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Where is Nigeria headed?

  Niran Adedokun     Penultimate week, I was privileged to have had a live Instagram conversation with a very impressive young lady, Ifune...

 Niran Adedokun  

 Penultimate week, I was privileged to have had a live Instagram conversation with a very impressive young lady, Ifunenya Isoje. Miss Isoje had read my new book, entitled: The Danfo driver in all of us, a compilation of my modest interventions on national issues published in this column over the last couple of years.


As expected, she had loads of questions for me. She owned up to the confusion this country has become, in spite of its evidently enormous natural and human resources. She particularly expressed the frustrations of the burgeoning young population, which has mostly neither seen nor partaken of the good of the land and how that inspires the generational urge for migration. Palpably worried about all of it and armed with the fact that I have definitely experienced more of Nigeria than her, (given the slight difference in age), the lady shot what seemed like a conundrum at me: “Do you think there is a future for Nigeria?”


Now, that is a question, whose answer was clear if I was to be honest. But as a person of faith, I have grown to believe and indeed benefited from the theology of faith and positive speaking. A practising Christian should live by faith and not by sight. In other words, regardless of what you see, faith in God that things will be better is what you should confess and continue to hold on to. However, I am also a pragmatist and I understand that there is only a thin boundary between dogmatic optimism and delusion!


Gratefully, Christianity itself presents a significant latitude for practicality. While it invites the faithful to have solid, unshakable faith in God, it admonishes that productive faith is attended by a measure of work. The import of this is that those who have faith in God have roles to play in the actualisation of their desires, faith become effectual thereafter!


The popular Arab saying: “Trust in Allah, but tie your camel,” is also believed to be hinged on this doctrine in Islam. It is believed to have derived from Hadith Tirmidhy, where a man was said to have come to Prophet Mohammed (SAW) asking if he could leave his hires and put his trust in Allah that the hires would be protected from drifting away. The prophet was said to have advised him to tie his camel and thereafter, put his trust in Allah. The instruction here is that the faithful must, rather than being laid back, do their part before relying on Allah for perfection. This, to my mind, is where Nigeria fails in the journey to significant nationhood and I told my younger friend so.


While Nigerians, leader and the led, seem so optimistic about the survival of their country, the question we do not ask however is how much work are we putting into preparing for this future we romanticise about? How much is Nigeria preparing for the challenge of the daily transformations that the increasingly competitive environment of the world possesses? My answer during this interview was that Nigeria could indeed have a great future if it does reconsider its current unhelpful course.There are so many ways Nigeria is an enemy to its own future, and I intend to share my thoughts on two of them presently.


The first is that Nigeria has remained nothing than a mere geographic expression 60 years after independence. It has refused to metamorphose into a nation of peoples who share common dreams. As a matter of fact, the question of nationhood has never been trampled upon as currently in Nigeria. I will give an example.


On August 28, a group of lawyers wrote to inform the Attorney General Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, about the formation of a breakaway faction of the 67-year-old Nigerian Bar Association! True, the Nigerian constitution guarantees the rights of citizens to association but the motivation of this group of lawyers should break the heart of everyone loyal to the Nigerian cause. Although it sidestepped the real issues in the letter addressed to Malami, an earlier statement by two lawyers, Nuhu Ibrahim and Abdulbasit Suleiman, had given away the main and immediate grouse of the group.


It reads: “…No wonder, NBA NEC, which is the highest decision-making organ of the association failed to uphold the fundamental principle of fair hearing which in itself, is the fundamental aspect of the rule of law, on the allegations against the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, as were contained in a petition by Chidi Odinkalu Esq., a long time foe of His Excellency AND A LAWYER OF EASTERN EXTRACTION, BUT THE NBA FAILED TO EXTEND THE SAME TREATMENT TO SOUTHERN INVITEES WHO WERE ALSO PETITIONED AND ARE ALSO ALLEGED TO HAVE COMMITTED SIMILAR OR MORE HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES THAN THOSE ALLEGED AGAINST MALLAM EL-RUFAI.” (emphasis mine).


While it is not out of place for members of a professional body like the NBA to disagree, perhaps even have splinters, that issues of ethnicity and religion, rather than ideologies related to the development of the profession or country at large, would precipitate such breakups shows the extent to which people have lost the sense of propriety in Nigeria. Professional bodies, like political parties are like yarns used to weave society together and water down the viciousness of primordial considerations. When a group of lawyers become the champions of divisions, which if impossible to resolve internally, could have been subjected to the courts, such country is trudging on the edge of a precipice.


The second really frightening issue is the way the country treats its children and youth. Nigeria only plays lip service to the education of its children as well as the training and empowerment of its youths. So, currently between 10.5 and 14 million children are out of school without any aggressive and concerted effort to address the situation.


Recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that of the 40 million youths eligible to work in Nigeria, only 14.7 are fully employed, 11.2 million under employed while a total of 13.1(more than the population of some countries) are unemployed. Yet, the country has no population control programmes even though its population is growing at a faster rate than its productive capacity and no one is paying attention!


So, in 2020, you find 19-year-old Nigerians who have neither been to school nor received any form of vocational training, in a hurry to get rich. They then very easily become tools in the hands of more experienced criminals, as you find in the case of Sunday Shodipe, the suspected serial killer in Ibadan, Oyo State and the young men alleged to have been responsible for the murder of MissVera Omozuwa in Benin City earlier this year. That is not to speak about other evils like Internet fraud, cultism, armed robbery, kidnapping and vandalism to which Nigeria’s hapless youths become convert by the day. What is worse is that many parents do not only know of the criminal engagement of their children these days, they in fact endorse and even facilitate them.


This is why one needs cautious optimism about Nigeria’s prospects. A country cannot rise above the quality of its people, a fact this country does not seem to understand regardless of how much warning of the dangers ahead the rest of the world offers. Not that hope is lost though but time is running out fast. A country where religious and ethnic emotions override reasoning; where youth employment rises uncontrollably; where population growth supersedes gross domestic product will see increased insecurity, and poverty is sitting on a ticking time bomb and going nowhere.



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