At independence in October 1960, Nigeria was assumed, without any iota of doubt, to be the beacon for the emancipation of the black race. Her potential was beyond doubt. Geographically - using all accepted indices - the country sits in the middle of the universe, with a rich demography of the black race. It is unclear why the geographical expression is home to the largest concentration of the Negro. Two of the continent's great rivers run from east and west in the continent; they meet at the centre of the country at Lokoja, depositing rich soils along their paths.
Oil deposits are also vast along the country's coastlines in the mid Atlantic. The nation is blessed all round, with numerous mineral resources and a balanced favorable weather. What more for a geographical expression; except maybe its human content! Whether one believes the Scriptures or Darwin, the human evolution matches forward. This has become a measure of mankind's mental development moving away from those of the lower animals. In my relative lifetime, I have witnessed quantum strides in human evolution in Nigeria; from the way we dispose of human wastes to individual aspirations.
All over the world, in spite of the great strides in human mental development, mankind still remains a creature of self interest - just like other animals – so being selfish is inherent in all of us. Man, however, is constrained by nature for its inability to exist, alone, outside of a community. This constraint in itself challenges man’s self interest and curtails the individual's freedom to do whatever it pleases. If man by confinement has to exist, only, in the company of other people, then his capacity to tolerate and accommodate other ideas becomes a measure of our evolutionary stride.
Many Nigerians may wish otherwise by inventing communal obstacles, but there must a natural reason why this conclave is home to the greatest number of the black race. Deliberating on what brought all the various tribes in Nigeria together to this congress are never on the table for discussion only our differences. Each constituent in Nigeria wastes so much energy trying to pull away from each other; yet there is visibly nowhere else to go. The blessed country is bordered with unfriendly perimeters of vast desert to the north and the ocean in the south. Conversely, there are no physical obstacles between the people.
The Nigerian is a complex animal and has been to school, but his mental development seems dismal. He is a proven academic success. However, the Nigerian remains a test case of separation between human evolution and academic success. In human evolution, man is always striving to do things better than previously done, whereas, in academics in general, you are expected to repeat what somebody else has established, sometimes verbatim. In Nigeria, we seem to confuse the two. It is no wonder that Nigerians continue to do the same things over and over and still expect a different result.
How did it all go so wrong, in spite of a promising beginning? We are quick to blame the British or the military, or more recently our present leaders. The excuses were always that those that ruled us during the colonial days were imposed on us by the sovereign; that the military, though from our stock, imposed themselves on us with a gun to our head, or that the present leaders are not caring. The sword has been sleeping in the scabbard for over 14 years, yet we still put the blame on the military. Our present leaders did not choose themselves; we chose them through a process – flawed or not. Our inability to choose a good leader, to me, is an indictment on how we have evolved as human beings. We are not matured enough to choose our leaders sensibly.
During the last leadership contests in Nigeria, over 99% of those that participated in the process voted on sentiments. For goodness sake, that was 2011. So far the sympathies for religion, tribe, geo-political zone and section of the country that were employed for our choices have not translated to a better standard of living for the majority of the people that voted . No religion or tribe is presently enjoying good roads, constant electricity, portable water, improved education, medical care or improved security in any part of the nation; if it is not Boko Haram in the North, it is kidnapping incidents or armed robbery (maybe Boko Haram sponsored) in the South; in the Middle Belt it is the Fulani herdsmen.
The latest development between two of our elected leaders, both from the same political group, reminds me of the ancient Scythian Roman scholar, Dionysius Exiguus, who stated, "It is a law of nature common to all mankind, which time can never annul nor destroy, that those who have power and strength will always bear rule over those who have less." The power and strength of any leader is derived from the people, but the Nigerian people, which I think is the problem with us, seldom exercise this might. Governor Amechi of Rivers State needs to realize this. I admire his bravado, but is it not foolhardy?
Amechi may be guided by the principle of the power and strength of those elected coming from the people, but in a society where the people are economical of their might, it is foolhardy to rely on this premise, to challenge a superior power no matter how right one believes. In a society where corruption is food, it is unwise to rely on the people. The foundation for corruption usually stems from mankind's quest for freedom to do whatever it likes within the community, which naturally that community ought to limit. Has the Nigerian community evolved to that level?
There is so much noise about corruption in Nigeria, and it is becoming boring. Only less than 1% of Nigerian adults are Not Corrupt. If anyone decides to swell the ranks of the tiny 1% of the not-corrupt, that person could be doing that at self peril; the person is seen as the enemy of the people; the person is jeered and called a fool with a possibility that could be life threatening. Notwithstanding, whether the majority are corrupt or not, we still have to fix the roads, the rail, education, light, water, health, and generally improve the living standards of the majority of Nigerians. The fight against corruption to me, is a facade.
Too much of our energy has been expended in the war against corruption with no win in sight. We may have to start thinking outside of the box, in order to achieve growth in this corrupt atmosphere. Corruption, as I have indicated several times, has served the country well - it is the glue that has held us together. What happened in 1966 when a group of people decided to secede may not easily happen again in this country. Today, a couple of Judas in the group would easily have their bank accounts credited with billions, and they don't have to know beforehand. The deposit alerts may even come while they meet to secede - I wonder what would happen next.
Nigerians are very hopeful people; we even hope that God will come down to Nigeria to remove our leaders for us. These are the leaders we chose with our two eyes open. We wish for a Rawlings from another planet. I tell you without any contradiction that should an angel be sent down to govern Nigeria, the angel will be assassinated within a week. Don't get me wrong, we are not evil people – misplaced priorities. We are just still behind in human evolution to choose a leader and stand by our choice. If you ask me for a solution, I state what I have always said. Let us go the tax route. Tax, I believe, has no religion, tribe or section and should apply to both the corrupt and the angels. It could ignite “Ask not, what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ Everybody should be compelled to pay his or her fair share of tax.
Samuel Akinyele Caulcrick