A nation is like an individual; driven and shaped by certain values and propelled by ambition to success or the lack of it to mediocrity and failure. A few days ago I was discussing with some friends over the Nigerian quagmire and one of them suggested that “if all Nigerians were evacuated to the United States of America and all Americans were evacuated to Nigeria, in a few years the Americans would turn Nigeria into one of the most prosperous countries in the world while the Nigerians would turn America to a failed state.” His argument was premised on the logic that the people and consequently the leadership of a society determine the outcome in the success or failure of that society. It is difficult to fault his logic for try as we may, we cannot deny that there are certain predominant attributes of the Nigerian people and leadership that has helped to create and sustain the tragic society and failure Nigeria is.
America has been a democracy since 1789 and since that time, there have never been cases of organised election rigging, census rigging, electoral thuggery and other such fraudulent shenanigans by different generations of American leaders. America has since its founding been an ambitious nation that set out to be the best in everything. From exemplary public leadership, democracy and the rule of law to science, technology, arts, sports, commerce, entertainment and military prowess America continues to lead the world. Ambition and the predominant values of justice, freedom, dignity and the rule law of the American people and leadership created the success story and American dream America is for the world. America is consequently the most advanced and prosperous nation on the face of the earth. The nation where your dreams can be fulfilled and you can be all that you desire to be. The nation that unleashes the best of humanity.
By contrast Nigeria became enmeshed in crisis from the very beginning. No sooner did the British colonial authorities depart in 1960, than all shades of fraud and lawlessness was unleashed. Elections and census were massively rigged, political thuggery and violence became routine and just 6 years after independence there was an explosion of violence that culminated in a bloody conflict. Since then different generations of leaders have continued in the same pattern of dictatorship, brutality, election rigging, census rigging, thuggery and massive looting. Unlike America, a lack of national ambition and the predominant values of self hate and an entrenched culture of injustice, wickedness, fraud and lawlessness of the Nigerian people and leadership have created the failure and nightmare Nigeria is. Little wonder Nigeria is the most corrupt and one of the poorest failed states in the world.
Given the abundance of human and material resources, there is no limit to what Nigeria could have been. But Nigeria has failed in spite of the abundance because the lack of ambition and predominant values of injustice, corruption and self hate amongst others embedded in the Nigerian people and leadership cannot create a successful society. Like my friend suggested; if you moved all Nigerians to America and handed America over to them with the entire infrastructure already built, the same factors would ensure that America would collapse in a few years and become a failed state. Likewise Nigeria would become functional and prosperous in a few years if all Americans moved to Nigeria because the ambition and values of the American people and leadership would create a successful society anywhere. Nigeria has thus become a failed state crippled by corruption, injustice and trapped in unprecedented social unrest because of the values of those who inhabit it. With a different set of values and fundamentals Nigeria could have the best roads, state of the art rail system, some of the best schools, hospitals and social welfare for the unemployed and underprivileged.
Nigeria could have been an example in democracy, with free and fair elections at every level elevating the dignity of the human person and showing the world an example of best practice in an African democracy. Nigeria could have been a technologically advanced nation, producing goods and being part of technological innovations. Nigeria could have been a major tourist destination with millions of visitors each year coming to visit an African success story, a black Mecca of sorts, a proud and successful black nation taking her place among the comity of nations, holding her head high and giving pride and dignity to black people across the world. Nigeria could have been a secure, harmonious and prosperous nation enjoying modernity and life in an advanced, civilised and thriving society invested in the rule of law. Nigeria could have been a dream, just like the American dream, a nation where people are given every opportunity to succeed. A nation that invests in her people and brings out the best in them. A nation that dignifies and humanises her citizens, a nation where people from all over the world will choose to come and live. A great nation and an African miracle.
But alas we are in Nigeria and Nigeria is a failed state because our values have made us only capable of creating a nation that dehumanises her own citizens, a nation that brings out the worst rather than the best in her citizens, a nation that is entrenched in injustice, a nation that impoverishes and destroys her own citizens, a nation that self destructs. This is the story of Nigeria, a nation that could have been one of the richest, harmonious and technologically advanced in the world, yet today lays prostrate and crippled as the laughing stock of the world, as the shame of the black race, as the greatest human phenomenon of failure, because we have no ambition and we allowed injustice to become the defining aspect of our values and therein lies the difference that gave Americans a dream and Nigerians a nightmare!
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu