By Farouk Martins Aresa
What do you do when you have no major accomplishment to celebrate, you beat your chests on achievement of other individuals. There are so many individual celebrations in Nigeria, you would think poverty has been conquered. The further down we dig into abject poverty, the more people you see thanking God for success as millionaires and billionaires. The cognitive dissonance is so obvious, a blind man can feel it.
Social Media has created many celebrities including, real and fake attention seekers harping to increase their profiles in order to sell themselves. This is not particular to Nigeria alone but for a Country that had very high prospects only to stumble from the verge of becoming the Regional Power after Independence: it is pathetic. We no longer celebrate big accomplishments since there are none. They have been dwarfed by personal individual aggrandizement and obsession, worshiping hard currencies we do not print.
There are many projects to fund in our colleges that lack private and business sponsorships. They are all competing for the same Government grants and patronages while businessmen and Government ministers that should be encouraging and patronizing them go shopping abroad. From mask production in Aba as primary prevention to portable ventilators in Ilaro and Abuja at the terminal stage with about 70% success. Oh no, fake philanthropists would rather donate money into the hands of crony looters for recirculation back into their pockets.
Celebrations that we used to keep within the family have been turned into national and international projects. Nigerians beat their chests celebrating others’ accomplishments because they come from our Country or villages while we are satisfied with no personal individual achievements of our own. Nigerians claim they are the most “book” educated while ignoring the cooperative achievements of Asians everywhere including those inside their own Country.
Look at each country in Africa, we can name individual achievements for Independence, not for personal gain or aggrandizement but to lift up the masses in education, industrial estates to provide jobs and mass housing. These individuals activists across Africa were assassinated for their efforts in Congo like Lumumba, impoverished in Tanzania like Nyerere or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, overthrown in Ghana like Nkrumah and indoctrination in Nigeria with oil income that has lost not only lts world lustre but gone into negative value. An ominous warning to all countries that depend solely on oil income has not and will never save you. Individual accomplishments have never lifted people up only when we all rise up en mass.
Nigeria is a good example of that self-centered behavior leading us one way into notoriety. All the advancement and contributions made as a people had been wiped out by individual greed. Two steps forward, three or more steps backwards. There is nothing wrong with individual incentive to accumulate wealth and respect within our communities but rewards and wealth are not limited to money alone. Deeds that create reputation live and remain with us dead or alive.
The Nigeria/Biafra War created an indelible Psychological disorientation from which the country is still struggling to recover since the early 1970s. There is so much acrimony in the country right now, only dreamers believe we can survive intact without some distance. One of the reasons for creating states and more states is that each would be able to control its internal political and economic affairs. Instead, it has created more hostile ethnicities never anticipated as “my people are killing my people”.
There are more politicians gulping, looting and mismanaging each area than ever with little money left for infrastructure. The national pie has dwindled since the major source of income is oil from the Niger Delta. Instead of developing and diversifying that source of income, the area has been polluted and turned into an environmental disaster for the poor farmers and fishermen destroying their livelihood. Each sector or interest agitate for more salaries out of the dwindling pie as the powerful grabbed more.
Oil wealth or natural resources without turning them into final products were wasted. The income from natural resources is not to line individual pockets or a replacement for internal generated revenue to trade, provide needs and infrastructure. If anything natural resources enhance our tax base to increase international generated revenue. Nigerians would claim they pay a great deal of taxes but in fact, they pay very little and less than most African countries since we turn oil into free manna from heaven.
Therefore, the same oil income that built cities and countries all over the world has denied Africa its Regional Power. It also gave Nigerians false sense of security where prodigal children cornered money printed outside the Country in Europe, America and Asia. So there were few reasons to grow food and manufacture products when these could be easily imported from overseas with the same income they dictated to us.
Unfortunately, this is the same Country that excelled on cocoa, groundnut, coal and palm oil income. The progress made in one of the Regions alone raised the expectation of a Regional Power where Black people all over the world were proud to point to. It was an Era when big accomplishments were celebrated and Africans welcomed. But when Nigeria had no big accomplishment anymore, they started worshiping tiny little individual achievements, not only at home but as foreign refugees.
Children started pointing left fingers to their homes echoing denigration by tormentors in words only used during the time of slavery with pseudo science and religions as justification. How can anyone blame others for calling them names they themselves internalize. Foreign visas are dangled to attract the best and highly talented that claim they were appreciated and in hot demand only to be turned into surplus available workers when their temporary visas expire. Foreign money they lack control over, do not know the dominating reason they are printed became gods to worship, demolishing the value of local currencies. Indeed, Nigeria basked so much in foreign income at one point, they wanted salaries paid in US dollars. Even one Head of State claimed his problem was not money but now to spend it.