Has Nigeria learnt anything from history? By Jide Ayobolu
History has been simply defined as the study of past events, it was Cicero, the great philosopher who said that, not to know what took place before you were born is to forever remain a child.
History enables us to know what took place in the past; so that, we can appreciate and understand the present and plan well for the future. But, unfortunately, Nigerians have no sense of history; they forget too easily and paper over serious historical facts as mere happenstances.
They take note of inconsequential matters and gloss over serious subject-matter that is why the country has kept on repeating the same errors over the years and expecting different answers.
Any country that spurns history, does so to its own peril and that is what had held sway in the country since the attainment of independence.
With the excruciating pains of the prevailing economic recession in the country and the cacophony of voices about what and how things should be done to get out of the economic mess, the question that readily comes to mind is that, has Nigeria really learnt anything from history? It would be recalled that, in the speech of the young majors that overthrew the civilian government in 1966, they said categorically how governance was in abeyance and had gone awry, they said they took over power because of widespread corruption in the system, as they was no silver lining in the horizon that the despicable and detestable situation would abate, as a result, the country went through a fratricidal civil war, where over three million precious lives were lost, in the aftermath of the pogrom the country many years of military rule.
Not only were the lives of the people militarized, the polity, politics and economics were equally militarized. In fact, the federal system of government was administered as a unitary system of government, with high command mentality.
The fundamental human rights of the citizens were suspended, but the military intervention in politics which was meant to be “corrective regime”, correcting the many anomalies and ills of the society and enhancing accelerated growth and development, became victim of its own vaunting ambition, as graft became the order of the day and indeed the official policy of the state.
It is important to note that military officers struggled amongst themselves for juicy portfolio, postings and positions as well as oil blocs and mouth-watering contracts and in the process, nepotism, favouritism and tribalism crept in. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that some of them were involved in drug trafficking, money laundering and international human trafficking, it has also been established that homosexualism was also in vogue, officers engaged in unhealthy rivalry to outdo themselves, and overthrow existing governments, so that, they can occupy sensitive positions, where they feathered their nests and swelled their on and off shore bank accounts.
At that time, there was no accountability, no probity and no checks, it was always about obeying the last command; indeed rule was synonymous with impunity and absence of rule of law; people were ruled by decrees and military fiats. That was the situation in the country until the coming of the second republic which was short-lived, just like the situation in the first republic, it was overthrown by military jackboots and the reason for the military intervention then according to them, was as a result of unbridled corruption and massive economic recklessness, after which the military held sway in the country for many years, unfortunately, the looting spree continued and graft was taken to higher levels as it got more sophisticated; besides, they were no plans to relinquish power or hand over power to a democratically elected government.
In those days of lamentation, the military formed political parties, funded them and even encouraged politicians under which party to contest; politicians were banned and unbanned; a lot of electoral experimentation were carried out and massive funds were squandered in the process; it was transition without end, even the freest and fairest election in the history of the country was mindless annulled for no justifiable reasons known to anybody.
A lot of monies and state resources were looted and appropriated by senior military officers at the time; exotic houses were built around the globe, luxury cars were acquired and the funds that could have been deployed for socio-economic growth of the country were selfishly embezzled. Under the dispensation, Nigeria could be aptly described as an organized “police state” or even a “banana republic”. The era has also been described as the dark era of Nigeria’s history.
This was the situation until this present democratic dispensation which started in 1999, this new order was not gotten on a platter of gold, the people paid for it with their blood and many top military also benefited from democratic order, as they participated in the electoral process and even won elections. However, from 1999 to date, one common denominator that is ubiquitous is corruption. The politicians that took over were not any better; it is for this reason that some people have argued that there two political parties in Nigeria, the military and professional politicians. The politicians are too desperate to quickly make their own money, by recklessly sharing the national cake, looting therefore became a tradition for them, this was the trend until the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari to power; no wonder the Bible says, the love of money is the root of all evil.
The magnitude of private, public, institutional and systemic corruption in Nigeria is too widespread and over the years; it has been accepted as the norm and fad of the society; so bad was the situation that if a person is appointed into a political office, the community, he or she comes from, expect them to make money from such an office, with the expectation that the stolen funds will trickle down to them, no matter how little.
Before, the coming of this administration, corruption had assumed a life of its own, and it was more or less the official policy of the state; in fact, graft defined the character and direction of the state; as the state does not hide the fact that it is corrupt and corruption looms large. All the fight or war against corruption in the past was nothing more than lip service. Corruption more than anything else has facilitated the rapid development of development in all ramifications in the polity; as corruption was rife in the public sector; it was glaring in the private sector as well as ubiquitous in the various institutions and in the system. And, the values and morals of the society kowtow to corruption and extremely rapacious proclivities.
Over the years, the war against corruption has been lukewarm and lethargic with no serious attempt to recover looted funds and punish looters in accordance with the dictates and provisions of the laws of the country on corruption; corruption has permeated the three arms of government, and unfortunately including the judiciary, where judges collect bribes to deliver “purchased judgements”. And, in the courts in Nigeria which are seen as the last bastion of hope for the people; people no longer get justice but procured judgements, it is as bad as this, senior lawyers are engaged to pay huge sums into the bank accounts of judges to tilt judgements in favour of their clients.
The police are worse off in this regard, institutional corruption in Nigeria police is from head to bottom; and it is even done openly with reckless abandon. This is not restricted to these cited examples, but indeed all institutions in the country, even religious organizations and Non-governmental organizations; that is why we have weak and underdeveloped institutions in the country.
Furthermore, There is no doubting the fact that corruption has plagued Nigeria for so many years and this has ultimately brought the country to her kneels, corruption in all shades and forms, which has diverse colourations, oozing putrid odour that stinks to high heavens, and there was no silver lining in the horizon until the coming into power of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), lately the anti-graft searchlight beamed on the senate leadership, this has generated unnecessary polemics and needless brouhaha from different quarters, as corruption is also fight back and desperate to remain relevant in the scheme of things in the country.
Institutional corruption is too well entrenched in the country, making corruption to be more or less the official policy of the state, which make its cumbersome for corruption to be decisively dealt with over the years, it is for this reason that, one of the former rulers of this country said boldly that, stealing is not corruption, in those days of impunity, corruption went on unhindered and it was a matter of how much an individual could steal, but PMB is now saying, corruption is the worst form of human rights violation, noting that, if we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria, it is to this end, that the present administration is not leaving any stone unturned, in a bid to tackle corruption and ensure that things in the country are carried out in accordance with international best practices. We as a nation can ill-afford to carry on like this, any country that elevates corruption to place of pride cannot make any tangible progress and this is a fact of life.
PMB is not afraid to take on corruption at any level and in any place in the country; this is of course predicated on one of the underlying principle rule of law, which is equality before the law, there are no sacred cows, as nobody is above the law. In times past, the case of alleged forgery in the senate would have been treated as a family matter, conveniently swept under the carpet and condemned to the dustbin, as relics of history. But PMB has taken the bull by its horns in fight corruption and he should be commended for it.
Old things have passed away, we now new rules of engagement, in the past Nigeria was a country of anything is possible, indeed, anything goes and where there is no law, there is a free reign of impunity. Before the advent of the present administration Nigeria was looked at with disdain and contempt; it was viewed as a country that full of potentials but lacked the wherewithal to actualize its dream because of several factors, chief of which is limitless grafts and corruption induced snags.
In the old dispensation, corruption was the order of the day, government supported and protected graft, it rendered the anti-graft agencies functionary impotent, corruption does not only looms large, it was the order of the day, as it was view as the official policy of the state. So many Nigerians believed that, that was the way things will continue to shape out, but in life, whatever has a beginning will surely have an end; and the only constant thing in life is change, now there is a new sheriff in town hence, the philosophical underpinnings have not only changed, but have attracted added fresh impetus in this new era.
In the last few years, serious matters, were treated as family affair and swept underneath the carpet, never to be visited again, but in life, no condition is permanent, hence, the parlance soldier go, soldier come, barracks remain!
It is for this reason that, it is important for all Nigerians home and abroad, to fully support President Buhari, in his bid to change the scheme of things away from the evil traditions of the past by decisively dealing with corruption, the greatest problem that confronts Nigeria today. Not often is a country blessed, with such a transparent, honest and straightforward leader like President Buhari, therefore, instead of the sponsored campaign of calumnies against his government, by the political foes, all Nigerians should support him to build a new Nigeria for all Nigerians.
Ayobolu, a public affairs analyst contributed this piece from Lagos State.
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