- Category: Leonard Karshima Shilgba
- Published on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 11:26
- Written by Leonard Karshima Shilgba
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I am not satisfied with the Nigeria in which I live today, neither am I proud of it. I want this Nigeria destroyed and another born. There is despair where there should be hope. Groups that should inspire have rather become hindrances of social and economic growth. But why do I still write about Nigeria in spite? I do because people only run with what they read and understand; and if what they read has read them and exposed them enough, there is hope that one day the right spirit that makes great and enviable places shall take hold of their souls and give them no rest until their habitation becomes a place of praise.
But are we not crying more than the bereaved? If the Nigerian students, attending those rundown public schools, truly felt the pain would they not react? Maybe they love what they are “enjoying” and yet we, provokingly intruding fellows, are stressing ourselves for nothing. Maybe the leaders of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) know better than some of us writers, who are too blind to see that Nigerian students have been well taken care of by their governments (at federal, state, and local levels), who give some of them scholarships that are sufficient to pay their tuition fees in public universities and provide for their basic academic needs. I am sorry if I am too blind to see your comfort, Nigerian students. Maybe I am too blinded by my anger at not being selected by President Jonathan for a federal ministerial position so that I too would exact my national share. Maybe I don’t know that you students in public Nigerian universities also have access to the kind of quality library and laboratories that my students have. Maybe I am ignorant that you too enjoy regular electricity and water supply on your campuses that my students do. Maybe I don’t know that you have wireless internet campuses such as ours, where I teach at a private university in the same Nigeria you love too much to change. Probably each of you has a wireless-enabled laptop that my students have, and the type of projector-equipped and magic board-installed classrooms in which I teach in the same Nigeria you would not change. Maybe you too enjoy uninterrupted academic calendars that my students do, and could graduate within three years. Maybe your professors and lecturers are as comfortable as we are, but they are too fastidious, thus the regular strikes they embark upon. You must be angry at your lecturers for being ungrateful to your Nigerian rulers. Forgive me if both you and your lecturers have access to the latest research materials anytime they are needed just as we do. Probably your lecturers and professors, like us at a private university in the same Nigeria of your satisfaction, are provided with free laptops, Ipads, and regular and adequate funds to attend local and international conferences anywhere on earth. Forgive me if your schools have exchange programs with foreign counterparts and you interact thereby with your foreign colleagues for broader education and image boost of your universities.
Nigerian students, do you know that you can force your governments to act for the public good? Maybe you are contented with your lot in life. Maybe your certificates are yet being valued highly within Nigeria. Maybe the rate of unemployment is not high enough and so your attention is not turned to the “problem.”
If you are not satisfied with this Nigeria, then destroy it. The leadership of NANS should call for an indefinite shut down of all schools in Nigeria until they obtain practical commitment for the following:
- Convocation of a national constitution conference that will result in true fiscal federalism and decentralization of executive and legislative authority (Items on exclusive legislative list, which compromise real federalism must be expunged). All schools, universities and tertiary institutions that have been taken over by the federal government must be handed back to their original owners.
- Appointment of Vice-chancellors must be made to have international outlook, with rigorous competition that should require candidates to present their vision, including how they could raise funds. In other words, students should insist on efficient management of universities and tertiary institutions.
- All federal roads in Nigeria must be repaired, re-constructed, or constructed within two years, and all contractors and public officials that have failed to execute road projects in the past must be publicly announced and prosecuted, and the funds received must be retrieved.
- The salaries and allowances of all public officials in Nigeria (who are presently less than 18,000 in number), currently standing at more than N 1.2 trillion annually, must be slashed to reflect the national minimum wage of N 18, 000 a month, so that the total emoluments of the highest paid public official is not more than 20 times N 18,000 monthly. To do this, they must picket the offices of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the national and state houses of assembly.
- New refineries must be built and modern railway lines should be built within a specified period of time. And there should be no increase in pump prices of liquid fuel until those refineries are built and railways are built to link up each and every state in Nigeria.
- Such demands that will create jobs and reduce cost of production in Nigeria should be made by Nigerian students.
We know that governments have taken control of leadership of student unions in Nigeria, and have compromised student leaders financially. But is there not a cause? Those so-called student leaders have lost the moral right to lead; can’t we have new leaders arising from the ash of the past? I can see a time in the future, if immediate actions are not taken to stop the downward slide, when there shall be coups in states in Nigeria. Governors of some states shall be overthrown even if the central “democratic” government stays. And the federal police and army who cannot contain the latest wave of violence in the land can do nothing to stop such overthrows. Then we shall have warlords in different parts of Nigeria. The provocation in some states is becoming unbearable; it is like the governors have concluded that they could do with their people as they will, and there would be no consequences.
Who was the richest man in the world 100 years ago? Who was the richest man in Nigeria 50 years ago? Do you know? Can you remember? Don’t you have to do some research to find out? But do you remember Martin Luther King Jr.? The civil rights movement in his day achieved much result because students were involved. He was inspired by American students. Oh yes, some of the school children were killed. But they still speak today. Money doesn’t make men, Nigerian students; rather, men make money. It is not all about money. I remember Segun Okeowo, a one-time Nigerian student leader. But I don’t know who NANS president is today. Since 1988, which national issue have Nigerian students stood for? Is their voice being heard today about serious national issues? Oh, I could carry a placard that reads, “OBITUARY OF THE NIGERIAN STUDENTS”. But shall we not experience a resurrection? We are tired of the inactive “solidarity” songs, that won’t lead to solidarity with national change. I am disturbed.
Let us destroy this Nigeria where justice is for the highest bidder. Let us destroy this Nigeria where politicians sponsor violence to achieve “profitable” political negotiations. Let us destroy this Nigeria where the judiciary has fallen prey to monetary persuasion, and the temples of justice have been turned into recreation attractions to the powerful and rich, to use to sell a dummy to the unwatchful patriots. Senator Wagbara, Professor Fabian Osuji; do you remember them? The first was a senate president, the second was minister of education. Few years ago, they were charged to court; the minister for seeking to corruptly pad the education budget and the senator for making corrupt monetary demands. That happened before I returned to Nigeria. The matter has not come up again after the deceptive “arrest and bail-setting.” Many such cases have taken place in Nigeria. Don’t think Mr. Bankole’s matter will be taken to a logical conclusion either. They usually die out with judicial connivance. The rulers are “arrested” when they have personal quarrels with their more powerful colleagues. They go and dig up a matter about which the more powerful rulers have had knowledge all along. Journalists are rushed to give a fake publicity. The travelling passports of the fallen rulers are seized. Bail application is filed. They are freed, and the matter dies. May we destroy this Nigeria!
Contractors are awarded public project contracts. They cut public officials such as ministers, governors, commissioners, speakers, and senate president some slack (in some cases, 30 percent of the amount paid). Worst of all, the project is abandoned, and no one is prosecuted because the hunter and the hunted have become bedfellows. I travelled on the Otukpo-Otukpa road in Benue state two weeks ago. I understand that contract for this road was awarded, but the money has been shared between the contractor and a powerful man in the Nigerian senate. It is an eye sore, with wreckages of vehicles testifying to the blood guilt of Nigerian rulers. Also, exactly two weeks ago as I write, I was stuck on the Ibadan-Lagos express way about three kilometres to an overpass leading to Abeokuta. Hundreds of cars and trucks were before and behind our jeep. I was driving to Abeokuta. I did not know the reason at first. Later, I learned that a bad spot on the expressway on our lane was the cause of the hold up. It was not possible to drive through the muddy divide to the other lane and head back to Ibadan. After being “detained” on the road for about two hours, I was able to find a safer channel through the divide; I drove over to the other lane and headed back to Ibadan. It was past 11.00 pm local time. I slept at a hotel in Ibadan that night. The next day, I drove to Abeokuta through the Akpata area of Ibadan. Have we not heard about “concessioning” and all that nonsense of this expressway for well over seven years? Yet this is the busiest road in West Africa. What a country!
When I drive on Nigerian roads and see how bridges on those roads are only being sustained by the mercy of God, I wonder whether Nigerian rulers are demons or humans. Less than two weeks ago, I drove on the Wukari-Jalingo federal road. There is a bridge over the river in a town called Tella. I took a look at this bridge, looked at the water below it and wondered how one could survive if his car is thrown inside the belly of the river by a collapsing bridge. About three days ago that bridge collapsed. My niece who was returning to Benue state called and told me that they had to sleep on the way. I asked her if workers were brought to the site to fix the problem. She said there was no one in sight. Even as I write, unless I fly to Abuja and then take a cab to Benue state, I must risk a drive through Plateau state from Yola to Abuja, and then to Benue state, all because a federal road of an oil-rich state like Nigeria has been shut down by the collapse of a bridge that was probably built when I was only a child. Let us destroy this Nigeria.
In my next article, I shall focus on the role of organized labour in Nigeria to force a new Nigeria.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba, PhD