(Dedicated to SDG)
For decades when the military was in power, we thought with a civilian regime the country would be on the path to progress. We were wrong. We thought our leaders are our problem, but for ten years of democracy, all our leaders have been drawn from the people. Yet there is no positive impact. For instance, Nigeria has never had an academic as a president. We thought with a president who was one, the educational security of the young is guaranteed. Yearly JAMB conducts examination for 2 million candidates and there are only 90,000 spaces for them in the universities. There is no linkage between education sector and the manufacturing sector and all other sectors. 6-3-3-4 is in shambles. Foreign universities are now cashing in on our collapsing educational sector. Whereas a good and functional education system is a national security asset and the best defence against mass poverty. When Barack Obama, a onetime university professor, became president, he spoke plainly on the outset, that he was preparing the foundation for a new American century. And that foundation he says has always been in quality education. If our president, an academic, can be treating our education with such non-charlatance, then who would redeem it?
What about the gentlemen of the pen? Weekly in the newspapers, they sketched superb solutions to all the national ills and maladies. Once they are called upon to actualise these solutions, they turn into something else. Look at the case of Akin Osuntokun, Femi Fani-Kayode, Segun Adeniyi to name a few. These gentlemen in their days wrote informed and incisive articles that cry out for a different approach to life and governance. One after the other, they went into government and became something else. Little do these gentlemen know that they are making it seem that anyone writing like them in the papers is hungry for government posts. Who will save this nation? Who can we trust? Or is there something corrosive about power? Two weeks before Obama was sworn in as the president, he asked George Bush to invite all living American presidents to the White House for a photo get together. Obama knew that a best way good people in power can turn corrupt is through insularity. So during lunch he asked all the former presidents how was he to know if his numerous aides and advisers are just telling him what he wanted to hear? None of them could answer.
Prof Dora Akunyili used to be our hope. Her case is pathetic. Never had the drug industry been sanitised as she did so. A brave woman, she took on the high and low. She took on the untouchables and her kinsmen. She took on Julius Berger and the multinationals, the counterfeit drug barons of Onitsha and Aba, Abakaliki and the Apapa fake importers. Before we put anything into our mouths, she popularised the ritual of checking for NAFDAC number to verify her agency's approval of it. She was a self-respecting woman who rocked the system on behalf of commoners. She was Our Lady, Refuge of the Helpless. In fact, a prominent royalty called her "Jesus Christ." She worked miracles in the drug industry but unlike Jesus, she survived assassination attempts. She won both national and international awards for her effrontery. If NAFDAC under Akunyili was Nigeria, we would have been enjoying that elusive dividends of democracy. And so she was moved to the centre of power as the minister of information and was asked to rebrand Nigeria. Here was a woman who rebranded NAFDAC without saying so. Now as a federal minister, she was asked to rebrand Nigeria by saying so. The result? From being the person in pursuance of counterfeit drug barons, she became the baroness of counterfeit information. She became a paranoid censor banning truthfully artistic expressions of the way we are now. What happened along the line? She made peace with the system. Even when she was caught visiting Lamidi Adedibu the notorious alaafin of amala politics in 2007, we were still defending her that that was a minor mistake. Yet that was the premonition of her transformation. Who again is the young Nigerian going to turn too as role models? Dr (Mrs) Okonjo- Iweala her contemporary and co-reformist should be thanking her lucky stars that she was unceremoniously sacked, at least she has her reputation intact. Maybe she would have ended up like Prof Dora Akunyili.
And the Niger Delta insurgents? They threatened. They blew up. They said they were prepared to lay down their lives to actualise justice in Niger Delta by force if the Federal government keeps on neglecting the area and leaving them to the mercy of Big Oil. In fact Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark, Ogaga Ifowodo, Sunny Awhefeada, G.G. Darah compared the gun and bomb-wielding youngsters to Adaka Boro, Udo Udoma, nationalists and freedom fighters in one way or the other who want to ÔÇśperfect the union.' But Nigerian vocabulary has many fanciful words for bribes and corruption. Settlement, Ghana must go, jeun soke etc. We never suspected that amnesty is another one. The insurgents started surrendering their guns, military hardware and the Niger delta struggle in exchange for amnesty. Only one of them had the courage to speak out that the government was offering them millions and oil prospecting licences. Amnesty indeed. The militants had courage to take up machine guns and face the Nigerian army, they had courage to Lagos and blow up Atlas Cove jetty but they lacked the courage to open their mouth and say the amnesty was a cover for bribes to flow appropriately to the required destination. Before, they used to flow through the swamp leaders who do not deliver. The same with the Ogoni struggle. Shell decided to pull the celebrated case out of court in New York and offered the aggrieved $15million amnesty. No more noise. Yet the Ogoni struggle was not primarily about Ken Saro Wiwa or his killing. Saro Wiwa was just the figurehead of the activism to make oil exploration compatible with environmental safety and to give justice and fairness to the people who own the oil wealth. But the families have received amnesty so no more voice throwing at the oil giants.
Who, who will save this nation? Who can act above the politics of the moment?