The Oasis Reporters
February 26, 2021
By Col. Gora Albehu Dauda (rtd)
This piece will be a litany of wailings against us as a people and a nation. Many issues of national importance have strolled past under our noses and eyes and we failed to even look them in the face, let alone attempt to address or tackle them.
These failures have crystallized into weaknesses that are undermining national cohesion, which keeps one wondering if it is possible not to love one another, or love this nation.
Once upon a time just as in the beginning of childhood tales of old, the ethnic nationalities that make up this nation used to live in relative harmony with each other.
The railways united us and trade amongst the various segments grew in leaps and bounds. The educational system functioned and the moment one was intelligent at school, a future was guaranteed.
In Kaduna where I come from if you were not good enough you were likely to find yourself in one of the many Textile mills that were functional and worked 3 shifts at the time. It has been almost 30 years since those same textiles mills breathed their lasts even as their entire workforce was made redundant without their severance packages.
Many waited for years hoping against hope that some day they could be called up and their entitlements settled. Many of those out of deep frustration as well as stress have since left to be with the Creator. Can this be expected of a just nation?
At independence in 1960 our currency, the Pound was exchanging at the same rate with the British pound and the situation remained so for some years after independence. This was on account of the level of confidence the international system reposed on our local economy at that time.
Gradually the exchange rate began a gradual slide in subsequent years and presently even with increased crude oil production and exportation the Naira is all but lying flat on its belly, begging for mercy.
The Nation could not control her hunger for foreign goods and at a point ordinary sand which we have in abundances was being imported in containers by fraudsters as a way of siphoning foreign exchange away.
The footwear market was supplied by either Bata or Lennards. That was a long time ago and only people of my generation will recall there were footwear companies in Nigeria going by the names mentioned. Importation became the in thing as even the simplest of items which factories in either Lagos, Aba or Kano could have produced were all imported.
Today those factories are lying in ruins. While serving in Liberia in the early 90s as part of ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States military intervention force), Liberians used to speak about “Old Times” when the Liberian dollar exchanged at the same rate with the USD but at that time one USD will fetch you a bundle of the Liberian dollar. Many of us who were in that country at that period wondered why the situation was that bad but now the bug has caught up with us in Nigeria and there is no hiding place now.
It is really painful to look at the exchange rate of the Naira against major world currencies. There was no need for many cars on our roads because the Railways was functional, ferrying goods across the Nation from Lagos to Maiduguri and from Port Harcourt to Kano.
That is all an aspect of the sad history that our kids must read if they are to be able to pull the nation out from.the current ruins.
Though an arduous task but not an impossible one. Until the origin and causes of the rot are investigated, finding a cure will be more difficult.
Once upon a time Nigeria had ” more money than a horse has hairs” quoting the legendary musician, Dr Hook and needed just the right people or projects to spend it on. This informed Nigeria picking up bills from Jamaica for a year for free and there was nothing in return.
There was the madness which informed the setting up of Steel Rolling mills not in Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Aba or Onitsha but in Katsina and Jos all in defiance of elementary basic requirements for the setting up of industries.
Today, the 2 steel mills have been scrapped. Ajaokuta and Aladja made some sense but a mix of corruption policy summersaults and political interests conflated to frustrate those projects.
I am still having the hunch that there may well have been external conspiracies to undermine Nigeria’s industrialization drive, actively supported by unpatriotic Nigerians.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back without a doubt was IBB’s dubious Structural Adjustment Programme. It is not very clear if the Military regime of that period actually understood what they were dragging the nation into or what the implications would be.
Today here we are with a collapsing economy characterized by a failed leadership whose basic concern remains the pursuit of wealth accumulation at the expense of ordinary Nigerians.
In the days of old, a Nigerian was respected all over the world for the simple reason that our economy was strong.
Today, as a Nigerian outside of this country you attract a lot of suspicion and therefore subjected to all sorts of screening before being cleared to proceed. Nigeria that used to be the pride of the Black man all over the world has reduced itself to a laughing stock subjected to racist and xenophobic attacks even by South Africa that our nation helped to free from Aparthied. Is it not possible to retrace our steps for a fresh start?
The mother of all Nigeria’s problems is the INSECURITY that the nation is making pretences at fighting. Until the insecurity challenge bedeviling this nation is defeated, can there possibly be a future for our children and grandchildren?
Right now there are more questions then there are answers. It is very true that no nation can survive without politics of some sort even if it is the North Korean variant.
In Nigeria it is near impossible to draw a distinction between politics and religion. The two have become a toxic mix and as Karl Marx aptly captured it, religion has been the opium of many of our people which is why there are more places of worship than there are hospitals even as those setting up the places of worship are smiling to the banks almost on an everyday basis. Religion in a general.sense is an ally of the truth everywhere but in Nigeria the face of religion has been so panel beaten as to have acquired a contorted face.
Some religious leaders are shamelessly busy sowing seeds of discord in the most respected and revered Institution that remains in Nigeria worthy of respect, the Military. Nothing can be more irresponsible than for a religious leader to be communicating as well as having convivial meetings with enemies of the State.
As things currently stand no part of this country is insulated from the carnage and mayhem that insecurity has wrought upon the nation. I sympathize with our young men and women who are toiling in the Northeast against Boko Haram to make us secure. Where will these be returning to assuming the insurgency ends since behind the lines all is not well?
I will be shocked if there is even if one Nigerian yet to have come to the realization that ”This House is falling apart ”.
This viewpoint must have informed an earlier thesis by a religious leader which posited that but for the very fact that the leadership of this nation is in the hands of a Northerner there could have been some political upheavals. Every passionate Nigerian knows that this viewpoint is true unless we choose to be the hypocrites that many of us are.
There must be a time in the life of a nation when patriots must step away from their religious cocoons inside of which they shelter to stand for the truth. Religion of whatever kind must take a backseat for the nation because without the nation you can never find space to practice your faith.
With the likes of MURIC’s Professor Akintola Ishaq muddying up the waters in Kwara State, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State justifying the carriage of AK47s by herdsmen to the exclusion of others as well as Governor El Rufai paying compensation to foreign Fulani herdsmen and possibly terrorists, it is only left to conjecture if ever we shall be able to recover this nation from the brink.
The leadership failures in this nation particularly at the highest level is such that no debate can ever justify. In all of these, the leadership at the highest level is unperturbed and the appropriate security agencies who should not only feel concerned but embarrassed are athrophized into taking no action and so anybody who cares can simply wake up pick up a chisel and hammer to begin chopping away the building blocks with which Nigeria was built as the leadership enjoys its sleep accompanied by snoring.
Ours is a nation where the leadership has since gone on a leave of absence leaving the nation to wobble and grovel to find her place.
To God Be The Glory.
By Col. Dauda Albehu Gora (rtd).
Retired Col. Gora writes from Kaduna, north west Nigeria.