Nigeria is certainly not the most diverse country in the world, neither is it the most populated. By toeing the line of disintegration and talking it down, we are only confirming our own incompetence and inability to think long-term or self-govern. We are justifying racists who say we aren’t.
I recently wrote about Nigeria’s wasteful scholarship systems, whereby for decades we have been throwing money into the Atlantic Ocean; sponsoring people to expensive universities abroad without even trying to get anything back from them. In the same country where at least 10 million children are roaming around without basic education, and already causing great problems for everyone because they are the foot soldiers of a long-forgotten civilisation. I mentioned the professor who was interviewed somewhere in the USA, complaining about Nigeria and extolling the American system. He saw no irony in his confession that he went out on a scholarship from Nigeria 36 years ago, never to return. No country engages in such wasteful ventures and survives. This scholarship thing ranks with our yearly pilgrimages, where state governments that cannot pay salaries would rather play to people’s emotion and leverage on religion, even when some of our leaders are the symbols of the devil himself.
But that is not my chief concern today, as much as this is a subject that needs to be revisited. I am more concerned today with those ingrates who have gotten everything from Nigeria and yet have the temerity to call the country names and seek to pull it down despite what they got from her. Look at the case of Chief Richard Akinjide, a first republic minister and second republic attorney general. His autobiography reads that he traveled out of Nigeria in 1951 for studies abroad. He went on a scholarship, of course. Nigeria paid. He came back and became minister of Education under Tafawa Balewa. He was 20 something in age. That must have been in the 1960s. Imagine that opportunity! In 1979, he became minister of Justice under Shagari. Chief Akinjide is one of the richest Nigerians alive today. Ovation magazine once published pictures of his palatial home in London, with a vast expanse of land rivaling the Buckingham Palace. Yet, Chief Akinjide says the amalgamation of Nigeria is a fraud and decides to add petrol to our burning fire by disconnecting the minds and spirits of Nigerians from the country. How can we move forward without patriotism? But first, what do guys like Akinjide want from Nigeria?
Under Jonathan, Akinjide’s daughter became a minister of State for the FCT. She is presently answering to allegations of a N650 million fraud with EFCC. She had initially jumped bail but had to show up later. Did Akinjide, in spite of his money, raise his daughter properly such as to let her know that there is no need to stain his family name? I don’t think that happened. But Nigeria gets the rap.
See Nnamdi Kanu, perhaps Nigeria’s Public Enemy Number 1. He lives and breathes the destruction of Nigeria and calls it a zoo. Everyone living in this space, according to Kanu, is a wild animal and worthy only to be put to death. Some people worship the ground he walks on – even supposedly intelligent people. Kanu has solicited arms and ammunition against Nigeria and I believe he and his supporters have stockpiled enough to wage a war. But funny enough, I learnt that Kanu went to University of Nigeria, on a federal government scholarship. Are we looking at someone who collects but is never grateful for the opportunity?
Look at our brother Femi Fani-Kayode. He makes a lot of hue about being born as a silver spoon and all that. But a cursory look at his Wikipedia page shows that his great-grandfather, grandfather and father, as well as himself, may have been beneficiaries of Nigeria’s largesse, at least with their education in Oxford, Cambridge and every other expensive university in the UK. In those days, nobody could afford to sponsor themselves and even when they could, they were just too prominent and close to government that all they needed to do was ask and get a scholarship. Even in the time Femi was growing up in the late 60s and early 70s, this remained the case. So it will be difficult for him to say that his rich father paid all his bills. Even the high life that he often boasts about when “Proud Nigerians drove the best cars in London, graced the best parties and owned the best homes in Chelsea, Hampstead, Knightsbridge” and all of West London, was underwritten by this country that gives without expecting returns, albeit stupidly. Yet Uncle Femi (for he is much older than me), is today Kanu’s biggest supporter for the disintegration of Nigeria, and he keeps swearing that after Biafra, Oodua Republic must be actualised.
We cannot analyse the problems of Nigeria without also self-introspecting. How have we benefited from Nigeria? How have we benefited from its inefficiencies? Are we complaining today because we no longer have the opportunities? Which country on earth is without its own issues? Which country on earth grants the kind of wild privileges that some of you have enjoyed?
There are too many people who have benefited from this country’s famed largesse. My issue here is how they manage to take these things for granted. Uncle Femi became a minister for Culture and Tourism under President Obasanjo in 2003, and later that of Aviation in 2006, till the end of that administration. He has tasted of this country’s largesse and also had the opportunity to lead and be part of public policy. How can such people find it in their hearts to despise Nigeria so much? I just cannot understand this. For one year, I went to one of Awolowo/Jakande’s public secondary schools with no windows in Okota Isolo, before transferring to Army Comprehensive High School in Akure, which was much better. I enjoyed – or rather my parents enjoyed – the free education. It was not qualitative but we made the most of it. I have absolutely no sense of entitlement and I don’t believe that Nigeria owes me anything. Rather I believe I owe this country and that we haven’t tried enough to make the most of this country beyond showing up to grab our own from it and run.
All through my university, beyond the subsidised fees that we enjoyed in a state university (Ondo State then), I only received a ‘bursary’ of N300 just once and almost broke a leg to get it in the stampede. Yet, I don’t believe Nigeria is a useless country that needs to be disintegrated right now even if millions have to die. I believe we can make something of this country.
For those who have been privileged to benefit from this country and those like Akinjide and Fani who have been in the very corridors of power, there has to be a better approach. We cannot analyse the problems of Nigeria without also self-introspecting. How have we benefited from Nigeria? How have we benefited from its inefficiencies? Are we complaining today because we no longer have the opportunities? Which country on earth is without its own issues? Which country on earth grants the kind of wild privileges that some of you have enjoyed? And no matter what, your role in leadership is to think for this country and find ways that it could be successful, not to tear it down.
Nigeria is certainly not the most diverse country in the world, neither is it the most populated. By toeing the line of disintegration and talking it down, we are only confirming our own incompetence and inability to think long-term or self-govern. We are justifying racists who say we aren’t. We are only showing that we haven’t been keen-minded enough to see what other countries that we love to run to have done to get to where they are today. Or we are just been greedy and ungrateful for this opportunity to strive to make something out of Nigeria. I believe we haven’t tried hard enough than to begin to capsize the ship. We usually want simple problems, we Africans. But no problems in today’s complex world is simple anymore. I believe that impatience, greed, selfishness, injustice, and a primitive streak of heart are our problems. Nothing is wrong with Nigeria. Let’s get serious please.
Happy Eid Al Adha.
‘Tope Fasua, an Economist, author, blogger and entrepreneur, can be reached through email@example.com.