*We have just one nation to project, protect
From Emmanuel Onucheyo
“A society will collapse unless it has one basic truth on which to lean” The Courier – No. 120, March-April 1990.
I will ask the reader of this article to please take a look at the car numbers and read the selling points of the different states. You will agree with me that, apart from the few states that refer to geographical features, the selling points of the States refers to the exact opposite of the honest public’s perception of the States. Though, this is a very simple
point, it tells you the kind of society we have, a self-deceptive one.
In our present state, in 1995, we talk about health and housing for everyone in the year 2000. Which year 2000 are we talking about, is it the one just at the corner? Can we be serious people?
Any frank discussion on the present problems of our country will agree on a few points. One, constitution cannot be the problem of this country, not after the numerous ones that have been drafted. Two, power sharing or rotational presidency is not the problem of our country. How do you manage this rotation amongst about 300 tribes in peace?
Third, the creation of more states is not the problem. If it were, we have moved from three to 30 and yet we have not had peace. There is simply no basic truth to lean on.
Writing “Nigeria, a knocked engine?” last year was a painful experience for me. It was a major diversion. As a rule I hardly venture out of my field in the public, because there are so many challenges there to keep me busy. My calling is challenging, it is very basic to life and very rewarding, professionally.
In a world of division of labour, it will help for everybody to try to excel in his chosen area. The economist talk of comparative advantage. The new GATT Agreement talks of “sell what you can produce well and buy what you cannot produce”. We do not, all, have to be politicians.
Getting reactions to “Nigeria, a knocked engine?” was more devastating. Some said (or say) it is a very pessimistic view. They said, “things are not that bad”. Others felt, it hit the nail on the head. One reader said
the question mark should be removed from the caption.
Constitutional conferences and national goal: For me, it was a simple mind’s interpretation of the complex events in our country. I did not think I would dare to take this second attempt. I was prompted by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s speech (1963). Let us serve this nation loyally and faithfully … in doing so, we shall give faith to the skeptic, infuse courage in the timid and restore hope to the disillusioned”.
Relating the article to the constitutional conference, someone had this to say. He believed in the ‘’knocked engine” concept. His position was that most of the people at the constitutional conference were sponsored by those who “knocked” the engine. Their duty at the constitutional conference was to throw away more parts so that it would be difficult to repair the engine. He was dead serious.
He said “just look at the resolutions. They would tear this country further apart”. He did not forget to add that the delegates were busy lobbying for positions in the government and asking for “settlements”.
Another individual sounded more “fundamental” in his own comment. He said the owners must like the knocked engine to want to rehabilitate it. He also wondered whether we had the right engine in the proper body. He added that all the passengers in the car had to like it, to want to continue to ride in it. He liked the concept of visualising Nigeria as knocked engine and advised that we look for well-trained engineers, and not to allow road-side mechanics to further mess up the “engine.”
A marketing man had his own pictures. To him, Nigeria was a ‘’bad product’’ Nobody will buy it, even the Nigerians will not”, He said. He requested that we review Nigeria’s participation in the US Football Gold Cup competition. He said our key football players preferred their clubs to their country. He did not blame them. The officials, who were supposed to get them were not committed either. He did not believe they made serious efforts to get the players.
At the end of the day, Nigeria was disgraced. “what do we do with a bad product?” I asked. He responded, “you should withdraw the product from the market and re-package it and if it does not work you withdraw it permanently. No marketing strategy can sell a bad product,” he concluded.
When pressed further, he said he did not believe our political association was viable. His prediction was that when the Army goes we will start the discussion all over again. He added that even the rural people have been sensitised to expect the worst, with all the religious and ethnic clashes and the resulting frequent mass movement of people.
A major critic of “Nigeria, a “knocked engine?” asked why the article zeroed on the year 1985, as the beginning of the decline. He opined that the decline started long before 1985. He gave two examples. One, he said, a few years before 1985 the military made a serious error. He said, “the military gave a double promotion, not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of place of origin and faith. He said that sowed the ‘’seed of discord” in Nigeria.
It broke the “ESPRIT DE CORPS” in the military. The beneficiary was said to have alienated and looked down on his course-mates in his new position to such an extent that when he was honoured in his native locality few of the course mates turned up at the ceremony. He added that gave the “highest official approval” to some persons to now consider
themselves as special citizens, entitled to special privileges.
Second, he referred to the very sudden change of our currency a few years before 1985. He said that at that time the Naira was becoming a regional currency, it was therefore a wrong step to take. “Other nationals, saving in the Naira, abandoned the currency forever”, he concluded.
I accepted his two points, but said they could be considered as singular
“honest” mistakes, not a systematic destruction of Nigeria. My position was that even though we were “muddling and bobbling” before 1985, we made some progress. The focus was still on the nation. There was a high degree of principled loyalty to the society, in general. Most people loved this country, most people believed in this country. We had respected
institutions. There was some respect for traditional values.
My thesis for focusing on 1985 is as follows. Before the military became heavily involved in Nigerian politics, there was some myth about the military. One heard about the “powerful” injections the solders took to do wonderful things, which young boys will want to find out about. (I AM A SON OF A SECOND-WORLD WAR VETERAN, MISSED GOING TO NIGERIAN DEFENCE ACADEMY IN 1967 BECAUSE I GOT MY FIRST CHOICE OF GOING FOR HIGHER SCHOOL).
The Army then appeared to be more nationalistic in all aspects. The ADCs and other assistants came from different places from their bosses’. There appeared to be more discipline (as a child I got military fatigues in the house) and respect for seniority and merit. All soldiers were always neatly dressed, healthy-looking and enjoyed what they were doing.
People of my generation who went into the military went because they loved it. Today, the young men going into the military hope to be governors and administrators one day. THIS IS A BIG SHAME FOR THIS COUNTRY. In the 21st
Century, the index for judging countries will be economic might not military might. These young ones cannot see that some senior officers prefer to keep their uniforms in their offices, going to and returning from work in mufti. The respect for the institution is gone. What is left is personalized respect for the deserving officers. An observer once said, “all the talk about the military being disgraced out of office is bullshit. It is only in Nigeria that Military Officers sit in their parlours, get promotions and pass Staff College. The Military institution is already in
Nigeria had six successful military coups (two in 1966, 1975, 1983, 1985 & 1993). During this general period, the military community became a prolific source of writers, newspapers columnists, public policy analysts, etc. Given their various and massive releases and utterances, one gathered that one of the six successful coups had something strange about it. They all seemed to have elements of nationalism, but for this apparently strange one. Five were supposed to save the country, while one looked as if it was staged to save someone’s neck. The latter produced the abandonment of Nigeria. The loyalty of various institutions to Nigeria was broken. The style of administration wounded the soul of Nigeria. Nigeria bled unattended to. People died, spiritually and physically. Nigeria was high-jacked by a few people in 1985 and since then Nigerians lost their sleep.
It was a period of extreme nepotism and perversity. The ruler ship created a group of beneficiaries in every echelon of our system. They had their “boys” in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Academics, Civil Services, Judiciary, businesses, Traditional institutions, politics you name it. These “boys” paraded themselves everywhere arrogantly. They saw themselves as “source of life” to people. The principal figures in the “June 12” affairs are said to belong to these gang of “boys”, in fact one of them went behind the scene to try to betray the people’s confidence.
We have since maintained the legacy of this administration, and perpetuated the same institutions under different names. For example, the Nigerian family today needs salaried jobs to stay alive and lead decent and responsible lives. All that is required are good policies, not rhetoric, not new institutions, not concentration of funds under new programmes.
The public service has the structure to function properly under good leadership. The needs of our people are very basic. They need food. They need their own source of livelihood, so they can regain their self-respect. The leadership must meet this moral challenge.
We must return to moral issues. You can’t tell a store keeper not to steal when he can see rogues being respected in our society. In fact, the rogues parade themselves as “humanitarians” at fund raising functions. No one asks about their sources of funds. People who were in places of authority diverted national resources to themselves and their native locality. People lost their loved ones, arms, legs, eyes, etc under an administration geared to serve a very few people and to secure itself. People were said to have been fired from their jobs because of “loyalty problems”. The usage of national funds became the prerogative of a few. Nigeria is the only country in the world where billions of naira and dollars can disappear from the public coffers without comments.
The bunkering of oil, a national asset, is the preserve of a gang, with official stamp. Mediocrity replaced merit in all our institutions. Falsehood was promoted at the highest levels of government. The people could no longer see any clear leadership.
To save this country, you have to overhaul everything, introduce professionalism into our systems again. The non-professional civil servants will have to leave the civil service. The ambitious baby bottle-fed Professors will have to fall back to their rightful levels in the the academic system.
The military officers who did not pass Staff College will have to be discharged from the institution. We need to get back to the G.C.E. O’ Level and A’ Level education system, that is internationally recognised. We must think seriously of returning to our prayerful National Anthem, “O! God of all creation, grant this our one request. Help us to build a Nation, where no man is oppressed. And so with peace and plenty, Nigeria maybe blessed”. (AMEN)
The leadership of government organisations that was put in place in those years are still there and waxing stronger. Those that have retired are taking over legitimate social services and private sector organisations as “spokesmen”. They have become spokesmen of industries, that they never protected when they were in service in order to purposely use the institutions for further destruction.
The oppressed are getting weaker by the day. The people predicting chaos are mistaken. The people of this country do not have any energy to sustain any commotion. The religious leaders who are supposed to be the custodians of the Children of God are now more concerned with the affair of the Big People under detention. They do not see that the poor people have been in real bondage for over a decade in this country.
Restoration of the individual’s will to serve Nigeria credibly is the moral challenge for the Leadership. “If an issue is morally right, it will eventually be political. It maybe political and never right. If we’re principled first, our politics will fall in place” – Rev. Jesse Jackson, 1988 US Presidential candidate.
I say retribution on the Nigerian ruler ship that put us in this mess is required to restore the individuals will to rebuild Nigeria, not a new constitution, not new States, or rotational Presidency. This will give people a sense of justice and fair play. If you say it is impossible to bring these people to book, then our engine will remain knocked for a very very long time. I want to remind you that these same people are getting ready to rule, again. Look at what has been done to the future of the children of this country!!! I rest my case. “ADIOS”