By Ahmad Sajoh
One of the biggest tragedies of the Nigerian State is that those who got the most from the bounties of the Country are indeed the ones that are least grateful for what they got. This ingratitude comes in several ways with the worst being that they tend to destroy virtually all the institutions that made them what they are. A very sad example is what we did to public education in Nigeria. Nearly all of the current generation of rulers and several others before them are either products of public education or beneficiaries of generous government scholarships.
However, today the greatest casualty of bad governance by the ruling elite is public education. It has been turned into a shadow of itself unable to inculcate any form of sound education let alone one that is functional. Under such circumstances it is incapable of producing even educated persons let alone those that can raise their heads and venture to be on their own. The scholarships are non-existent because of course governments are grappling with even payment of salaries not to talk of other sundry expenses.
What triggered this discourse is the recent utterances of one of the most respected elder statesmen Nigeria has produced. That person is none other than General T. Y. Danjuma. The General is a product of the Nigerian Military, one who not only presided over the development of the Military but one who rose to prominence as a result of the advantages conferred on him by the Nigerian Military structure. If that structure is weak today, it means the Architects who designed it and the Builders who built it are indeed to blame. General Danjuma is also a beneficiary of politics and governance in Nigeria and this can be attested to by the stupendous riches the General has accumulated in and out of service.
The General’s call to anarchy is therefore unfortunate and regrettable. Imagine him saying “I urge all of you to be alert and to defend your country, defend your territory, defend your state” This is an outright call to anarchy, to life in the jungle where only might is right. And he was speaking to University students, inciting young minds who will eventually graduate and have no jobs because the structures the people like him built are faulty and cannot provide the jobs young people require. In addition, most of the resources meant to develop the Country and buoy up its economy has been frittered away by an insensitive ruling class to which the General belongs.
A clarion a call to anarchy is the last refuge for any one at the level of General T. Y. Danjuma. One can easily understand the frustrations of many Nigerians at this point in time, but the frustrations of those who had all the advantages and opportunities to make Nigeria a better place but failed to do so. Nigeria is a nation richly endowed by God Almighty but thoroughly impoverished its ruling elite. A nation with so much potential but stunted in growth by a selfish, self-centred and compromised ruling elite. An elite ruling class with very little vision while in power, and a far less vision once out of power. Their horizon had always been very narrow when they hold sway and it disappears when they are out of power. Hence, the only option left for them is recession into the dark cocoons of tribal jingoism and ethnic irredentism.
The current security challenges bedevilling the Nation is a source of worry for every right thinking person. It is also highly frustrating especially given that it affects everyone and everything. The spate of killings have no meaning or justification. But in all honesty the reasons adduced by the ruling elites and the conspiracy theories being woven around it begs the question. If truth is to be told, these crises are manifestations of the collective failures of the ruling elites both past and present. This is spiced very nicely by the manipulative tendencies entrenched in our political system which often is the only way to ensure ascendency to power. And the currency used for manipulation are ethnicity and religion.
I am saddened by the complaints of the ruling elite whether in or out of power. Their feeble ranting and claims of sympathy for the ordinary people is like rubbing salt on an injury. Here is a man sitting on your back, riding you like a donkey, yet claiming he is in sympathy with your suffering and is willing to do everything to end it except get off your back. The ruling elite in Nigeria have squandered most of our collective inheritance, accumulated most of the resources for their private use and mortgaged the destiny for their individual and dynastic needs. Yet, they claim that they are concerned for our wellbeing. What an insult!
How can a greedy, selfish and self-centred group claim to worry about the welfare of the citizens when almost all of the woes bedevilling the citizens are created by them? In most cases their wealth far outstrips the wealth of the Nation or that of the constituent units of the Country. Those who become rich as a result of service in government are the most hypocritical in the country. Their claim to success in business is mostly false. Their charitable activities are often fake and an exercise for self-adulation. They live under the constant shadow of a nightmare of an eventual self-realization by the public they short change.
And to mask the trappings of understanding of the real situation on the part of the public they resort to manipulations using our inherent gullibility for anything that promotes ethnic superiority or religious purity. But the reality is that everything they are doing is actually plotting their ascendency to political power and ultimately to scavenge on the resources of the Nation. But as we build more and more tiny islands of riches in very vast oceans of poverty, the citizens get more frustrated, and with it comes despondency and anger. We may succeed in manipulating them to vent their anger on each other at present, but that is temporary. Eventually, they will direct their anger correctly on their real enemies.
Today the youth are the biggest resource in the hands of the manipulators. But that is a double edged sword. Anyone in doubt should ask those who manipulated religion to create Boko Haram. When it eventually matured, no one was spared. We are beginning to see the signs. In most of our communities inhabited by ethnic minorities, the youth are now law unto themselves. Rather than create avenues for job creation and livelihoods, we are busy increasing poverty, joblessness, hopelessness and indeed despondency. Options available to young people in this country today are receding at an alarming rate. Most have taken to drug and crime as their escape route.
To make matters worse, members of the ruling elites have instituted a dynastic regime in the land where only their children and the children of those connected to them get the few available chances of job placement or enlistment into the services. Children of ordinary citizens are beginning to abhor this level of powerlessness. And when they discover that crime, criminality and violence confers power on them they readily embrace it. As ordinary law abiding citizens they are powerless, but as violent youth they become fearsome and even command the attention of the ruling elite. They are often gingered by the manipulative activities of political jingoists and ethnic irredentists. When they become battle weary as a result of the vanity of the course for which they are engaged, the manipulators engage in further vain adulations of ethnic superiority and religious purity.
The sum of it is that peace is eluding our communities while poverty is multiplying in them. When you reduce the active population by engaging them in unnecessary violence, you reduce the productive capacity of communities. When you destroy homes and means of livelihoods you are increasing poverty in our communities. When we create more widows and orphans in our communities we are increasing dependent populations in our communities which exacerbates poverty levels. That is the sum of our current situation. It is also unfortunately the summation of Danjuma’s call to arms in our communities.
Let me posit that very soon those manipulating ethnicity and religion will realise the vanity in doing so. In time the ordinary citizen including the now gullible youth will realise that the source of their poverty and despondency is not ethnicity or religion but a greedy, selfish and self-centred ruling elites. When the time comes, no amount of tribal jingoism, ethnic irredentism, religious antagonism or political jingoism will suffice.
Ahmad Sajoh is currently the Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Adamawa State Government, Yola.