A FORMER state governor in Nigeria, once travelled to Europe, driving through one of the country’s cities, his driver marveled at the effectiveness of governance, beauty and sophistication of the country’s system and wondered aloud to the governor why such can’t be replicated in Nigeria.
The governor gave no answer. After two terms in office, the governor bequeathed the state with white elephant projects incurring debts that run into several billions of Naira.
Nigeria is a beautiful country, yet things run contrary. Nigerians travel overseas to come back home wondering why the system seems to defy a practical working solution. Our social orientation gives concern. We are a proud nation, so much in love with our culture and tradition. But we hardly beat our chest on the state of the nation’s affairs. Few that do, argue faintly.
It strikes imagination that Nigerians once outside the shores of the country conforms to the norms of that country. A Congolese proverb has it that no matter how long a log stays in the water it doesn’t become a crocodile. This suggests that you cannot change who you are.
It doesn’t follow for most Nigerians as they easily subscribe to the adage that ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ The United Nations rates Nigeria’s Armed Forces peacekeeping mission high, but at home, the accolades are lost due to their contrary dispositions.
First time visitors to Nigeria are shocked at our social orientation. For a country, we claim to project, virtually everything about the system and people kick against the sensibility of a progressive society. We acknowledge our ineffectiveness and gross misconduct helplessly. Leadership the moulding influence and last bastion of entrenching a model society is at the mercy of the same mentality.
We project an environment harsh to our well-being. Governance, the vanguard of any meaningful development is in disarray. Over the years, we produced leaders who are more sectional than national. Unlike her contemporaries on the African continent, Nigeria lacks a national figure accepted by all. Tanzania has Julius Nyerere, for Kenyans, they acknowledge Jomo Kenyatta.
Across in West Africa, the Ghanaians are proud of Kwame Nkrumah. Global icon, Nelson Mandela, is more than a national figure to South Africans. Pre and post independence leadership continued to dance around ethnic configuration than cohesion.
We are more interested in where a potential leader hails from, other things secondary; subjecting leadership and governance to summer sault.
Who do we hold accountable for the unplanned nature of our cities? Nobody but ourselves. Every state in the country has a Regional and Town Planning Department. Its presence depends on the ministry where the department is. The department’s policies towards strict physical planning since the independence are toothless. The country’s landscape thrives on haphazardness of buildings and structures.
For instance, the citizenry flout the standard measured distance of buildings from major roads, as buildings stick closer than the law stipulates. Strangely, only in Nigeria do we have buildings and structures erected on open drainage systems.
In some instances, people extend their fences to public roads, making it narrower. Cluster of buildings spring up, before road are carved out from what remains of the land. Abandoned and uncompleted buildings dot the landscape. Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, besides its centrality and near neutrality, was conceived on the idea that Lagos was overcrowded and conditions squalid, the Federal Capital is almost telling the same story today.
As a nation, we are almost comfortable with unnatural sequence of things. We are accustomed to bad roads; more bad roads than the good ones. The country has more road transport companies than any other country in the world, yet charges more exorbitantly than others do.
It’s normal to expect a hike in transport fare during yuletide, unlike other climes where fares plummets or remain the same. Such period also comes with fear of increase in the pump price of fuel. Either the marketers go on strike or create artificial scarcity.
Boarding public transport creates disorderliness. In most cities and oftentimes, commercial motorists stop on the road to pick passengers; Blatant disregard for traffic law is common. Road accidents are daily occurrences that ‘Journey Mercy’ has become a prayer point for most people travelling.
We have so cheaply bought into venality that one can’t render service without requesting for something in return. Regrettably, this betrays us as a nation, when these services are free. Strangely, in creches, tutors make the kids thinner.
They hardly ensure the kids eat; their parent doesn’t grease their palms. They go home with unfinished lunch pack. People still buy admission into tertiary institution.
Fear of unnecessary stress comes from retiring from active service. Many Pensioners have died processing their pensions, which shouldn’t involve their physical presence as in other climes, since the money was deducted from their salaries.
Nigerians usher in the yuletides in anticipation of hike in the price of goods and services. Except for few upscale superstores, the festive periods, especially Christmas, we pay more for the same good and services.
Unsurprisingly, some traders and businesses hoard goods in anticipation of the festive periods. Virtually every product has a counterfeit, sometimes, the buyer ends up buying the fake in place of the original, even at a higher cost. Many products enters with assured quality, after gaining acceptance, the quality drops.
We generate enough electricity, yet pay for darkness. Air of anticipation for power outage for the few moments that we enjoyed power supply has never been doused. We are used to it, so, we don’t complain.
A Nigerian hotel, once ran an advert on Cable News Network (CNN), among other services, it offers 24 hours power supply. No profit oriented business entity relies on public power supply.
Nigeria supplies electricity to some neighbouring countries, yet consumes meager megawatts of it. We import electric generators than any other country on the African continent – the markets flooded with generators with short life span.
Sanitation is big headache in the country. Dirt or refuse irritates the eyes and disturbs the sense of smell. Most of our towns and cities lack public convenience; stench of urine and putrid excrete slaps the face on some of our roads.
As a military leader, General Muhammadu Buhari in 1984, stated that the primary objective of his administration was to save the country from total collapse and vowed to sanitise the polity and give the citizenry a new orientation, though by forceful means.
In March 1984, the Buhari regime launched War Against Indiscipline, a government controlled mass mobilisation corrective response to social maladjustment within the country. As part of the programme was war against filth, the measure was to clean private and public environments, it included an environmental sanitation program to clear refuse and illegal structures in public.
The regime introduced monthly sanitation exercise. The exercise takes place last Saturday of the month from 7am-10am for a clean and environmentally friendly country. The exercise empties the streets of people and vehicular flow, except for those on essential services. They achieved no success. The country still yearns for towns and cities with neat environment.
No town or city in Nigeria boasts of a comprehensive sewage system, virtually everybody’s building has a soakaway. Public water supply is almost nonexistent; most buildings accommodate water borehole and soakaway, sometimes, the soakaway contaminating the water borehole.
In that programme was the desire of the regime to instill and control orderliness and respect for fellow Nigerians within the polity. Instead of chaotic entry to buses at bus stops or jumping lines at other public places, Nigerians were told to queue and wait their turn.
The regime went as far as stationing uniformed men at some points to enforce queuing. That achieved relative success until the regime was toppled.
The system is in need of new orientation that Nigerians celebrate people without knowing the source of their wealth. Get rich-at-all-cost syndrome is now social malady that you don’t matter if you are not a deep pocket. Money rules, if you don’t have it, you don’t have a say.
The danger is, it has regrettably enforced all unimaginable atrocities in the society. We indulge in flaws, overlook it, and excuse our failures. We need a new orientation that will transform the country.