Frisky Larr

Sharing my thoughts and putting my message accross

Are Nigerians pained at all by the Shame of Underdevelopment?


When Nelson Mandela reportedly expressed his views that he cannot understand that Nigerians are not angry at their leaders, I have no doubt he was aware that he was striking a raw nerve in the general political consciousness of all Black Africans. The thought of something being fundamentally wrong with the political DNA of Black Africans will occur to anyone who not only sees the deviant nature of leadership in Black Africa but also the voluntary submission of the folks to oppression and pauperization. Nigeria stands out in this context simply for the representative nature that her historical past once radiated.

Who will not remember how few the countries were in 1960 that could be labeled as industrialized and developed nations of the world? Aside leading world powers on both sides of the cold war divide, there were very few industrial economies that stood out and above other peers at the time. Even the People’s Republic of China with her vast populational strength was an agricultural economy under Chairman Mao Tse Tung and was seen in the early 1960s only as a country with enormous potentials. Nigeria too!

In the post-civil war days of the early seventies, Nigeria was still fresh under the guiding rays of the British leadership light. Governance was systematic and stood for planning and structuring. Successive five-year development plans showed paths of forward movement. Many international observers were sure that the future of Africa was to be defined by Nigeria. The booming oil market of the time meant a welcome windfall and a potential tearing pace for developmental strides. It was there and then that observers saw in Nigeria the “Giant of Africa”. It was then that the enigmatic General Yakubu Gowon knew that “Money is not our problem but how to spend it!”

That was then. Today, sober realities have brought us back down to earth. For reasons no one will be able to explain, the Nigerian is more driven by personal and individual interests far above and ahead of collective national interest. Very unfortunately and painfully, role models are not seen in the successful executors of national agenda. The ideals of charismatic historical leaders like Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, to some extent John Jerry Rawlings or just yesterday’s Nelson Mandela count far less in terms of emulation. On the contrary, Nigerians or the typical Black African will prefer to see and emulate the pomp and pageantry of Emperor Bokassa, Mobutu Sese Seko and similar government-made millionaires.

This painfully simplistic psyche and deviant understanding of governance seems to have defined the political DNA of black Africans across the board and through the ages. Before providing for the folks, African leaders would rather compete to ascertain who between them, flies the most flamboyant and quality aircraft, lives in the most gold-decorated mansion and castle, owns the highest number of assets, uses the flashiest presidential office or has the most exotic banquet and conference hall to show, etc. etc. On this, Nigeria has excelled bountifully well through several decades showcasing mass poverty and luxurious state apparatus in the midst of abundant resources.

African leaders will prefer to match or even supersede the standards of the American President to the extent that Nigerian elites will pay ten times the price of Air Force One for an armored and bulletproof BMW SUV simply to look different and be a visible millionaire.

That is the summary of the plague that has afflicted Nigeria since General Olusegun Obasanjo handed over power to the constitutional President Alhaji Shehu Shagari on October 01, 1979.

Ever since, civilian government in Nigeria has ironically meant nothing but to have ten times more leaders to nurture into the ill-affordable world of government-made millionaires. Economic planning ceased to be a viable element of government services while looting simply became free-for-all at all levels of government. The impact has been devastating. National infrastructure was struck by the premature downward curve of the law of diminishing returns with all things not being equal. The birth of the Shagari government ushered in a regime of infrastructural neglect and decay. No more new power station was to be built; no more crude oil refinery was to be built as well. The power sector steadily grew into a comatose state and existing oil refineries dilapidated and forced the regime of fuel importation into Africa’s largest producer of crude oil. If you think that was all, you’d feel a chill up your spine. These two sectors – key sectors to Nigeria’s corporate development – simply got hijacked through the years, by some powerful undercurrent mafia built up by successive ex-leaders to strengthen their hold on the sectors while out of power. Today, the mafia of these two sectors has become larger than life and openly controls even the Presidency.

With the power sector wrapped in crumbles, there has hardly been any means whatsoever, of diversifying the nation’s economy. There is hardly an enabling environment for investment where the cost of ordinary power renders the cost of production horrendous in a society that accepts corruption as a normal way of life.

Government after government has perfected the act of taking Nigerians for a ride promising much and delivering pains. Yet Nigerians, who ordinarily should be feeling the pains, have become the strongest architects of destructive self-derision.

Else there is hardly any explanation for the outlandish conduct of the oppressed folk standing up to defend the oppressor. Nigerians flock en masse these days, to foreign countries in search of greener pastures following debilitating pauperization. Nigerians live in South Africa, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Ghana, Thailand, Brazil and many other countries that are either called emerging economies or newly industrialized countries. Nigerians know what development looks like. They know what Nigeria would have looked like if it wasn’t milked dry. They know the different elements of physical development and affluence.

Yet they are not angry. This shocked Mandela. It shocks me and shocks many other well-meaning observers. In place of anger, the number of Nigerians have grown, who hustle to grab just one piece of the loot from those at the top. Citizens of other countries in Europe and Asia with a more normal political DNA and with far lesser problems than Nigerians have shown what it takes to confront the thieving and oppressive political elite. Yet Nigerians – as usual – imbibe the self-delusional attitude of boundless wisdom from the backseat of political sophistication. Nigerians advance self-defeating political philosophies that simply end up making their leaders complacent in the belief in the correctness of their misgovernance no matter what the sages say.

Today, Nigerians find far more plausible excuses for the failures of their leaders than the erring leaders themselves would ever dream of finding. They would deny any person the moral right to speak the truth and bury that truth in the swamp of stench to the detriment of their own betterment. Today, the words “moral authority”, “moral justification” etc. have become holy hymns in Nigeria whenever the need to kill the truth arises.

Does it have a consequence? You’d well be kidding me if you asked! Nigeria’s government today has found a credible base and weapon to win the heart and minds of Nigerians in the depth of their faulty intelligence and self-destructive reasoning. The normal tradition of fighting evil all over the world whenever it is uncovered has now given way in Nigeria to a very dangerous and self-imposed tradition of mobilizing all resources and forces available to prove and underscore the defective “moral authority”, “moral justification” and “moral right” of anyone who dares to uncover evil.

Yet Nigerians are leaning back in praise of the boundless level of this skewed logic and intelligence. Pardon me, but sometimes, I begin to wonder in all seriousness if there is no element of truth to the claims made by the American geneticist Prof. James Watson that scientific tests have truly revealed intellectual inferiority in the DNA of the African.

How else can anyone explain that Nigerians suffering the pains of underdevelopment will express more anger at people who draw attention to the cause of serious and crushing problems they are experiencing on daily basis than they do the leaders who refuse to address such problems? How else will anyone explain the nature of priorities set by Nigerians when it comes to seeking accountability and political integrity?

Why then should a government not take advantage in the realms of pettiness to set up sting operations and let powerful mafia-men of the oil sector off the hook with billions of loot in pursuit of a bad egg seeking a few thousand dollars in bribe, who could have been left for the second stage of the battle? The imagination that this criminal collaboration is more loudly applauded and exalted by precisely those who should know better leaves more questions than answers.

For comparison, the streets were left burning in Ukraine for many weeks unending in the midst of frosty winter by folks who could not stand the risk of delayed economic development through the government’s choice of alliance with Russia as opposed to the European Union. A problem that would have been just one grand luxury for the living Nigerian! But the problem is not better in other African countries for which Nigeria may be just a mirror image!

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This entry was posted on February 25, 2014 by .
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