For many immigrants, the Statue of liberty was their first view of the United States, signifying new opportunities in life. The statue is an iconic symbol of American dream. The American dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. It is this ideals and ethos that has shaped the American nation and made it unique from other nations of the world since the past 100 years. The giant development strides of United States has made me wonder if there is anything as such as the Nigerian Dream.
Like the American dream which has been centred on prosperity for all Americans and which also are the underpinning tenets of American socio- economic development. Republicans and Democrats alike might differ on their parties ideologies and policy strategies but the political end has always remained the same: Maximising the greatest good for the greatest numbers of people living on the American soil( prosperity for all Americans). Here, across the Atlantic in Nigeria and other sister nations, I have never heard of anything or set of ideals that will enhance Unity and promote the social welfare of citizens across board other than ethnic and parochial ideals that tends to diverge and put asunder to our shared destiny and heritage as a people.
Our dreams as Nigerians, though not yet articulated and put in motion as the basic aspirations o which our development and advancement plan would be structured has remain one and simple : To be able to coexist and live together in peace as one indivisible nation so as to be able to earn a good living so as to cater for the basic needs of life. This though might not be as grandeur as the American dream but it sure represents the yearnings of an average Nigerian whose only need is to earn enough to be able to subsist and have a little saved for contingencies and other immediate needs of his family.
However, as minute and petty as the common men’s yearnings are, they have been denied by the government through their actions and inactions, the basic democratic good expected of any democracy. The aim of this article is not to grumble about our woes or to engage you on ‘’ the soliloquy of the frustrated and disgruntled Nigerians” but to make us maximise the opportunity history is about to offer us: 2015.
Come 2015, Nigerians through the ballot box, will have another shot at deciding the future and direction they want Nigeria to follow. Since the dawn of Independence in 1960, the government has failed to meet up on their own end of the social contract. They have reneged and defaulted in fulfilling almost all in the list of the contract, starting from the most basic Security needs of the citizens to improving the social welfare of the citizens and other social goods on the list.
Year 2015 as predicted would be a very interesting but fearful year in Nigeria’s history. Some of the predictions are that Nigeria might seize to exist after 2015 due to some structural complications which she has not been able to solve since independence while others predicted of another Nigerian civil war, a war that would be triggered off due to the political disharmony between the northern and southern political elites. The reality or probability of the occurrence of this dooms is not my concern and at such beyond the scope of this piece.
The main cause for my trepidation is on how the writers of history would describe Nigerians in the event that things turn out as predicted. They would tell the story of the ‘’fall of once upon a time giant of Africa’’ or if benign enough would classify us in the rank of Somali and other failing states of the 21st century. They won’t only say Nigeria fell because of her weak institution and dysfunctional leadership but also on the ineptitude and sleaziness of her vast populace. They will tell the world how Nigerians stood akimbo and followed sheepishly as politicians ran the country dry. The historians or Academics might end by drawing lessons to be learnt from Nigeria’s fall and might even want to recommend it for civic education in their colleges.
What a shame that would be! but it can be avoided by demanding accountability and sacking out non -performing and fraudulent leaders. Sooner or later, they will start paying us their ‘’once in four years visit’’ meant just to garner our votes without any commensurate dividends to the trust reposed on them. We should learn from the ‘happenstances’ of the western world. French men sacked Nicholas Sarkozy in the last election due to their dissatisfaction on the amount of public good provided by his administration. Americans, during the mid 2008 financial crisis decided not to elect a Republican to the White house under whose watch the economy retrogressed by 20 years. Nations and Economies have problems that are peculiar to them. The Chinese problem is how to manage their oscillating population coupled with the environmental disasters they have been battling with it. America due to the government intervention has saved her economy and the world from a prolonged depression while England is fighting on to stay strong in the European Union by trying to stay afloat economically – the piper dictates the tune. Here in our shore, Nigeria’s problems are enormous. We are not shopping for a leader with a magic wand that would turn Nigeria over night to be like Rome but a leader who has the political will to address the basic institutional and structural problems beguiling us since 1960. Barrack Obama in his speech to YALI 2014 fellowship said “Africa needs strong institutions and leaders to be able to combat the multiple challenges of the 21st century’’. His positions reinforces my belief on the importance of good institutions in tackling the problem of under development in the Black man’s continent.
Nigeria’s major problem is corruption that has been left unfettered and now has almost successfully crippled the basic foundation of our national life. In every aspect of our national life, we see corruption rearing its ugly head. It is affecting the economy adversely and also cripples any progress that would lead to proper national and social integration and development at large.
Nigerians must therefore decide on the path to follow. Faced with limited choices from our two dominant political parties Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) and All Progressive Congress(APC) from which we have either Candidate Goodluck Jonathan who is the incumbent President or Candidate Muhammadu Buhari, the retired General who wants to give in another shot at the Presidency. Candidate Jonathan who rode to power as a populist but he is said to have squandered the good will of the average Nigerians through his pro- elite policies and his sympathetic attitude towards corruption while Candidate Buhari is renowned for his strict disciplinary policies during his regime as the military head of state. He is credited to be the least corrupt of all who have handled any political office in Nigeria but unfortunately has an ethnic and religious problem to deal with if he is to displace the incumbent president Jonathan. Well, how he will cleanse the ‘’hausa -muslim chauvinist tag ‘’ labelled on him is his problem.
At this point in our national life, it is disheartening that parochial and ethnic attitudes still has a bearing in our local politics and which fortunately for the unscrupulous politicians is the single powerful crap they sell to Nigerians every four years. Vote Candidate A and not B or B and not A because B or A will ‘christinise’ or Islamise Nigeria or that B is from my ethnic group and B is not. This is the cloak they hide their fraudulent faces and activities. One of such politicians had the nerves to slur a particular group of the country by telling them that he has appointed people from their group to the high offices of the land . He did not even tell the Nigerians how he has reduced inequality, poverty, unemployment and the rolling rate of insecurity of lives and property. I guess he had nothing else on the table to offer and gullibly, we swallow the bitter pills without hesitation.
Furthermore, most Nigerians see foreign movies, preferably Hollywood. We see how the citizens enjoy power constant power and water supply without budgeting for an additional power back up called generator or other good infrastructures like good road networks that made the youthful exuberant movie titled ‘’ Need for Speed” possible. You see a strange person walking around your neighbourhood, you rush and dial some 2 or 3 digit number and the police shows up in the next coup of minutes to apprehend the fellow etc. See how we covet this democratic goodies but we are not ready to keep aside the ethnic and religious cloak burdening and slowing down our advancement. Could Chuks Umunna be a leading member of the parliament in the British parliament or Barrack Obama as the President of United States if Brits and Americans allow petty issues like Racism and belief system to come into bear in their politics?
As history is about to be made again, we must decide on whether to work and expand the Nigerian dream to encompass prosperity and well being for all Nigerians or to sit by and let the sleeping dog lie. If out of our normal sleaziness we let the sleeping dog lie, then we have successfully postpone the lurking revolutionary disaster hovering around our shores. But if on that day we decide to jettison our blinkered interests, and reward all politicians according to his/ her deed in the last four years, then we’ll be laying the foundation of a prosperous and glamorous nation and may be the sleeping and neglected giant will once again rise to her rightful position amongst her pals.