I have chosen to talk, not on the path we refused to take, but on the path of misadventure that led Nigeria to the present ugly crossroads. The military involvements in politics for twenty-nine years out of Nigeria’s fifty-seven years of independence has drawn back and miniaturized the sense of democracy and good governance among Nigerian political leaders so much that political discussions are no longer issue-based or interesting. This situation becomes very dangerous for the future of our society – particularly among the growing youths on whom the likes of Seinde Arogbofa are labouring so much to restructure intellectually.
A cardinal point in teacher education is that adolescence represents life’s transition when youths want to be like adults but they lack the confidence and the experience of selecting options among changing circumstances and for confronting challenges arising from varying universal problems. Apart from relatively few science students who perform token experiments of knowledge in their science laboratories, all other youths, including those having no advantage of going to school now, in Nigeria, largely find themselves inadvertently doing experiments of their knowledge among the societies of ‘yahoo-yahoo boys’, drug pushers, ‘419 advanced fraudsters’, ‘boko-harams’, ‘badoo ritual killers’ cults’, militant-terrorists, and several other gangs of hoodlums.
This situation of violent criminality and insecurity with the incidences of waves of armed robberies, kidnappings, ritual killings, cattle rustlings, suicide bombings and treasury looting has exerted so much pressures on our security agents that cases like pickpocketing, shoplifting, knife crimes, raping, burglary and other common misdemeanors have totally become trivialised as mere pranks or jokes too insignificant for police attention.
Already, the military that brought those situations to Nigeria have moved back to their barracks. Nigeria is left helplessly choosing newbreed leaders from among the youths who are struggling out, directly or indirectly, from the influence of the various societies of criminal gangs. All other emerging gentleman professionals, who are not in politics, are fast becoming grumblers and self-declared ‘misfits’ in most Nigerian societies, wondering if Nigeria can ever return to its old glories and workable attractions. They, in the meantime, are imagining where would be the place for their own children being presently brought up from elite environments.
The Nigerian newbreed elected and selected leaders, judging from their societal backgrounds described above, find it difficult to be aware that Nigeria is ten years backward in road assets: it has 193,000 kilometers of bad roads instead of 300,000 of well paved roads; it requires not less than one trillion Nara annually to probably catch up by 2025. Some of the newbreed elected leaders do not even appreciate that the 60,000 kilometers of roads that are being claimed to have been paved out of Nigeria’s present 193,000 kilometers of bad roads have already been taken over by pot-holes. Such leaders are crowded in State capitals and Abuja, bluffing the rest of us at our roadless villages with fleets of exotic cars under their control.
These our newbreed psychedelic elected and selected leaders need to listen attentively to the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors who recently declared that the Nigerian Federal Government alone would need some three trillion naira annually to fix its infrastructural deficits. With the zig-zag production and fluctuating prices of crude oil, these newbreed elected and selected leaders have not convinced themselves as to where this huge money would be found to define Nigeria’s future economic trajectories, but they are constantly and breathlessly battling for constituency project allowances.
The country representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Mr Muhammed Fall, was reported, recently by Freedom Online media, to have put Nigerian children who are not attending Primary school at 10.5million. At 35 pupils per classroom, 300,000 class rooms and 300,000 additional teachers are needed if their parents can be convinced to send them to schools.
Many of Nigeria’s elected and selected newbreed leaders come from such cultures where sending children to school is abhorred and they remain comfortable with that.
In our days, Western Nigerian parents’ resistance to sending children to school was resolutely battled and degraded by the Obafemi Awolowo administration. Awolowo’s government thoughtfully opened technical schools, schools of agriculture, farm settlements and a marketing board for farm produce price stabilization. By making agriculture very profitable and beneficial for the developments of his people in the West, Awolowo made it so attractive that there was full youth employment.Even at a time, the Nigerian Federal Government was owing Awolowo’s administration in the Western Region a huge debt from the proceeds of farm commodities. That was why demands for revenue allocation by derivations (now being compared with ‘resource control’) was melodious in his political music.
Robert Mugabe was somewhere quoted to have said “How do you convince the upcoming generations that education is the key to success when we are surrounded by poor graduates and rich criminals?” This aptly describes the situation the military’s involvements in politics and the 1999 constitution have hoisted on Nigeria too.
Nigeria began as a controversial state of many nations. The 1999 Constitution is Nigeria’s greatest misadventure since Lugard’s amalgamation of 1914. The constitution puts emphasis on spending rather than making money, thereby intensifying the battles for supremacy between the legislature and the executive while the judiciary is being corruptly tainted and discredited. The constitution breeds and protects corrupt practices and criminal impunities in governance. The 1999 Constitution can never be beneficially reviewed and the ongoing piecemeal adjustments or amendments can only totally blot the essence of national values and accelerate the de-amalgamation of Nigeria. All the angels coming from heavens cannot make that constitution work for the progress of Nigeria. It should only be scrapped as a bad relics of military mentality; and it ought to be temporarily replaced with the 1963 Republican Constitution to enable a transition for the writing of a suitable constitution.
Otherwise, the 1999 constitution would continue to dwarf Nigeria’s economy and stifle the country’s social structure pending a disastrous and catastrophic bankruptcy.
Ladies and gentlemen, the search for a better future has now become a function for every Nigerian because criminal revolution can lead to chaotic revolution over which no one has control.
It is my prayer for us all to fare well on our way out of the country’s present sorry pass.
– Chief Akande, former governor of Osun state, made these remarks at the presentation of the book “Nigeria: the Path We Refused to Take” by Seinde Arogbofa, in Akure.