The Nigerian state, for many, resembles a stateless society and, thus, replicates what Thomas Hobbes described as brutish, poor, nasty, and short. It is the country where corruption originated, poverty prevails, and insecurity dominates. Hence, Nigerians cannot wait to emigrate to first-world countries such as the United States and the UK, where life is ‘perfect’: everyone is rich, there is no corruption and harmony triumphs. What is utopian to Nigeria?
The first issue with Nigeria’s independence lies in its unholy amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates by Lord Lugard in 1914, driven by selfish and economic interests known best to him and the British government. This was a country constituted of diverse ethnic groups that were independent before colonial domination, a factor that speaks to the protracted genocide Nigeria witnessed after gaining independence. The “marriage of inconvenience” was maintained under the monopoly of the British colonial government until some irresistible nationalists saw an unbreakable need to fight for independence against colonial rule, which exploited the colony’s economy for survival. A formal nationalistic attempt toward demanding independence from European rule and exploitation was first showcased by Sir Herbert Macaulay, a journalist, who tenaciously challenged the colonial government in 1920 when he escorted Chief Oluwa of Lagos, Chief Ahmadu Tijani, to the Privy Council in London, serving as a private secretary and interpreter. At the council, Macaulay challenged the colonial government for not fulfilling their promised pension to the King of Lagos, Oba Dosunmu, which was to cost the Oba his seat rather than Macaulay’s. Subsequent nationalists, many of whom were educated in England, including late Chiefs Nnamdi Azikiwe, Anthony Enahoro, and Obafemi Awolowo, maintained this adventure and pioneered a legal and formal movement for the independence of Nigeria, which was realized on October 1, 1960. The efforts of these men cannot be overstated, and we need not be delayed by an examination of their altruistic and egoistic actions. An analysis of what established the current framework for a seemingly “hopeless” Nigeria, whose independence is a facade, and whose development is distorted by an insurmountable disease, corruption, would be time-consuming; these are issues that have been discussed by Yakubu et al. in their work titled “Corrupt Followership versus Corrupt Leadership: A Stereotypical Analysis of Political Corruption in Nigeria,” among other works by Nigerian scholars.
Aside from the inferiority complex instilled in the mindset of Nigerians by the Europeans—that Africa is primitive and backward and, thus, nothing good can come out of an African state—the political leadership of the country since independence has made many Nigerians question any optimism for a better Nigeria. It is not just about humans’ love for tourism; Nigerians are ready to go anywhere, as long as it is outside Nigeria, and better yet, outside Africa, just to avoid a state where there is no hope for the common man. For how long do we continue to celebrate a facade of independence when our political economy still appears unprepared for the independence we gained sixty-three years ago? How long do we continue to experience a brain drain due to this obstinate “Japa” syndrome? When will this country cease to be a dumping ground for European goods, despite the many intelligent and innovative minds in our possession? When will we celebrate an independence that reflects the freedom of Nigeria, especially for the masses, from both internal and external overlords? The answers to these questions are not far-fetched. Good leadership and proper followership are the antidotes to Nigeria’s state of affairs.
If Nigeria is to be developed, our leaders must be ready to emulate the good deeds of their nationalist predecessors, especially those who fought for our independence, to the extent that they begin to unlearn the corruption that has been passed down.
A rich country like Nigeria cannot boast of independence, let alone development, if it is not better off than it was when its ‘destiny’ was manipulated by foreign powers, especially when some countries that gained independence later aspire to join the ranks of first-world countries. What exactly is our independence if we are still dependent? If we have to willingly allow the exploitation of our raw materials because we are not industrialized enough, despite several decades of independence, to produce products from our mineral resources? This independence is not valid!
Nigerians, on the other hand, have also failed in their part. Besides constituting a poor followership, Nigerians have shown little philanthropy toward the betterment of their country. They choose to defy the laws and neglect their responsibilities to the state, regardless of the effects this has on the country. I shall provide some instances where Nigerian citizens themselves contribute to the country’s deterioration. Taxation, one of the fundamental means of a state’s survival, is undermined in a country where citizens bribe tax collectors (and other related agents). The same thing is replicated in the power sector, where people ignorantly bribe power agents to pay less than their supposed bills, especially where meters are not being used. The consequences of this act are that such an environment does not receive stable electricity because the actual bill is not generated. It is in this country also that you see people breaching traffic regulations, based on being ‘smart’ and having no time to waste. Transporters are not ashamed of bribing road agencies when they break the law. Yet, none of these can be done in those developed countries to which they ‘Japa.’ These law enforcement agencies that accept bribes are also Nigerian citizens.
It thus appears that true independence, reflecting economic development, can only be achieved in Nigeria if leaders and followers change their mindset and perception of how they view Nigeria. Leaders should learn from the philanthropic nationalism of their predecessors, and the followers should be ready to support the system by obeying rules and regulations. Until Nigeria becomes economically developed, independence celebrations will remain a facade. Happy Independence Day!
Abdulkabir Muhammed writes from the Department of History and International Studies, Lagos State University. Tweets @abdulkabirm87. 08142957061.