Like other countries, Nigeria may have good, bad, and ugly sides to it. But a lot of Nigerians, perhaps owing to their country’s longstanding, back-and-forth history with impunity, seem to lack the basic capability of distinguishing that which is good and that which is bad about Nigeria. For many Nigerians, their country is a very good country (like no other in the world) simply because it is only in Nigeria that you can, for example, break the law and bribe your way out of your own guilt, or simply walk away scot-free. In the actual sense of it, that which is undoubtedly seen as the trouble of societies elsewhere, is perceived as the greatness of Nigeria.
For example, during my involvement in the one-year compulsory national youth service in Lagos a few years ago, while we were still at the orientation camp awaiting postings to various places of primary assignment, a man representing one of the big corporate firms in Lagos told an assembly of youth corps members in a lecture that the Nigerian president is the most powerful president in the whole world. At first, I couldn’t figure out if the man was joking or serious given that by all stretch of human imaginations, it is inconceivable to think of the Nigerian president as the most powerful president in the world. If you are to take the man’s words and do a quick logical analysis of it, you will start with the fact that a president’s strength (or lack of it) is directly proportional to the strength of his country.
How, for instance, can the president of Nigeria be the strongest president in the world, when Nigeria’s education, defense, science and technology, economy, etc., do not even rival those from other Third World countries; a category that Nigeria still belongs? Nations are rated based on their abilities to offer their common citizens the basics of life. For a long time, Nigeria has not been able to meet up with the basic needs of the individual. For example, in terms of training and education, good countries develop the citizen’s ability to carve out an independent economic existence without becoming a burden to society. But we have seen in the last few years how unemployed young Nigerians were taken to the stadium in Abuja and other places around the country where they were killed because they requested for jobs from government to fill up vacancies in the Immigration Service. In that employment saga, unfortunately, Nigeria did not only succeed in making history by being, perhaps the only country in the world which murdered its innocent young population who asked for jobs which they were entitled to; our country had also made a name in the world for being the only place where employment process like aptitude tests and recruitments were taken to the stadiums. In other countries, stadiums are meant for sports and other gymnastic activities save for Nigeria.
For those who are already employed in various sectors of the public and private economy in Nigeria, the society doesn’t grant such citizens the opportunity to utilize their aptitudes and ambitions maximally so that the country can reap benefits. The reality in Nigeria is that there is no adequate food, shelter, and clothing for the ever-growing population. Neither healthy environments nor good medical facilities exist, and there is no reasonable comfort of life even for the most educated members of the society. Beyond these, you will find, in Nigeria, a perfect study in disorganization of a general society as there is lack of capacity for doing simple, unsophisticated, everyday things.
What you can say of Nigeria is that it is a society that despite all trials couldn’t even provide sufficient electricity to its people; meaning that there can never be development expected of a modern country since no society can develop without sufficient electricity. When you travel along Nigeria’s terrible roads which are undoubtedly death traps that kill thousands every year without a cause for concern, you find police and soldiers extorting money from motorists; a culture that is considered acceptable in the society as evident from the motorist’s willingness to acquiesce to such extortions. While a few people who get the opportunity to preside over the affairs of society at various levels of government steal a tremendous amount of the commonwealth under their care, others who didn’t get the opportunities to loot, are not in any way guaranteed of social safety from society even at old age. Looting and stealing is so widespread in the society that even houses of worship such as mosques must protect its wall clocks with burglarproofs lest the clocks are stolen. Worst is that while government employees are paid meagre amounts that hardly lead to a decent standard of living, at the end of one’s work life, you are expected to provide yourself with a house (without earlier mortgage plans), and to pay expensive medical bills from your meagre pension (without earlier health insurance plans).
While all these and many more signify a failing society, which lacks the general capacity to carry out its most elemental functions (an index that got Nigeria to become the world’s worst place to be born in 2013) courtesy of the Economist Intelligence Unit rating, some people may still be harboring the belief that Nigeria is good and it is like no other country in the world.
But how will you blame that man who came to our orientation camp in Lagos to tell us that Nigeria’s president is the most powerful in the world because, as he later elaborated his assertion in clearer terms, that Nigeria’s president is the only president in the world who can make a billionaire out of a pauper in one minute! Alas, he confirmed my earlier suspicion, that like many Nigerians out there, it is difficult to get the difference between the thin line that exists between the most powerful president in the world, and the most power-abusive president in the world. Only a power-abusive president makes a billionaire out of a pauper in one minute. Unfortunately, this, to some of us, is the good side of Nigeria.