Information – Weapon to Combat Nigeria's Societal Ills

‘The sun never sets on the British Empire,' so the saying went. How did a small island, Great Britain, able to conquer and rule over most of the world? The Industrial Revolution played a prominent role, but that was just a small part of the big picture. The bigger part was Information Asymmetry. Great Britain had information advantage over their subjects that they did not share. The British thus perfected, or perhaps invented, the art of diplomacy - an accepted-lies, if one asks. This was towards the end of the Dark Ages. As the world moves into the Information Age, the influence of Great Britain began to deteriorate. Shortly after the end of World War II, the art of telling one party one thing, and at the same time, telling the other party another thing, known as Divide and Rule, became unsustainable. For that, former colonies started asking to chart their own destinies. The Myth of the Almighty Great Britain was thus broken.

I read somewhere that Lord Lugard and only 8 (eight) soldiers marched through Sudan on their way from Uganda to subdue the Northern Protectorate of Nigeria. Only eight armed men; that could only happen in the age of information asymmetry. Did he tell those they came in contact with that he had thousands of soldiers, on standby, on the outskirts of whatever place before the people surrendered the entire Northern Nigeria protectorate to the British? That happened then, what about now. Those that took over the reins of power from the British, after independence, would use the same pattern of divide and rule. Consequently, in the name of the North, or the West, or the East, emerging leaders looted the public treasury. Meanwhile, these were dastardly acts, perpetrated for self and not for the region or section. Unfortunately for these leaders, the children of the North, West, and East have gone to school – armed with information – and the influence of those that had used information asymmetry to subdue their people is now dwindling.

Though the British divided and ruled, they held steadfast to their immutable laws. However, after the British left, Nigerians watched their leaders that took over from the British change at whim the immutable laws that the British left to suit a leader or an influential person. The result is what Nigeria is, today - a country that is only accomplished in Nigerians' imagination. I have written before, clamouring for public education. It is not that we will not require public education, but how to go about it. If we borrow a leaf from what happened elsewhere, we might be able to start something to address the information asymmetry in Nigerian societies. After the French Revolution, a group of British academia formed the Fabians Society with the intent to prevent the violent revolution that had consumed the rest of Europe. It was through public education, though painstakingly slow, but it averted violent revolution in Britain. In the end, it will be the realization of the individual rights that saved Britain and its rulers. It will eventually propel the small island to rule the world.

The political maturity in the country, particularly in the North, is encouraging. Now, the children of the North, both from the palaces and outside of it, are challenging the status quo. They are now questioning those that had ruled the country in the past in the name of the North. They cannot see anything on the ground, in the North, to justify blindfold following of the so called protectors of northern interest. The North they see is as bare as the rest of the country. They, however, continue to see affluent individuals, from the North, who had profited only in the name of the North. That is what information that is not one sided can bring, but these young individuals cannot do it alone. This, I think, is the time for bold elements in the country to join forces to help redress the balance of right against wrong.

The British had used Indirect Rule mainly because they did not have enough supervising staffs of their own for the oversight functions of the colonies. Nigeria's leaders have been doing the same, using the traditional institutions for their oversight functions. Yet, this is a republic, at least on paper, and not a kingdom, or conglomerate of kingdoms. The issue of a ceded presidency to a section of the country is insulting to the sensibility of Nigerians, especially to those that have gone to school. Here, is a country in dare need of a leader, as many Nigerians will attest, who will pull us out of this "shithole". There is no light; only half of the population has access to portable water and proper sanitation; no decent roads; education is in a state of neglect, and an economy that is only strong as long as oil flows. It is a shame that with a population of over 160 million people, many intellectuals will indulge in such a discussion on how to choose a leader. It is arrant rubbish, and it churns my stomach anytime I hear such an argument. As aviators will say, ‘many of those guys do not just fly straight'.

Back to the topic of the day, it is through public enlightenment that Nigeria's societal ills can be cured. There is only one group that can take such a bull by the horn, and that is the Nigerian intellectual elite. This is where Nigeria's intellectuals will earn their respect. They broke it, so let them fix it. I was away for a while, and at the airport when I got back, some in the Diaspora started complaining about the shortcomings in the country. Somebody, however, in the immigration queue shuts them up. Who do they expect to fix the country, when the cream of the Nigerian society, those that could say no to rubbish, had emigrated, leaving behind only those that are afraid to face the leaders for the nonsense they get. The government of Babangida created a relief valve for dissent by allowing dual nationality for Nigerians. That masterly act allows the untouchables in the society to have a window of escape to other lands, instead of confrontations with the government of the day as the effect of SAP began to bite. It would have been the children of influential people who would most likely have been born in the West and not those of the masses. They, most probably, would have been the ones to champion the dissent to government. With them out of the way, it was picnic for that government to dish out unpalatable meals to the populace.

Mr. Samuel Akinyele Caulcrick,

Zaria