- By ABBA MAHMOOD –
Ethiopia went through a devastating war, a destructive famine and debilitating instability. It has recovered to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa if not in the world. It is said to have 8 per cent growth rate this year, which is higher than the growth rate of China, the fastest-growing major economy of the world. And, throughout all its trying period, its national carrier, the Ethiopia Airline, never stopped functioning. It is contributing almost 20 per cent to the country’s GDP, providing employment to thousands and flying the country’s flag all over the world.
Ghana, here in West Africa, went through a history of instability too. There were coups and countercoups like here in Nigeria. Poverty rate was so high that most Ghanaians had to leave the country to have opportunity elsewhere. Although it had one of the most literate societies, it took a Rawlings revolution to set the country straight. Today Ghana is one of the best examples of democratic, functional society in Africa with 8 per cent growth rate too.
Here in Nigeria, for the first time there has been almost two decades of uninterrupted civil rule. Democracy ought to have brought not only freedom but development and prosperity. Of course, there is relative freedom and even peaceful transfer of power from a ruling party to an opposition party. But the level of corruption has increased exponentially. The governors are controlling two tiers of government and dictating to the federal government. The legislators are, in most cases, not alive to their responsibilities.
The result is there for all to see — the gap between the rich and the poor is at its widest; the value system is upside down. Every region is bedevilled with unprecedented problems and challenges. The education system is churning out graduates that are not only unemployed but unemployable, as most cannot even write ordinary application letters. All the political parties have so far failed the people since there are neither politicians of any political philosophy nor political parties of any ideological expression.
Consequently, in the north, religion and ethnicity are the platforms. Millions of unemployed youth who have become drug addicts are turned into political thugs by the day and religious bigots by night. The traditional institution has lost its value and the religious leaders have lost their respect, since both these key institutions are no more interested in knowing, let alone projecting and protecting, the interests of their people.
A combination of failed politicians and ethno-religious champions has turned the central zone into a theatre of war. They kidnap people at will; they kill human beings at will; they kill even animals as they please, as if there is no government or law. Since the end of colonial rule, no one wants to hear the word colony as it evokes the memory of colonialism. This government ill-advisedly decided to use the word “colony” to define its intended grazing areas for animals. It naturally incited the people rather than excite them. As killings and reprisal killings continue, anarchy is the order of the day in this region that was the glue that united the country. Nigeria may never be the same if this thing is allowed to fester, especially as known anarchists have become the opinion moulders.
In the Niger Delta, the youth with guns who are known as the militants are now calling the shots there. Everyone is sympathetic to the plight of the people and the environment of the Delta but the level of violence and lawlessness cannot guarantee investments. Illegal bunkering is further destroying the forests and fishes of that resourceful region. Local, state and even the federal governments have very little authority over the people since warlords with control of heavy and light weapons have field day. The only uniting factor there is corruption.
In the south-eastern region, Igbo leaders and elders have lost control. The only thing that matters is to make money by all means. Those who get rich by whatever means become kings and government officials. Every youth is only interested in getting rich. Consequently, 95 per cent of Nigerians in prisons outside Nigeria or awaiting execution for drugs are from this region. They have made their areas so hostile for habitation even for themselves. Only the old ones remain in the villages as most able-bodied men and women go elsewhere to try their luck, legally and illegally.
Only the southwest seems to know what they are doing and are progressing relative to others.
What Nigeria earned in the last 17 years is more than what the country earned in the first 40 years since independence. But, there is nothing to show for this huge revenue. Infrastructure is decaying; institutions are failing; life expectancy is dropping annually.
Until the government is serious about the economy and justice, there will never be peace. That is the ball that the eyes of leaders should always be on. Even the contracts being awarded by these governments are not executed in a quality manner. The population is increasing exponentially. If these drug addicts and half-baked illiterates currently in the country are ready to endure, those getting educated may never be patient.
History is on the side of the oppressed.