing every nook and cranny of our daily life as though a wildfire which is bent at resting down a maize farm cultivated by our forefathers. Just like those who remain tenaciously at the corridor of power, not for the good of all; but themselves; so is the gory experiences. A situation scholars like Oyin Ogunba, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Victor Lar described as an archetypal representation of African experiences. Sadly to note that the ambience is not divine, but orchestrated by the egoistic agenda of a few who perhaps parade themselves as demigods, believing that nothing will ever work for the common good of all except them.
It is on this note that some scholars like Lekan Oyegoke once argued that, Nigeria should stop wasting valuable resources celebrating independence, because the so-called self-government has only brought more misery to the people instead of the desired succour every one expected at its dawn. While others like Achebe argued that both colonialism and self-government have their merits and demerits alike as it is beautifully crafted in his famous work, Things Fall Apart. Though, there is nothing wrong with the geographical location called Nigeria, but the fishes that swim in it, especially, the big sharks who have been swallowing the smaller fishes for more than six decades. My teacher, Ogunba described the situation in a more graphic terms:
Suddenly too, the military became the new elite (albeit, bastard elite), and started flinging their newfound status and dazzling the populace with their newfound wealth. Though, most of us are systematically smart at wearing a fine garment to an ugly situation so as to paint it good before many who apparently refused to do their original thinking instead allowed the big monsters who are have been busy sucking their blood for decades (7).

As a child in the elementary school, the Independence Celebration, where we do march pass before the president, governor or a council chairman as the case may be was a big celebration. Even today, it is still a big celebration for me and many others. So, once more, congratulation to all of us alive who still believe Nigeria can get it right again! I wonder how the situation would be like with our over five hundred languages spoken in the country today without the Whiteman’s language we speak today. So, the journey which gives us English as a medium of interaction, and the later self-government, should be celebrated, but in order to make such a celebration a much more worthwhile events, we must for once hold the bull by its horns and evoke the kind of change we wish to have in our society. Because change does not come from nothing, rather it comes from the indomitable will to live it, effect it and have it walk in the finest of garments. This is akin to what Mahatman Ghandi said: ‘To bring about a change in a society, there must be unity of thoughts, words and actions’(17). The poem of Mahmud Darwish has a lesson for all of us:
The oppressed can but pursue suitable tracks
Learning to heed the lessons of awesome war
But will the mighty listen to reason’s voice
That justice will accomplish the peace of Rome?
Or will conscience’s dictates be inexorably ignored
As war’s clouds hover over culture’s great cradle?
And yet we do not harbour the odium of hatred
But pray that peace can still be humanity’s finest hour once (247).
In order to transmute these sagacious words into their material equivalence, we must all have faith in ourselves, our fatherland, and its infinite actions, only then, our words will outlive us. But, when you carefully and objectively too, with due respect to my elders, leaders here present, we are mostly paying lips service to the plight of Nigeria. A situation Oyegoke describes in his novel The ill Wind, “the self-murdered attitude of some of us” (201).

Where the Problem Lies
Despite the permutation of ideas to get things done right, the situation appears to remain unchanged, not because there is anything wrong with the Nigerian territory, but some of us. The infallible words of Achebe in his book The Trouble With Nigeria, will gives us a more appropriate example:
“The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership. On the morning after Murtala Muhammed seized power in July 1975 public servants in Lagos were found on seat at seven-thirty in the morning. Even “go-slow” traffic that had defeated every solution and defied every regime vanished overnight from the streets’’ (Achebe, 1).
This aptly suggests that a leader’s no-nonsense reputation will in so many ways induce changes in the society, but in order to have a lasting effect, it must be followed by a radical programmes of social and economic re-organization or a well-conceived and consistent agenda of reform which Nigeria stood, and stands, in dire need of.
The forgoing claims are similar to the ideas of Edgar Mittelhozer, a Carribean writer in his famous allegorical narrative, My Bones and My Flute, where he is challenging the political class to recognize the workers in the society, because on them the state economic thrives. That they should be given the kind of attention wages, salaries, security and every entitlement they deserved not a mere constant babbling for power without a corresponding action (256).
However, for this to see the day light, the masses must also realize that they have to participate in a future government if they want to claim they are patriotic Nigerians who are prepared to contribute to the well-being of the nation.

He is Our Thief
In the words of the Sage, Achebe, “There is nothing in Nigeria’s political history that captures her problem of national integration more graphically than the chequered fortune of the word tribe in her vocabulary [or region, religion or political affiliation]. Even though the word tribe has been accepted at one time as a friend, rejected as an enemy at another, but much more later smuggled in through the back-door as an accomplice”(7).
There are so any examples of this imprudent display of shame among us where a certain leader is known for siphoning the funds of the nation or a state, it is so glaring, even the walls of the land could hear and see him or her as they are carting away the common wealth of the people into private pockets.
But shamefully, you will hear people from his tribe, region, religion or political camp shouting: he is our thief! This attitude is so rampant in Nigeria, as a result, you will see many people who are supposed to be caged parading themselves as leaders with impunity. This single act has almost legalized looting in Nigeria today. And you will only hear silence, because most of us are striving to protect our heads, as a result, the nation is decaying. Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel has for us a graphic picture of the modern Nigeria society awash in corruption.

False Image
“One of the commonest manifestations of under-development is a tendency among the ruling elite to live in a world of make-believe and unrealistic expectations. This is the cargo cult mentality that an anthropologists sometimes speak about- a belief by backward people that someday, without any exertion whatsoever on their own part, a fairy ship will dock in their harbour laden with every goody they have always dreamed possessing” (9).
As a results, season after season, some of the leaders live in the world of myth dishing out words that paint the false image of Nigeria. Where you often hear words like this great country! Yes, Nigeria is great, but great in what sense? Is it greatness of corruption, poverty, unemployment, misery so much so that when you ask some people in that country, why are you alive? The answer of most of them will not be far from “I don’t Know!”
This piece is not meant to make us sad on this great day we celebrate our self-government, but it is designed to make us all mull and introspect ourselves objectively and find solutions to our enormous challenges as a people. Everything worthwhile starts from the mind, orchestrating ideas, crafting the sail path and exactly what do without infringing on others’ rights to achieve the set goals. Just as Uzobi once’s put it: “hands must be soiled before mouth becomes oiled”.
The following lines are apt nuances of Azaro (Nigeria) societal corruption, abject poverty and a living-death kind of experience painted by Okri:
“With passionate ritual offerings, our parents always tried to induce us to live” (5). “Mum was frantic over my disappearance. Her friends suggested consulting an herbalist” (30). “In the afternoon, the people that Dad had borrowed from to buy drinks came to collect their money” (5). Impoverished graveyards had become so waterlogged that coffins had been seen floating past houses… (34).
These are the symbolic representation of the common experiences of Nigerian society orchestrated by the lack of a strong willpower to effect change that will better the life of the citizenry.

Commitment to a New Nigeria
My simple definition of commitment here will be among other things which the paper will attempt to explain later is: No excuse whatsoever, I must do all I can for Nigeria to move forward; because there is no south or north, but Nigeria. And as Les Brown rightly put it: All you can do is all you can do, but make sure you honestly and jealously do all you can do, because what you can do can truly bring the kind of change you desired in your society.
The enormity of pains, the narrow agenda of a selected few who remain in power tenaciously, the lack of willpower of majority and sycophancy of few who are feeding fat from a system that is growing from bad to worst is the worst thing that can happen to any nation in the world today. From a huge survey carried out, the solution is a commitment to a new Nigeria of our dream all.
Just as the term commitment was popular among writers of Francophone areas of West Africa in 1960s and 1970s to a progressive, pro-independence liberal attitude aimed at delivering Africa from the burden of colonialism, ignorance and poverty. The same terminology can be used to effect change in Nigeria today if only we can work hard for our words to outlive us.
Today, the term commitment has become a label for a certain ideological club which sees itself as the sole guardian of society’s morality and the highest index of its standard of political, economic excellence of Africa.

The following tips may elucidate what I mean by commitment better:
Celebrate Our Differences
The first President of United States of America, George Washington once said: ‘It is not our differences that divide us, but our inability to recognise those differences, accept and celebrate those differences that divide us. This suggests that if we walk together, we can win together. And he craftily demonstrated it by making members of his cabinet half Democrats and half Republicans as a result both side became loyal to him. Till date, despite being the first president of US, he is still considered as the best president ever. We have also found such example in the life of Alexander, The Great who ruled the Kingdom of Macedonia, somewhere around Greece today, who applied this concept of acknowledging the peoples’ differences, he was able to conquer the entire Europe, most parts of Asia, America and even Africa. So if we recognise our differences, we can become stronger and better together as exemplified in the life of these great leaders.

Legal Working Institutions
Law and the legal workable institutions are important determinants of a country’s development. Without it, development will always be wishy-washy because on it the bedrock of all development rests. But any country which failed to capitalize on the legal institutions to drive development, would perpetually remains poor. According to Kelvin Davis and Michael J in their book titled, What Role Legal Institutions Play in the Development? Assert that:
Modernization theory largely subscribes to the view that development countries’ development prospect depend, for most part, on convergence on the policies and institution of developed Western societies [Nigeria] including assigning a prominent role to both liberal political values (democratic institutions and welfare state); and liberal economic institutions, in particular a prominent role for private markets”.
This opines that formal laws, especially those relating to property law and commercial law, are important tools that will provide predictability and security which will in turn foster investment and economic growth. While other bodies of law such as civil and human rights and legal entitlements to various social welfare benefits will protect the common man in the society. On the other hand, the criminal court system would be an important bulwark for the protection and enforcement of these rights.

A Village Square Meeting
Well, this is a subject that has been debated over and over without any tangible solutions. Political marriage is consummated based on true mutual understanding, but if any of the political block or some blocks think there is something going wrong with such a union, then, it is a wise thing to come together at the village square to talk over issues. By so doing, answers to some if not all the problems might be gotten. Then the nation can move forward.
Though, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan have had such a deliberation, but till date the recommendations of the committee has not been put into action. It will be pertinent at this crucial moment to revisit the document and see a possible way to transmute them into their material or working equivalence.

Kill the Money Bag
Nigerian politics is one of the most expensive political systems the world over. As a result, it has become an enterprise instead of service. So, you see those who ordinarily ought not to be in politics, becoming too obsess to win an election, not because they want to serve and bring about any positive change in the life of the citizenry; but they want to go and take their own share of the national cake.
This has apparently made godfathers too relevant in politics as a result, we always have old wine in a new bottle, and thus, the effort of the citizens for a better life is often wilted! And you see them moving from governors to senate and so on. And the poor masses who have been so impoverished have no option than to keep re-electing them! What an unfortunate situation? They have made themselves so irresistible to the electorates as though a beautiful morning flower.

The image of the current Nigeria situation painted above should not be seen as one of those idle lamentations we often hear about the country every now and then; rather, it is meant to make us ponder and begin to find fitting solutions to our challenges as a nation. Despite the setback recorded in some spheres of our national life, there are so many other things that will enable us heap a sigh of hope that tomorrow will be better.
For instance, the enactment of bill that gives the state assemblies and judiciary financial autonomous and separation of the local government accounts from the state is an effort in the right direction that when fully implemented will alleviate the suffering of the masses at the grassroots.
One of the characteristics of the federal system of government is that blames and praises are often shifted to the federal government. But in reality, most of the problems bedevilling Nigeria societies have their right foots in the states; and the left foots at the federal, but often, people don’t talk about the states. That is why even when a certain governor failed in his duty as empowered by the constitutions under the federal Residual List, blames are still shifted to the federal. Giving the above arms of government financial autonomy at the state level will foster changes if we don’t allow the Nigerian syndrome to continually engulf us.

The Escape Labyrinths
The paper deliberately names this subheading escape labyrinths because of the small things we can all do to bring about the change we need in Nigeria; but we refused to do them, instead, we waste valuable time lamenting about them. Prophetically speaking, what you continue to lament about has a way of repeating itself in your life again! The story of the Israelites while they are in the wilderness has for us a most graphic example. The simple reasons why we have everything to achieve a worthwhile goal yet, we are lagged behind just as River Niger and Benue lay azure across the country side. Is because of how we think and talk about ourselves as a nation. Let us ponder on this poem together:
If you think you are beaten, you are,
If you think you dare not, you don’t
If you like to win, but you think you can’t,
It is almost certain that you won’t.

If you think you will lose, you are lost
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will-
It is all in the state of the mind.

If you think you are outclassed, you are,
You have got to think high to rise,
You have got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man who THINKS HE CAN!
(adopted from Napoleon Hills’ Think and Grow Rich)
It is important we begin to monitor our inner conversation and what we say about our country, the better for all of us. Our plight as a nation today is not just about failed leadership, but it has a lot to do with the way we think, talk and act towards the development of our dear country. So to change the ugly situation on ground both the leaders and followers need to practice:

This may from the surface looks as a cliché, but when you look at it semantically, and pretend not to understand its pragmatic meaning, then, you will begin to see that it means discipleship to oneself, one’s family, society and the nation at large.
In Kojo Laing’s magical realism novel, Woman of the Aeroplane, he painted the people of Tukwan ( a fictional land) which represent Ghana, depicting the kind of self-discipline a people need to have if they want to effect a change. The narrative charts the process by which, through fertile interaction, discipline, it brings about a political and economic change in the life of the people. I know, you understand what I mean here, so let me end the segment with these words from Less Brown: “You have to make discipline a major force in your life today by doing what other wouldn’t do today in order to have what others wouldn’t have tomorrow!”.

Plant the Trees Now
No society gets to the tiptop of its achievements without planting the right tress today that will begin to produce fruits and shed for others to enjoy tomorrow. Pa Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnadi Azikwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello are still respected because of the trees they were able to plant while they are here! If I may ask, what trees are you planting now that you will be remember for tomorrow?
Don’t Kill It With Your Tongue
For life is a just employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.

Commitment occupies an integral space in the struggle of every nation desirous of change; not by a mere lips service, or million promises that does not bring a single change for the common good of all. Perhaps, what Okigbo once asked in his living lines in Path of Thunder, “When will the million promises fill a basket?” As a man or a woman, you do not need a diviner to tell you what to do to make the members of your family happy, you will just to all you can to make them happy. That way, everyone in the family and even the neighbours will begin to see you as a worthwhile person, thus, end you the kind of respect you crave for in the eyes of all.

Works Cited
Achebe, Chinua. Hopes and Impediments. New York: Doubleday, 1989. Print.
… Things Fall Apart. London: Heinemann, !971. Print.
…. The Trouble With Nigeria. London: Heinemann, 1983. Print.
Appiah, Kwame, A. In My father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. London: Matheun, 1992. Print.
Darwish Mahmud. The Deluge and the Tree. Lebanon: Grand Press, 1975. Print.
Habila, Helon. Waiting for an Angel. London: Heinmann, 2005. Print.
Mittelhozer, Edgar. My Bones and My Flute. London: Secker & Werburg, 1955. Print.
Laing, Kojo. Woman of the Aeroplanes. London: Picator, 1988. Print.
Okri, Ben. The Famished Road. London: Cox & Wyman, 1991. Print.
Ogunba, Oyin Commitment to Literature and Oraturr. Lagos: DCG Press, 2008. Print.
Oyegoke, Lekan. The ill Wind. South Africa: Grand World Press, 2001. Print.
OKigbo, Christopher. Path of Thunder. London: Heimann, 1974. Print.

About author
Umar Osabo teaches English as Second Language (ESL) and English as Foreign Language (EFL) courses at the University of Hargeisa, Somaliland, East Africa
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