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“Federal Nigeria has never since her Independence shown the distinctive mark of a united nation. It has been impossible for her to silence tribal rivalries – to achieve that mixture of ethnic/cultural blend required to forge National unity.”
– Dr Francoise Duvalier, former President of Haiti, March 22, 1969.
By Chike B. Emenike
Enigmatic Dr. Francoise “Papa Doc” Duvalier couldn’t have captured it any more candidly. Looking at the prevailing political confusion, economic, social and moral disequilibrium in Nigeria today, the late former Haitian strong man is still hitting the nail on the head, 45 years after he uttered that truth about our country. What he observed and said about Nigeria in 1969 is still true in 2014. And I am myself telling Nigeria: At 54 years of age, this is your life. In pigin parlance I’m saying “Naija, see your life; see as u be!”
This prompts the questions: Can Nigeria be adjudged a success today, at over middle-age? Is the nation irredeemable? The quick answer to both questions, of course, is no; Nigeria has been suffering from deliberate arrested development; but we are still redeemable. And redemption must, as a first step, start with the complete restructuring of the country to reposition it as a producing rather than a solely consuming economy. This is crucial.
But this important first step can be taken only if, at the least, a critical mass of the leaders can, in concert and in a deliberate effort, look inwards and find the necessary courage to first unchain their minds from the foreign beliefs and the consequent spiritual and mental conditioning with which we, as a people, are shackled, before they can lead the masses to do likewise. This is essentially asking for a mental and spiritual revolution that will certainly be more herculean a task than the pre-Independence political struggle for self-determination.
At the dawn of Independence in 1960, the single and simple-minded nationalists, probably much too befuddled by mental enslavement, were unable to expand their horizon beyond the periphery of mere power politics. They failed to see the danger portended by the wholesale capitulation to the imposed alien educational, economic and spiritual systems. They were simply too eager, too excited at the enchanting prospect of inheriting the coveted status and privileges of office enjoyed by the departing colonialists.
This fatal allure to mere lucre of office later proved decisive for the misdirected efforts at national development and the subsequent servitude to neo-colonialism. Most of their early attempts to lay the right foundations for the future were characterized by this singular mistake. Indeed they laid only the wrong foundations. For rather than direct their efforts at reversing the intellectual, mental and spiritual harm done by colonialism, they instead whipped up tribal sentiments and dissipated much energy in orchestrated ethnic rivalries, all in the bid to carve out wider ethnic fiefdoms for personal exploitation, just as the colonialists did. This has not changed till today.
Our early leaders succumbed without question to the mass hypnotic grip of foreign religions and education, under the harmful influence of which, today, as the “educated” elite, the ruling class operates to oppress, suppress, deceive and exploit the masses, fostering mindless corruption and mis-governance.
The Nigerian elite appear to enjoy the inferiority of intellect imposed on them by the subsisting mental indolence and subservience to foreign thoughts on politics, religion and education.
For instance, we operate a curious form of Western formal education; and we have even been doing this in a rather lifeless manner. We have equally been aping their democratic systems of governance, systems that evolved from foreign cultures; all of it much to our grief and misfortune, since 1960.
It is easy to see that we have been a nation continuously living by trial and error. In futility we have been trying alien systems in every area of our national life. Yesterday it was the British (Westminster-style) parliamentary system of democracy; then the Latin American type of coup d’etat and military despotism. Today it is the soulless and costly American (Washington-style) presidential system. Tomorrow it may be the cold Russian (old U.S.S.R. Kremlin-style) Communism, old German Nazism or the defunct Italian Fascism; anything but an indigenously evolved Nigerian political system.
What harm is it done to us by colonialism that has doped our national psyche into this absurd level of long-standing mental stupor? What is it that has so blind-folded generations of our leaders that they could never see that the systems we have been operating do not work? Instead we keep going in circles.
Another general election for the office of President of the Federal Republic (in 2015) is around the corner. The same old groups and interests are again gearing up to seize power, just for the sake of it. For on grabbing it, they would simply relapse to rule us in the “business as usual” manner.
The tragedy of the current situation is in the fact that the leading opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), an old-wine-in-a-new-bottle, is mainly peopled and led by men and women the majority of whom who are fundamentally either ex-PDP or pro-PDP, and therefore are no different intellectually and otherwise from those now at the helm of affairs at the centre. They have almost all (as civilians or as the military) had a go at governance, in one way or the other, at one time or another, and had failed to lift up the nation.
The general lack of adequate intellectual capital and the lazy dependence on alien economic development models and orientation would invariably leave the opposition suffering from similar limitations arising from the same false educational foundation and content as do their opponents in power. There will be a difference, of course, only if they come to power and start implementing far-reaching and fundamental changes as being advocated in this discourse.
Evident from the fore-going, therefore, is the reality now staring us in the face; the stark reality of a nation bogged down by confused and unproductive educational system, broken down morals and utter spiritual annihilation, all as consequences of our inability, due to wrong education and false religions, to develop indigenous ways of running our affairs.
In the home front, successive generations of parents are conditioned by conflicting alien values, and thus often left confused in the context of the occasional demands from what is left of our dying cultures. Consequently families continue to raise children, the future leaders, that are generally delinquent, morally vacuous, mentally enslaved, intellectually and educationally shallow, un-original and, above all, spiritually confused, like their parents.
So for me the two foreign religions, Christianity and Islam and their counterpart, the alien formal Western educational system, have failed us, no matter the argument raised to the contrary. To argue that we have managed to still exist as a nation thus far, under the influences of the present religions and system of education, will be indolently taking refuge in denial in order to ignore the evident lack of real content, the dissatisfaction, the aimlessness and the serial failures that have characterised our efforts at national development for so long.
For we could have been where Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and some others are today, had we toed the right path from the beginning. Now, we should admit this fact of our monumental failure in education and religion, and resolve to make the necessary return to basics; a return to a new beginning, in a new direction.
We should boldly and courageously return to the past, rediscover and refurbish our abandoned religions and cultures – that is, the many working and efficient ways we did our things, those things that made us (and would now make us again) a people distinct from Europeans and others. Improve on the way we used to serve our needs in Science, Arts and Technology; however crude and rudimentary these might appear; how we raised and educated our children the indigenous way; how we organised our societies; how we created and regulated our values and morals, adjudicated in disputes and maintained law and order; how we selected our leaders and created our institutions; how we related with the world outside; how we related with and worshipped the Almighty God and viewed His mighty Creation.
A good starting point would be for the Federal Government to first see the truth in all of this, then articulate and send a Bill to the National Assembly which would address the two issues of wrong education and false religions raised above, in line with the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan. This would ultimately lead to the nationwide launch of an All-Nigerian Cultural Renaissance. In this, all the Ministries and agencies of government will collectively act as the joint vehicles to anchor and drive the initiative, of course in association with the traditional, social, religious and other relevant institutions.
The starting elements of the rebirth would include, but not limited to, first and foremost, the merciless enforcement of discipline and orderliness in the conduct of citizens; then a full and compulsory return, through appropriate legislations, to our various indigenous modes of dressing, relying solely on locally made fabrics and accessories for all garments worn for social, office and leisure functions; the development, fusion and use of selected indigenous languages as the sole medium of official communication and for instruction and examination in the schools, and in the production of educational materials in the arts, science and technology.
In our universities, attainment of professorship should be predicated on the production of research papers on original creations or innovations in local technology, arts and science. The Education managers, in association with the National Educational and Religious Research centres respectively, should be re-oriented, empowered and given a time-frame within which to produce and harmonise the necessary templates in all aspects of the envisaged return to indigenous religion and system of education. As another vital part of the drive, a fundamental paradigm shift would be, as a matter of utmost necessity, required of all the organisers of the various mass-audience, behaviour-influencing TV reality shows, TV soap operas, TV commercials and advertisements and also the managers of the web-based new media content.
Furthermore , such talent-hunt shows as the Project Fame, Nigerian Idol, Nigeria Got Talent, the various Dance Competitions, Fashion Shows, etc., should be organised and produced based only on indigenous music, fashion, dances as well as on indigenous inventions in the arts, science and technology; only locally made equipment and instruments should be used. In a word, these shows should be turned into mass audience platforms to promote indigenous fashion, the arts and technological products in diverse areas and encourage our people to creatively look inwards.
If this approach is adopted and sustained, it would be only a matter of time before all aspects of our social, political and economic lives are indigenised, transformed and made exportable. And then, for once, we as a nation would be truly in charge, with a clear national purpose and direction.
* Emenike, an engineer, is also a consultant based in Lagos