the problem with Nigeria

The Problem With Nigeria: The Politics of “My Person” and other Things

Adebayo Abdulrahman

Mahfouz Adedimeji, a scholar and university don, once opined that when things fall apart, we are no longer at ease. No one needs a Bachelor’s degree from Nigeria’s premier university to understand that Mahfouz’s statement was inspired by Chinua Achebe’s evergreen piece. However, a closer look at the problem with Nigeria and the state of things will unravel layers upon layers of decay, deeply rooted in the red-coloured fluid silently snaking its way through the veins of every citizen of this country. What this decay shows is that beyond the fact that Mahfouz’s statement would have dazzled a Jaw War audience, it is several miles away from the reality of modern-day Nigeria. 

Theophilus, the fairly-bearded son of Alawonde, would most likely vote for Kareem Shamsudeen to become a councillor in his hometown of Isanlu in the 2023 general elections, not because Shamsudeen is the most fit person to man the position, but because he and Theophilus were friends who drank away the worries of the ivory tower from a gourd of freshly tapped palmwine while they were students at the University of Ibadan. Because Olayinka, the outgoing Chairman of Ijebu East Local Government wants his vice, a brilliant and calm doctor, to take over and continue his good works, he bent rules that have been in place since the day Halmton Oluwafyfe from Downing Street said, “here shall be the University of Nigeria!” 

The dark-skinned woman who trades at a wooden shop looking set to answer the call of nature at any moment in Agbowo hikes the price of a pen from N10 to N15.10k at every slight opportunity because it is a student area.

Skippo, that guy whose teeth colour competes with the straight brown line on the polo of his blue shirt, keeps telling passengers he has no change, hoping that they forget it with him. 

You see, the list of the problems bedevilling Nigeria is endless. It’s an endless one of Nigerians at various levels scheming to do things in ways that suit their personal interest. It’s a long list of Buharis waiting to oust Jonathan from Aso rock only to get there and make Jonathan look like the best thing that ever happened to Nigeria after Agege bread.  

But that’s just the first part of this country’s problems. 

Because Theophilus is rich and he can afford to buy a plate of Klazz food for everyone qualified to vote on election day, the people of Isanlu will vote for his friend ahead of more qualified candidates. Olayinka will go to any extent to ensure his candidate emerges, even if it puts the very existence of his local government at stake. And, of course, several people will buy his idea of letting the good works continue for the sake of peace. 

Students will continue to patronize the woman at Agbowo because they have no choice and can’t shout because of N5. Passengers will allow Skippo to go home with their change in the interest of peace. As for Buhari, the argument is that Nigerians have no other alternative.  

This is the story of the Nigerian state.

The Nigerian state is a quite funny one. While Nigerians have adapted to the many problems affecting Nigeria, they hope for a saner society where students don’t study for exams using illumination from an ATM gallery. They hope for a country where the president does not issue empty threats while bandits and kidnappers continue to hold the country to ransom. They hope for a country where students don’t spend six years for a four-year course and eternity for a five-year programme. 

But you see, these dreams will only be as good as dreams, as long as Nigerians continue to feel at ease when the centre can no longer hold and things have fallen apart. 

Nigerians need to wake up to the realities of the place called Nigeria and begin to work towards building the country of their dreams and changing the current situation of things. But there is a caveat. 

To change the fortune of the Nigerian state is not to move from Jonathan to Buhari or Patience to Aisha, it is to move from a government of cow(s) and cow(awards) to a government driven by a figure committed to a working Nigeria. It is to move from a government where agencies fight on Twitter to a government known for transparency and accountability. It is to move from a government that shields a terrorist-sympathiser in its kitchen cabinet to one filled with individuals who believe no Nigerian is more Nigerian than any other Nigerian. 

But you see, like American Talk Show host and author, Oprah Winfrey, once said, the greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude. For Nigeria to truly work, every citizen must undergo a change in their mindset. Every citizen must see themselves first as a Nigerian before whatever ethnic background they have. Every citizen must begin to take responsibility for their actions, including the political decisions that determine the calibre of people who govern the state. 

Until this is done, the Nigerian state will continue to battle the festering illness undermining its sanity.

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