Today, October 1, 2012, the Nigerian state under the supervision of President Goodluck Jonathan will perform the ritual of celebrating the country’s independence. It is noteworthy that the Jonathan administration has decided not to go for the pomp and pageantry associated with such celebrations which really would have added insult to our collective injury. But typical of our ruling elite, the planned sombre celebration may just be another ruse meant to pave way for a more elaborate, yet misguided, multi-billion naira celebration in 2014 to mark the centennial anniversary of the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914.
By every standard one decides to judge Nigeria, it has failed abysmally as a nation. It is worth repeating because there are those afflicted with eternal delusions about, to use the weasel words of our politicians, “moving it forward”, the way it is currently constituted. It is mere wishful thinking. No amount of fancy talk or transformational balderdash can alter the fact that Nigeria is a full-blown “kleptocracy”, in the words of Niyi Osundare, on the way to imminent implosion.
It has been said that Nigeria is a country of great potential and promise. It remains just that after 52 years: a country of great potential and promise. The reality, to quote Chinua Achebe, is that “Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is one of the most expensive countries and one of those that give least value for money. It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest and vulgar. In short, it is among the most unpleasant places on earth.”
That was almost three decades ago. We have since raised the stakes. “Today, rogues, armed robbers are in the State Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly,’’ former President Olusegun Obasanjo said a few months ago. Obasanjo should know. He, more than anyone else, facilitated the emergence of these scoundrels who have taken over our democratic space.
Very few countries in the world can take the unrepressed pillage, outrageous abuse and unmitigated violation which the self-acclaimed giant of Africa has received and remain standing. David Cameron, British prime minister, has been quoted as saying, “If the amount of money stolen out of Nigeria in the last 30 years was stolen in the UK, the UK would not exist again.”
There are many figures in the public domain about how much our leaders have siphoned from the country since independence. From Nuhu Ribadu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), we learnt that the amount is “more than six times the total sum that went into rebuilding Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War via the famous European Recovery Programme (ERP) or Marshall Plan.” The ERP was $13 billion. Interestingly, Germany, the choice location for medical care for our leaders, was one of the beneficiaries of the Marshall Plan.
We can spend the next few weeks cataloguing the problems of Nigeria and we would not have scratched the surface. Where do we start? Is it something as basic as education where it has been revealed that “Nigerians commit about N160 billion ($1 billion) to the education of their children and wards in Ghanaian universities every year.”
A recent newspaper report quotes the chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, Wale Babalakin, as saying, “The cost excludes huge amounts also spent on education of Nigerians in other countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada and Malaysia.” From Babalakin we also learnt that there are about 75,000 Nigerian students in Ghana, a country which, in the last decade, has been spending up to 35 percent of its annual budget (far beyond the UNESCO recommendation of a minimum of 26 percent) on education.
Let’s take a minor issue like polio eradication. Just recently, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) issued a report which noted that “of six global sanctuaries for the poliovirus (which stand against the anticipated eradication), Nigeria’s Kano and Bornu States are the most problematic.”
“Apart from Afghanistan,” the report further said, “Nigeria’s northern region specifically constitutes major concern for global polio fighters, who now worry over the quality of local personnel and efforts. Although Kano, Bornu, and four other global (problematic) spots represent a relatively tiny proportion of the earth’s land surface area, the Monitoring Board had hinted that they ‘pose disproportionate risk to the likelihood of success for the entire globe’.... There are now just six countries with persistent polio transmission.
Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan have never interrupted transmission. Angola, Chad and DR Congo have ‘re-established’ polio. Nigeria has slipped back in a quite alarming way. Afghanistan’s programme is consistently performing at a reasonable level.”
This is a snapshot of the sorry story of Nigeria. We are not just the poster child for corruption. Whether we are talking about education, maternal or infant mortality, security, justice and rule of law, we rank at the very bottom and are constantly in competition with the world’s most retrograde countries.