What is the future of Nigeria? This is a difficult question for me to answer straight-away. But to answer it squarely and truthfully, let me say that we need to journey back to yesterday then journey from there to the present and thereafter be a Johnny Walker stepping into tomorrow.
Many young Nigerians of today will weep and weep if we play before them now the Nigerian tape of yesterday or yesteryears. Let me be autobiographical here – even for a slight moment. And may my memory speak rightly and truthfully to me as I do so.
I am what everybody who knows me will call a Sapele boy, a proper Sapele “boma boy” because my impressionable years happened in that small coastal town, that small city called today Papa’s-land or God’s own land. Of course, in my childhood imagination then Sapele loomed large as a big port city. It was always bigger and more rascally than my dear, dear Warri – which I “relocated” to later, and which always competed with Sapele any time. I wish to peep into the perfect past of my childhood and boyhood as the sun peeps through the clouds. Then every Urhobo boy or Ijaw boy or Yoruba boy or Benin boy or Igbo boy or Isoko boy or Itsekiri boy or Hausa boy was a Sapele or Warri boy. Believe you me, my perfect past was the perfect past of a Nigeria of “Though tongue and tribe may differ, in brotherhood we stood.”
Friendship was friendship and loyalty was loyalty. In school and outside school we always had a thrilling atmosphere. And our teachers were teachers indeed in exactly the same way that our parents were parents in words and deeds. But the disastrous civil war of 1967 to 1970, which ushered furious disorders into our country, spoilt everything for happy childhood and happy boyhood. Things have never been the same again in Nigeria since that time. I lost my wonderful playmates to that war – which I had an intimate association with.
Let me spare my listeners (and readers) the details of what I truly mean. But that incident and its moments constitute parts of the magic of my childhood and boyhood autobiography as a Sapele-Warri personage in Nigeria that is clearly akin to a bleak house today.
Let us not deceive ourselves. Nigeria of today is not the Nigeria of our founding fathers: Nnammdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Festus Okotie-Eboh, Anthony Enahoro and the other unsung heroes of our land. I must make this point. Things are so bad in Nigeria today to the extent that several minority personages who were among the founding fathers of Nigeria are hardly or not mentioned at all in any discussion of the history of how our country came into being and who and who played this or that role in the making of independent Nigeria.
The evolution of Nigeria, at least since the colonial over-lords left our shores, is seen, wrongly, as essentially the handiwork of the “super four”: Azikiwe, Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa. Wrong. Without minorities such as Enahoro, Okotie-Eboh, Marierie, Oba Akenzua 11 of Benin and their fellow counter-parts from Tivland, Ijawland and Efik-land, for instance, there would not have been Nigeria – the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The politics of the exclusion of minority personages as among the founders of Nigeria is a continuation of the injustice of the majority over the minority in our land. All our damning disgrace derives from the injustice, inequity and intolerance everywhere about us in contemporary Nigeria. The impoverishment and fatalistic wealth that are fabulously interwoven in our country now derive from the strange attitude of the major ethnic groups in power, authority and government.
Their academic minions and advisers, among whom are well known ethnic radicals in name only, equally contribute to the ruthless persecution of the minorities by the big majority groups. What I have done so far is a kind of hop-step-and-jump journey from our past to our present. And this is leading us to the point that our success as united Nigerians can only be realized through the gesture and practice of political leaders who must preserve the doctrine of our collective humanity and heroism without negative sentiments whatsoever.
Unfortunately, very recently, as we all are aware, a president from a minority ethnic nationality behaved in every way that underscored the fact that he was not in any way better than our fatalistic-minded leaders from the major ethnic groups. He could not be an exemplary president and bridge-builder worthy of emulation. He stripped himself of the decent and good clothes of complete consciousness of politics of the good for a united Nigeria of united Nigerians. Things can be said to come to a head under his presidency. He and his men and women in power wrote themselves into our history books as tiny men and women in the governance of our country for almost a decade of unequalled economic stench and cheerless political goal not bereft of maniacal propensities.
The horrors of corruption Nigeria witnessed under Dr. Jonathan’s presidency were unprecedented. Particularly intriguing was what Dr. Jonathan’s women in political offices made of their offices and positions. We can never forget Miss “Do-the-needful” Stella Oduah and her bullet-proof cars of questionable millions of naira. We also can never forget the activities of the Chief Minister of Dr. Jonathan’s watch-less watch. Her famed economist imprisoned our national currency instead of giving it freedom that would enable it to give the Nigerian masses real economic joy.
The fatal poverty everywhere about us today came from her ruthlessly masses-demeaning economic doctrine and policy which Dr. Jonathan and his party endorsed. What of his erstwhile oil minister, the visibly all-powerful Diezani Alison-Madueke? Is she not boiling now in the stinking news of allegedly fantastically fatalistic corruption? What of the erstwhile First Lady called Mrs. Patience Jonathan? Maybe the less said about her the better.
The four women of Dr. Jonathan mentioned above constitute some of the women in contemporary Nigerian politics that we will negatively remember for a pretty long time and for more than a pretty long time. If our women are that bad what do we expect our men in politics to be? If gold should rust, what will iron do? What hope do we foresee for our country in a situation where even our women in political positions cannot manage to escape from the cesspool of iniquity and impunity? The day shall come when it shall be written as follows: How women maligned and ruined Jonathan’s presidency.
What does the future hold for us? This question cannot be answered urgently and in a straight-forward way. In fact, before we get to the cosmos of the answer many itch to know, we must first say one or two words about the new regime of President Muhammadu Buhari. The recently released names of the ministers who will be in his cabinet have just debased the popular myth about him and his change mantra. Is the retired general now our civilian president a fake after all? Has he all the while been dressed in borrowed robes of a would-be creator of the harmonious world of a perfect Nigeria for Nigerians, the black race and the world generally?
Buhari is not after all a military genius and a grown-up political prodigy who will rescue Nigeria today and tomorrow from the evil forests of bad memories and experiences. For a pretty long time we will keep dancing in the evil forests of changeless change which Wole Soyinka as far back as 1963 foresaw in his dark drama A Dance of the Forests.
Since the 1960s our country has been a dark swamp, a deep, dark swamp at the beginning and end of a dangerous river stretching from the coast to the desert. It has really been dangerous to fish properly in this place because of the muck on the bottom and the fast, deep water that many times has whirlpools that drown anything down with it. I hope that these metaphors are not too deep to find relevance here. But nothing can be sweeter or stranger than to ponder the thrills the metaphors generate. They belong to the fruitful imagination of one who every now and then meditates on how one’s country of horrors can be rescued and be totally rejuvenated.
When I was preparing this lecture I found two or three exact instruments that helped do fashion my frame of mind for it. The first instrument is contained in the mission statement of the Neo-Black Movement of Africa. Let me quote it: NBM of Africa aims to strengthen the capacity of African and global communities in all sectors, mainly in social mobilisation towards campaigns, particularly for the poor and marginalized communities, in order to provide equal opportunities in education and health-care.
The second instrument is seen in the statement of vision of the Neo-Black Movement of Africa. It is as follows: NBM of Africa is inspired by the vision of a strong, spirited society in which a culture of social justice and equality is firmly entrenched and the rights of every citizen are protected and respected where also, citizens acknowledge that nation’s building is a core responsibility that they have to participate in selflessly. The vision of the fraternity are to stimulate the ambition of its members to prepare them for the greatest usefulness in the cause of humanity, freedom, and dignity of the individual; to encourage the highest and noblest form of manhood; and to aid the downtrodden humanity in its efforts to achieve higher social, economic and intellectual status.
In the above-quoted mission and vision statements of the Neo-Black Movement of Africa you see noble thoughts and ideals whose unique designs are certainly beautiful, delightfully solid and discernibly visible to all those who mean to light and shine forever the lamp of the progress and development of Africa, and the black race. In fact, the Neo-Black Movement members, as I can discern, are committed to lighting and shinning this lamp through humanity’s infallible foolscap.
I can see by this lecture and other activities that they are organising that the members of this “non-partisan, non-religious and non-tribal organisation,” are truly and deliciously ready to ever commit their present and future to raising the profile of Nigeria, Africa, the black race and that of humanity to the point where they can gain ascent to the cosmos of harmony.
Let me quote, finally, an excerpt from a history specimen of the Neo-Black Movement made available to me: The movement strives to eradicate all forms of discrimination, oppression, intimidation, corruption, neo-colonialism and other vices. [It strives to] promote social solidarity among black people all over the world by exposing the futility of blindly copying foreign culture and put an end to [the] mockery of indigenous African culture by practicing the ideals of Blackism.