The cover picture and subject matter of this piece comes from China. It was used by even a non-Nigerian newspaper to illustrate the coming emptiness of streets in China in the wake of its declining demography. How a population of 1.4 billion people can decline that drastically is a different debate outside of the radius of this piece.
To the extent that the picture speaks to a different issue, it can be said to have nothing to do with Nigeria. But to the extent that no image has just one, fixed meaning, it can also be read as speaking to Nigeria. For instance, it can be read as asking the question: which of the three leading presidential candidates, (Atiku, Obi and Tinubu in alphabetical order of their surnames so that no one accuses Intervention of bias) has an idiom of development that can accomplish this sort of a macadamised thoroughfare?
The February 2023 presidential contest is bein framed as a question of which region provides the next Emperor, (the Presidency and the president in Nigeria is more about being an Emperor than an elected party candidate or even a human being) rather than about the developmental idiom of the candidates. In a way, that is contextually understandable because it is the consensus but are zoning and a radical developmental orientation mutually exclusive?
By the degree of endowment it pleased Providence to oblige Nigeria, thoroughfares of this quality and design ought to be among those things taken for granted throughout the country after six decades of independence. This is the case even in many of the erstwhile ‘Third world’ countries today. There is thus something embarrassing that such is not the case, be it in road networks, education, healthcare delivery system, public transport and what have you. Instead of these things, the leaders run to countries such as Saudi Arabia that do not bother themselves too much with superficial democracies to get treated in functional, modern hospitals. How low can the leader of the black race descend before it feels embarrassed?
Unfortunately, like every agrarian, basically pre-capitalist formation, Nigeria needs a leader, a Messiah who will deploy charisma and altruism to move the society from the agrarian station to an industrial society. Industrialisation does not solve every of society’s problems. In fact, it comes with its own problems. But it solves so many of the problems and serves as a condition of possibility for moving forward.
But, which of the candidates has made rapid industrialisation the organising plank of his or her campaign beyond adhoc articulatory spasms?
Even more shocking is that vital constituencies such as the civil society and labour, its most entrenched flank, academia, the Left, the much touted emergent youth force and the business community are not coherently alarmed. Yes, lonely lamentation here and there on television channels but not that game-changer politicisation of the developmental dryness of the candidates.
Can a country make it if it has run out of pretenders to Messianism and has also run out of the possibility of a critical mass (coalition of the confluences of victims of the most chaotic capitalism in the world) that can determine and enforce a developmental direction?
When will it be appreciated that Nigeria’s degree of endowment does not permit the kind of rationalisations of her unique underdevelopment that we hear from nationalist hagiographers talking of how bad things are in other places. Are those other places as wealthy in human and material terms as Nigeria?
Millions were born into a Nigeria that does not work, or does not work properly.
But within those millions are those who were privileged to have studied and worked in countries that work very well.
Wanting to escape from justifiable censure, they want to prove that they do not come from a retarded race.
Millions outside the formal economy have different aspirations from those who are educated, been-tos. These millions want as little government interference in their lives as possible.
What is their number one need? That Nigeria should restore it’s open, extemely porous borders so that commerce thrives.
Rice! Rice! Rice!
To those who believe in Paradise, Nigerians’ obsession with unfettered supply of foreign rice might incline them to believe rice is a heavenly cuisine.
The traditional Societal setting has nothing to do with a nation. People just knew themselves as economic beings, each striving his or her utmost to discharge the responsibility of being alive.
How can a people with different cultures, genetic make-up, conflicting religions (read tribes, ethnic groups) come together to pursue a foreign contraption called nation?
Even as we are electioneering towards the coming elections, some people in Plateau are submitting demands as “ethnic nationalities” not as Nigerians. And in SE, IPOB members in continuation of their reign of terror have just beheaded a local government Chairman and advertising it to the world.
And neither the state government nor the federal government has solution to that insanity.
The quest for a Messiah is not a a Nigerian aspiration. Buhari was the Messianic aspiration of Northerners. The Messianic garb wrapped around Peter Obi is for the attainment of Igbo/ Christian (particularly Catholic) elites agenda.
The global political system is not ready to accommodate thousands of independent nations.
So if ‘ethnic nationalities ‘ such as the Igbos feel that a murderous campaign to make their areas ungovernable is their answer to ego problem, they will be allowed the long rope to hang or destroy themselves.
At the end, it will be a contest between them and the leeches to whom Nigeria as configured is a paradise.