By Isidore Emeka Uzoatu
UNWITTINGLY, Nigeria keeps owning up to all its many caricatures. Since its birth in 1914, and independence in 1960, the ‘geographic expression’ has had to cope with a lot of it. The most telling of these overtly odious labels, though, have been cast in recent times. Making some pundits believe it’s for them that history was removed from the curriculum of our schools.
Easily, the most prominent comes from the nation’s ruler’s numerouno ‘enemy’ Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. In his deft swipes at the underbelly of our commonwealth, he had surmised the nation a zoo. It’s also believed that this, more than the major theme of his effort, was the reason Mr. President crowned him so. Any wonder that for some time now he had been kept under lock and key.
But no thanks to the buildup to the 2023 elections, the nation has started manifesting some of these, often latent, characteristics. Like the one released on TV by a spokesperson of the ruling party’s presidential candidate. In the fury spurred on by an acerbic question, he promised to reply aptly ‘when the jungle matures’.
Now, the use of such gutter language by such a highly placed government official – a minister of state, in fact – left a sour taste in many buds. It had a particularly irked nietzin wondering how we descended so low. He was so disturbed that his disabused mind immediately swung down memory lane.
Atop the memorial floated how it took only Buhari’s body language to hold the country in a thrall of compliance back in 2015. Elected president against a ‘clueless’ incumbent, Buhari had oozed so much promise. So much that one guy unilaterally elected to trek to Abuja from his village in celebration. Yet another decided to take a bath in an open drain.
Well, not unlike Nnamdi Kanu incarceration, whatever became of the duo of celebrants falls without the purview of this piece…
Suffice it to note that back then too, a delegation of PMB’s classmates visited him at Aso Rock in congratulations. After the peremptory exchange of pleasantries, the president regaled them with stories. In one, the president told them how his toppling as a military ruler truncated all the beautiful plans he had lined up for the country.
True as it is, it, however, ends up waking a minefield of ifs, buts and ands. All of which played out to leave us where we are presently situated in the comity of world nations. For, though reflexive patriotism attempts to overcloud the reality, our nation is closer to a dire straits than ever before.
So much, indeed, that a rehash of the ugly statistics here will amount to whipping a long-dead horse.
Oh yes. Because, but for the sake of decorum, the obviously power struck presidential visitors had a lot of older ifs to remind their host.
For instance, today the greatest achievement being re-echoed by the president’s megaphones remains his ‘completion’ of the Second Niger Bridge. But in doing this, they appear to have forgotten that the origin of the edifice dates back to the reign of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. Yes, in the same Second Republic which their host played a significant role in its toppling.
Talk of a knifer disliking it when another makes for his rear side with his weapon of choice.
Arguably, it also implies that but for the five majors’ 1966 putsch, our nation would have ferried through a different trajectory altogether. After all, before then the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa government had put the still-standing First Niger Bridge in place. And this without as much as enough fanfare to arouse tribe hate – or love. Depending on which side of the bridge you occupy.
The sky, indeed, appeared to be the limit of the First Republic. Overtly loyal to our independence constitution, they had also added one more region to the original three. And, once more, this was achieved without waiting for a waving of flags in self-determination. Coincidentally, it also marks the only time a civilian regime in this country would achieve a delineation of any sought.
Therefore, there’s no doubt that had the majors not struck, like one of them captured it, that wholesomely-agreed template would still have been in place. Other than the extant one – decreed on by our brothers in khaki – it would have seen the nation evolving in civility like other great nations of the world. Perhaps, too, our uniformed messiahs would never have continued riding roughshod over us in the borrowed agbadas they donned in an encore of their stranglehold on us.
All these opportunities to greatness we have missed as a nation, brings a particular one to mind. At the tail of the IBB transition agenda, we had civilians in charge from the states to the Senate. All that remained was the presidential election. Inexplicably, when the transition wavered, the duly constituted National Assembly failed to take over. Just because they did not have guns!
Which is neither here nor there in the jeremiad of our national misadventures. After all, but for the British adventure in the India/Pakistan experiment, we might as well have been two countries rather than one. What with our northern brothers being avowedly unready for independence when their southern brothers were all for it.
But one question remains: Assuming we had ended up with two different countries, would we have been worse or better off for it?
Which is just another of the many questions our diminished nationhood proffers aplenty. Definitely, it couldn’t have left either state static. Each would still have plodded on, meeting and surmounting the various challenges that would have lined their paths.
Anyway, that we became one nation was no less apocalyptic. After all, sans the majors, by now we would have morphed into a many-regioned nation. And rather than just tap the parts of the American constitution that suits our profligacy, our independence constitution would have morphed into a more dependable template.
Fashioned by the people, for the people and to the people, rather than a consumer nation, we may have since turned producers. And how else, on account of the maximum utilisation of the value-chain opportunities proffered by the various natural resources beneath our earth.
There’s no iota of doubt that it would have, in the least, forged us into a less iffy nation; incomparable, by far, to the zoos and jungles of this world.
Uzoatu wrote from Onitsha, Anambra State.
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