''A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within''-WESLEY DURANT.
There have been many reasons that have been attributed to the possible causes of Nigeria's myriad problems. Many of these problems include tribalism, nepotism, corruption in high places, and myopic leadership amongst others. Many others have even attributed it to the negative after effects of colonialism. While it is true that all the problems above have contributed to the current economic and political challenges that face Nigeria, we struggle today because of our own attitude to ourselves and to things that will change society for the better. It is indeed a sensitive topic but then they say a race that intends to make progress must appreciate its past before projecting a future for itself.
Centuries ago when slave trade began to gain ground, it was recorded that the slave traders offered the local chiefs cowries and mirrors – amongst other material gifts and benefits - and thus began a barbaric act that lasted almost a century. The greed and mindless materialism that today pervades modern Nigerian society is obviously not a recent phenomenon. If the records at our disposal as regards how Africa became a ground for future colonialism are considered, then it must not surprise us why and how this promising continent remains largely underdeveloped. It took a few elements those days to set in motion slavery because they were greedy and unpatriotic.
My question is: how did slavery and its later consequence, colonialism, become so successful? The local chiefs of the slave trade era which are the equivalents of contemporary presidents, governors, senators, ministers and representatives were certainly not different from their modern-day counterparts. The quote at the beginning of this write-up implies slave trade would not have succeeded if local chiefs did not compromise their positions by accepting what will be by today’s standards bribes and kickbacks from these ''traders''. Colonialism would also not have been possible if leaders of that era had not compromised themselves. As a matter of fact, colonialism was a direct fall out of slavery. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the late Russian legend once said, ''The problem with America is that it will destroy itself from within''. While the United States can still boast of being a united entity - though Lenin's prophecy can be dismissed at America's own peril – it is my fervent hope that we have not started seeing the manifestations of such prophecies in Nigeria.
Earlier in the week, I went through the Failed States Index for 2010 and the revelations were nothing new but nevertheless depressing. This year's index draws on 90,000 publicly available sources to analyze 177 countries and rate them on 12 metrics of state decay - from refugee flows to economic implosion, human rights violations to security threats. Taken together, a country's performance on this battery of indicators tells us how stable - or unstable - it is. Based on the above metrics, Nigeria was ranked 14th on the Failed States Index. It will of course be to our peril if we took such indices with a light-heart. The implication of that ranking on the 2010 FSI is that we have been grouped alongside known notorious countries such as Chad, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Sudan. How could this be? How can the supposed ‘giant of Africa’ rank with such minnows? Is the agenda to make the Nigerian economy one of the top 20 economies in the world by 2020 not another self deceptive scheme? Who will power that revival? Is it a malnourished, poverty-stricken, ill-motivated and ill-educated citizenry? Who has presided over the Nigerian state of affairs while the ship sank? Aren’t they the same local chiefs of the colonial era who sold their brethren for material benefits?
In the Niger Delta for instance, where the bulk of Nigeria's revenue is earned, it is no longer news that the enormous resources committed to that region for its development finds its way into the pockets of very few and powerful individuals. Misery in that part of the country is therefore an artificial creation made possible by self serving leaders who do not have the people's welfare at heart. What we now have is an army of angry, hungry and desperate people who are ready to do anything to change the status quo. Of course the Niger Delta quagmire is well replicated across the nation. Take the area of infrastructure for instance; this is sure evidence of a ''civilization destroyed from within''. When a minister of works for example enriches himself while neglecting the roads and infrastructure he is supposed to repair, in what way is he different from the slave trade era leaders who made slavery possible because of greed.
A country cannot become great and fulfil its potentialities with its infrastructure in shambles. Roads are in terrible shape yet billions have been reportedly spent on them. Industries cannot provide jobs because they operate under extremely difficult conditions. Constant and reliable power supply remains a mirage yet this is a sector that hundreds of billions of Naira has been expended. There is no health policy and our hospitals are grossly under funded. The ''wealthy'' in Nigeria travel abroad for routine check-ups thereby encouraging the steady decline of healthcare in Nigeria. Education is also not well funded and it seems much thought has not been given to improve the quality of Nigeria's human resource base. Every Nigerian government has had Nigerians' at the helm of affairs of every sector of national life but because they have been compromised, they leave such positions with stupendous wealth and the society is left worse off. There really is no difference between the local chiefs of the slave trade era and contemporary Nigerian leaders because both were/are driven by what they stood/stand to gain. The approach, circumstances and time-periods may differ but the result of such unpatriotic acts is the same.
The Nigerian attitude to the upliftment of his society must improve because only Nigerians can help and develop Nigeria. I honestly am yet to witness where a foreign state helps another build its country and its economy. Her destiny is firmly placed in the hands of its people and our activities - noble, selfless, progressive or otherwise - will surely determine the future of Nigeria. Nothing much has worked in almost five decades of independence yet we have an arrogant and over-pampered political class that can not explain its various sources of wealth. When crass materialism takes a country over as it has done to Nigeria, nothing will work. We must realize that for Nigeria to work, we all have a role to play. Nigeria is no doubt a country immensely blessed but it will only become great if Nigerians ensure it is not destroyed from within. And this starts from seeing public office as a call for humanity and not for personal enrichment. It is also time the Nigerian nation must stop being ranked 14th on lists such as the Failed States Index and its like. But it must be worked for and this self-deception must stop. It can be done. God bless Nigeria. WE WILL NEVER FAIL…