By ABIODUN AREMU
Nigerians cherish a society that works. Their successive rulers prophesied visions that articulate fantastic dreams and hopeless hopes. Every October 1st, in the past three decades, has become a ritual for its rulers to want to be associated with what they referred to as the “goals of the founding fathers”, but their very despicable conduct betrays the very essence for which Nigeria was founded.
Nigeria at zero (0) on October 1st 1960 was a product of struggles and sacrifices that involved loss to lives, careers, organizations, etc. Without the struggles by those earlier generations of labour leaders, progressive politicians, radical intellectuals, activist youths, valiant women, business practitioners and professionals, who had some modicum of nationalism and commitment to the Nigeria pride; probably the few measures of freedom we still manage to enjoy today would not be.
The paradox on Nigeria is better appreciated when viewed from deteriorating standards over the decades. The boom in agricultural produce in the 50s – 60s, that of oil in the 70s, were channeled into Developmental Plans that produced standard universities (ABU, OAU, UNN, and later, universities in every state), local manufacturing industries, hydro-power stations, the four oil refineries, airports, stadia, trade fair complexes, durable roads and health infrastructure, etc.; but most of these national assets have been taken over as private property by those in political power today and their cronies, and in some cases, rendered obsolete; all in the guise of economic reform agenda of privatization and deregulation.
As an undergraduate in the early 80s, my Industrial Training Fund (ITF) at N120 per month x 3 months (N360), which was equivalent of $720, could fetch me a return ticket to London. Minimum wage was N125 ($260) in 1981 and had a purchasing value that guaranteed one-bedroom low cost house, to the least paid worker with opportunity for mortgage facility of 25 – 30 years. But N18,000 ($120) for the least paid worker in 2011, which the slave driver employers (public and private) are resisting to pay can never improve the lots of the workforce.
The degenerated state of the polity today is a reflection of our dependence status politically and economically to the dictates of US and its allies of imperial financial institutions and agencies, whose prescriptions on almost every aspect of our social life are swallowed by these “Uncle Toms” local rulers.
Nigeria at 51 cannot really be celebrating “independence” when it is the neo-liberal global order that is actually governing us. From the first coming of Obasanjo as military Head of State; US, UK, France and other imperial looters in the G-7/8 impostor arrangement determined our policies and development objectives; which explains why governance has been reduced merely to:
1. Levying and collecting all manners of taxes (petroleum, VAT, electricity tariffs, development levies, etc.); 2. Awarding contracts to portfolio contractors;
3. Taking kickbacks off and on front; and
4. Elevating looting, money laundering and extravagant lives, while the majority of Nigerians live miserably as the goal of government.
Nigeria at 51 cannot talk of the rule of law and due process, when the most basic essentials of life articulated as the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policies in the 1999 Constitution, i.e. rights and access to life, health, education, water, light, food, shelter, employment, social security, and happiness, are denied the people.
We can never free the country or any section of it nor achieve true federalism or resource control (even assuming the ethnic balkanization agenda succeeds) as long as we have a subservient ruling elites, who operate like touts (agberos) at the service of the G-7/8 countries that want us to fight corruption in line with their “democracy model”; yet have Nigeria’s stolen trillions corruptly domiciled in their banks in Europe and America.
Nigeria has wealth and abounds in limitless potentials, yet we have over a million children, who should be in schools hawking on major Nigerian cities, and our youths with first and second degrees roaming the streets without jobs, and national highways have become death traps, full of valleys and potholes and almost impassable.
Nigeria will not move forward because those profiting from the present rots should not be expected to shun their luxuries acquired through looted funds, while the rest resigned to “suffering and smiling”. At 51, the few (Presidents, Governors, parliamentarians, local government chairpersons, political appointees, and their associates swim in serious money that accrues from excess sales of crude oil and the devaluation of the local currency, yet industries are closing down, unemployment is growing and there is no social security to the unemployed, aged and disabled.
To move Nigeria forward, every pro-people transformative measure must be adopted to resolve the ever-mounting and complex social and political decadence. The people and their popular organizations in the market, workplaces, schools, mosques, churches, and among the women, farmers, artisans, and the disabled, etc., should be resolved to confront the neo-liberal regime of privatization and deregulation in order to get back a productive economy.
Nigeria at 51 has led to the popular maxim by many daily calling for a revolution as the answer. Even the middle-class and local manufacturers and owners of small scale enterprises, whose businesses have been ruined by the economic philosophy of neo-liberal globalization, have in the last few years also joined the chorus for revolution as the alternative to the present rot.
But Revolution is not something that is just merely parroted. It requires great efforts and sacrifices and the willingness of the mass of the people to bring it about. It is not enough for people to daily agonize about their plights, hardships and sufferings, but to appreciate the fact that all the failures of governance are the result of the unjust system, which they must struggle to change without which starvation, unemployment, privatization of collective wealth, hunger, food crisis, preventable and curable diseases, will continue.
A Nigeria at 51 that desires to work, must have people-oriented organizations and patriots (those who believe and ready to sacrifice everything including their lives) to undertake the task of national redemption. The task of redemption requires being self-reliant, anti-imperialist and building a resistance capacity and commitment to drive and enforce the spirit and letters defined in the 1999 Constitution on the economic objectives of Government.The first major challenge to confront is the necessity for every Nigerian to acquire mental emancipation. I am more than convinced from the benefit of our historical trajectory and the social realities that a struggle for the TOTAL INDEPENDENCE of the country has become inevitable, or less, year in and out would remain a paradox.