The spectre haunting Nigeria today appears to have successfully pushed out of everyone’s minds the question of what Nigeria should have been looking like if the current situation were not so. If the newspaper headlines are anything to go by, it seems people are more interested in the speculating implosion and breaking-up of Nigeria more than this sort of topic.
The fact that Nigeria has still not broken up in spite of that historical speculation about it is as interesting as the persistence of the speculation and some kind of clamouring for it. Whether those within and outside Nigeria habouring the thought have reflected on the imponderable outcome is unclear. But they should because if the collapse of Libya of just approximately seven million people or Iraq of less than 40 million can cause global havoc – terrorism and new security challenges, then the collapse of Nigeria of over 200 million is better imagined than otherwise. It is doubtful if many continents would survive it.
While the current phase of Nigeria’s history of tipping points might have driven people to contemplate simplistic solutions, it is also worth speculating what an alternative Nigeria could look like. Whether any centres of power or think tanks or groups are thinking on such topics is not clear but the issue is worth putting out there.
There is no such set of pictures yet except that the late Prof Festus Iyayi left Nigeria something to think about in that direction before his death. Short but interesting! Here, it goes:
“Thus this address ought to be devoted to themes like “Responding to Nuclear Threats: The Role of Nigeria’s New Missile AF50”,
“Retaining Nigeria’s Leadership in Car Manufacturing: Keeping the Japanese Behind”,
“Sharing Nigeria’s Cure for Malaria with the World”
or “Teaching the World How to Dance: Lessons from Nigeria’s Democratic Success”
Of course, he was posing the samplers within a larger text in a speech in 2010 and from which three other quotations might make clearer. Here we go again:
“Unfortunately, the story of Nigeria at 50 is such that not only can we not devote ourselves to such themes, we find that our individual lives have been diminished by the dismal failure of the country to realise its great potentials”
…“Now the responsibility for building a nation state belongs to the ruling class. Indeed, the claim by a class to be the ruling class can only be sustained on the basis of its effective recognition and discharge of this responsibility. …The history of all ruling classes of all viable nation states proves this. The success of the ruling class in the USA in maintaining the legitimacy of its rule is premised upon its ability to build disparate groups of people into one nation. The same is true of the British as is of the Germans, the Japanese, French, Chinese and Cuban ruling classes. Although it may be too early to tell, we see this happening today in neighboring Ghana. For this reason, nation building is a process. It cannot be taken for granted because of the inherent tensions in the project itself.
…Nation building thus requires achievements, whether rhetorical or concrete for its validation; in effect, it is not enough that a ruling class understands its responsibility and assumes it for its validation ‘to both self and others’, it must showcase its achievement in the process. Without specific achievements, achievements that compare with those of other ruling classes in other nations, it stands the danger of losing, for want of a better word, the love of the woman without which it would be nothing. Thus the British ruling class not only built railroads and industries, it also built an empire. The Americans ruling class which came after the British did exactly the same. …Whether British or American, Japanese or Chinese, Singaporean or Brazilian, Cuban or Indian, every ruling class that succeeds at nation building offers some spectacular achievements that feeds upon and promotes a sense of national pride and hence identity. Not to be both or to simply be either of the two, (which is, however, impossible because the one derives from and drives the other), is to serve as an assassin of nationhood and nation building.
…In the area of achievements, ours is the only country on earth where a ruling class that does not contribute any value added in terms of originating products or services consumes the best that is produced from other parts of the world. What the ruling classes in other countries produce, it imports for its pleasure at home. Our ruling class cannot produce toothpicks, yet its members eat caviar for breakfast and ride around in Hummer Jeeps and private jets. They stay in 5-star hotels around the world or buy up the choicest properties in different parts of the world. Our ruling class does not know how to exercise restraint; it is noisy; it lacks self-control and self-discipline; it cannot forgo today’s pleasures in order to achieve long term rewards tomorrow. It lives in the instant; in the moment. As a result, our country is daily bleeding to death”.
Is anybody out there reflecting? Is it not time to change the narratives from self-hatred to something more healing for Nigerians and Nigeria?