Nigeria, the Federal Republic of, as an entity is a juridical fact, recognized under international law. Its existence as the largest aggregation of people of African has also spun all kinds of myths and exaggerated fantasies about what the country’s socio-economic and political realities portend.
The following are some of the myths;
1 Nigeria is ‘the hope’ of Africa
2 If Nigeria disintegrates, the very fact will have such cataclysmic consequences in the West African subregion.
3 Nigeria is the ‘giant’ of Africa
4 Nigeria is ‘too big’ to fail.
Many Nigerian patriots and ardent nationalists entertain themselves with these illusions. Many non- Nigerians, ardent Pan-Africanists, some foreign policy analysts have been fixated on these orthodoxies for more than half a century of the country’s existence as an independent state.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with national myths and folklores. Many nations weave these as enduring mythological building blocks that sustain their socio-cultural existence. Myths and folklores serve a purpose, to mobilize and galvanise the citizenry for a common national purpose.
Many leaders of nations worldwide though, do not rely on myths to build their nations, or take them as verities. They infuse these myths with patriotic fervour and work hard to make the socio-economic and political realities of their national existence approximate the myths they have created.
The reverse seems to be true in Nigeria. Many of those who find themselves or planted themselves at the very apex of political power , beyond peddling banalities about ‘one Nigeria’ ‘the indivisibility of Nigeria’ ‘the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria’ ‘ I can die for Nigeria’ ‘Do or die Nigeria’ are no more than rent-seeking, empire-building fortune seekers, wrapping themselves in the exaggerated toga of false patriotism. Patriotism, of the kind they profess, as the saying goes, is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Some , lacking the intellectual wherewithal, have no idea what national development is about, nonetheless find themselves in office.
Most, of sparse or merely visible circumstance before office, leave office with truly astounding and unconscionable material acquisitions, fingers fattened and dripping with illicit gains of office.
How does one explain that 47% of out-of-school children globally are in Nigeria, that 75% of our budget go for salaries and emoluments of our self-indulgent public sector, that Nigeria of an estimated 170 million people has only 129 universities, that only just a little over 500,000 of an estimated 1.7 million university bound Nigerian students can be provided for ? What does our society do with angry despairing 1.2 million adolescents who have no universities to go to? What do the oligarchs of Northern Nigeria think of the millions of almajiris roaming the cities of our nation, beyond occasional lamentations of despair? Or the dispiriting educational divide between their region and the rest of the country? What do their counterparts in the south think about ‘baby factories’ and exhumation of corpses to harvest human body parts for sale?
Rather than advert their minds to urgent national issues, we are visited with puerile elite game like ‘zoning’, ‘automatic ticket’, ‘furniture allowance’ and sundry preferments etc.
In the 1960s, analysts identified Nigeria, Brazil, and India in the same sentence, as ‘countries of the future’. In 2012, Brazil [that endured in the 60s and 80s, more than two decades of brutal military rule , with a $200 billion debt overhang to boot] surpassed the United Kingdom as the fifth industrial power in the world. And both India and Brazil are in the emerging global powers, BRICS states. Our beloved country is tottering at the bottom of the human development indices, our minister of power characterized our electricity provision as a ‘nightmare’ and a 170 million nation cannot generate a mere 4,000 megawatts on consistent and sustained basis for one year.
And yet we are preached to, ‘Nigeria cannot fail’ etc. Why do countries fail, collapse and disintegrate? It is because its leaders bury their heads in the sand, tied to the status quo and blinded by that very fact. If the powerful few in our country are not tied to the status quo, it ought to be evident to them that a thirty six state structure is not sustainable and can only ultimately bankrupt Nigeria, as indeed many of the states are already. But that is the thing with false patriots, they d rather wait for the country be on its knees, gasping for breath, hoping once again to position themselves for power and privilege in the new order that might arise from the ashes of the old.