What is peace?
The Macmillan English Dictionary states that peace means “a situation in which there is no war between countries or groups: A situation in which you are not annoyed by noise or other people: A state when you are calm and have no worries.” And since peace and security are inseparable because one cannot have peace where there is no security and vice versa, subsequently, the question also arises: What is security? The same dictionary partly describes security as “safety from attack, harm, or damage: A feeling of confidence and safety, or a situation in which you can feel confident and safe.”
Do we have peace and security in Nigeria? The sad verdict is no even though some people might out of parochial self-interest mischievously give baked lies as answers.
As ugly as the situation may look, however, the truth also is that Nigerians are officially not at war with each other, but rather some groups of hooligans who have been coated by some faceless “Goliaths” have declared war against innocent Nigerians, while some politicians and contractors who are supposed to be leaders but should be better addressed as heartless pen criminals in suits have continued to create chaos by holding the jugular of every government without caring about the sufferings of Nigerians and the cries of innocent children for their sustenance. Average Nigerians are more than worried and scared as they sleep with one eye open, from the North to the West or the East to the South the story is the same. If it is not because of Boko Haram, it is because of armed robbers. If it is not because of '419ners' (fraudsters), it is because of kidnappers or ritual killers. If it is not because of communal war as a result of wrong coronation of traditional rulers caused by greed and insincerity, it is because of land disputes. If it is not because of assassins, it is because of the scary growing population of unemployed Nigerian youths that have increased social vices and death. If it is not because of how to pay the high school fees of the children, it is because of the source of the next meal on the table and so on and so forth.
Senate President, David Mark perhaps with just a sentence captured the sorry state of Nigeria about five years ago when he said that, “48 years after independence, just barely two years to 50 years of our attainment of independence [...] we are still discussing on how to provide water, electricity, building roads, building hospitals, […] our 48 years of independence appear to me as wasted years.” Unfortunately at 52, Nigeria is still lacking those basic desired infrastructures and amenities for national growth as brouhaha and ethnic war drums visibly reign the air even amongst the educated elites.
This heartbreaking truth by the Senate president brought me to the agonizing opinion that, some of the people that had led Nigeria in some powerful and sensitive positions in the past were not worthy to be called national leaders but rather opportunists that corruptly saw Nigerian resources as a national cake that must be shared. Because of their personal aggrandizement they destroyed patriotism and trust which are the most vital organs needed to build and live in harmony and peace particularly in a heterogeneous country like Nigeria. They made themselves local champions only admirable to be crowned greedy ethnic rulers and not national leaders that had no forgiven minds. Their manipulating style of leadership and crooked policies kept Nigeria in the state it is today. Thus, for us to achieve peace and progress in Nigeria we must borrow a leave from Dr. Nelson Mandela who after 27 years of unjust imprisonment by the colonial masters, came out of prison and without prejudice still led a government as the president of South Africa that incorporated all races and religions devoid of discrimination and vengeance.
For Nigeria to have the desired peace and security, her political and opinion leaders must be ready to accommodate different views and put into practice those progressive ones even when they may come as criticisms. They must be ready to pay the price because peace and security is like freedom, it has got price tags. Our leaders must be pragmatic and resolute in their decisions. They need to be focused with clear vision and robust approach. They need the political will and sincerity to fight the monster called corruption if there must be any hope of turning things around. Importantly too, traces of any form of ethnic favouritism, nepotism, and gender discrimination must be extinguished and replaced with national interests. In other words, patriotism and fairness should be the keywords towards national policies.
Nigeria with over 350 local languages is not only the most populated African country but could also historically pass as the most sensitive and complex nation ever known by mankind to govern on this wicked planet considering its composition. And since language has got power of influence, consequently, aggressive awareness campaigns for understanding and tolerance should begin in earnest.
Because the issue concerning peace and security by all ramifications is always broad, where should we start? Perhaps, we should in brief look at Nigeria of yesterday, today and then tomorrow.
Nigeria in retrospect
Until a certain point Nigeria excelled very high in almost every aspect of life because all its potential needed to be a super nation then was in motion for the benefits of all. From sports to politics and economy Nigeria was thoroughly the paradigmatic giant of Africa. Everybody then saw and enjoyed the patriotic works done by very few of those selfless leaders that formed the bedrock of high quality of living we all treasured. In the education sector, standard 6 certificates then (equivalent to today's elementary school certificates) enjoyed praises and respect in comparison to some of our university graduates of today that cannot speak good English or defend their certificates.
In the 1960s and early 1970s Nigeria was predominantly an agricultural society that produced enough rice, cassava and sweet potatoes etc. and exported products like cocoa, cotton and groundnuts to countries like the US, Germany and Britain until the oil boom sickness.
But recent estimate indicates that Nigeria now spends billions of dollars per year in the importation of such agricultural products she had earlier exported. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, fisheries' output in 1970s in Nigeria were said to be around 600,000 to 700,000 tons and dropped to 120,000 tons per year by 1990 perhaps due to the water pollution by Shell and other oil companies in Niger Delta region.
While most of the roads built over 50 years ago are still serving the people very well in today's Nigeria, painfully, many roads built by recent leaders do not stand up to 2 or 3 raining seasons and they turn to death traps because of dishonest jobs done with substandard materials.
Nigeria was a country that was then so respected even up to the early 80's. Nigeria was a country that her currency, Naira, in those yesteryears had more value than pounds and was accepted in London for trade. Nigeria was a country that played the bigger brother role that helped so many African countries to survive economical and political stranglehold of the imperialist colonists. Nigeria was so peaceful that it was then a dream country for tourists and a haven for African asylum seekers. But today, Nigerians looking for greener pastures are scattered in every part of the world where they are molested and treated without dignity and even sometimes killed without the Nigerian government through their ambassadors or envoys challenging such humiliations and cruelties. Today, because of terror related attacks in Nigeria, international communities like the US are threatening to blacklist Nigeria as a terrorist country. While tourists are scared to visit today's Nigeria because of insecurity Nigerians in Diaspora are equally afraid to come home. The sight of Nigeria's international passport at any airport immediately attracts odium and provocative harsh controls. What went wrong that the image of Nigeria now seems hopelessly disgraced internationally? Is there any remedy?
Nigeria is a potential great country. Based on this concept, she can only attain her full great height solitarily if her leaders and the governed can be resolute and sincere enough to address injustice and fight ethnic viruses amongst them in unison and fairness. Proffering in nutshell concrete and pragmatic workable solutions considering the above short illustration of the country before and now, simplicity, directness, truth and conscience will be my guide.
To be continued next week
A concerned patriotic citizen writes from Vienna, Austria
Mail: [email protected]