For as long as I can remember Nigerians have been singing the same old songs on repeat. You know the track about colonial powers dividing and conquering us followed by the one about a corrupt political class devoted to amassing wealth by stealing the national cake. From these two pillars problems like tribalism, lack of education, poor infrastructure, and other troubles have manifested. As a young adult now able to read, comprehend information and analyze situations it has become evident to me that until further notice nothing is going to change.
The corruption in Nigeria is not limited to politicians, it is an acceptable way of life. You can go as far as saying it is in our culture. From the age of 16 children are encouraged towards examination malpractices supported by their parents. So ingrained is this corrupt mindset that it places the righteous Nigerian at a disadvantage. A classic tale of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. For a country that prides itself as Godly, our words couldn’t be more contrasted from our actions. What we have is religious fundamentalism, a make believe society of pretend morality that falls on its face under honest intellectual scrutiny. This can be reflected in the popular gay bill passed into law. Not only is this bill in complete contradiction from the bible it is claimed to be supported by, in a secular society nothing reeks more of ideological dishonesty as supporting law making by citing religious text. If you are a Nigerian supporting the anti-gay bill on the grounds that the bible is against it then you have no right to disagree with Yerima’s choice to marry young girls as his holy book stands firmly by his side on the matter. The fact that we can pick and choose what ‘sins’ are punishable by law and what ‘sins’ will be left to God is a clear sign of intellectual dishonesty and lack of objectivity in our thinking. So how many years in prison are we dishing out for fornication? Or for adultery? I thought there was no big sin or small sin?
The major problem with Nigeria is encouraged by the lack of structures in place to develop our human capital by cultivating minds fit to live in harmony in a multicultural society allowing each other the liberty to exist with free thought and intellectual enquiry even when it is deemed offensive to some. If people that have opposing ideas from ours are not allowed to speak, then there is no freedom of speech. Just the other day people were in an uproar because Seun Kuti decided to name his kids after Ifa. Not only is it the man’s choice to name his kids as he sees fit, it is also his choice as a free citizen entitled to all the liberties offered by our nation to practice whatever religion he is inclined to. The laughable thing about this situation is that according to religious fundamentalism only Christianity or Islam is the true religion to the respective believer. So why aren’t Christians attacking Muslims for naming their children Islamic names and vice versa? I can’t even imagine the reaction Nigerians will get for declaring themselves Buddhist or Hindu. How can there be any progress in a country that will not tolerate freedom of thought on the societal level. In most countries people complain that their government stifles their right to think freely, in Nigeria your fellow citizen will castigate you for this.
I have heard whispers of a revolution here and there. But truth be told, even if today we eliminated the entire political class, they will only be replaced by clones of the leaders gone. This is because leaders are often reflections of the people they lead. Anyone that wants to be voted into office in Nigeria will still have to present themselves as a religious fundamentalist taking pictures on trips to Jerusalem and whatnot to entice a sentimental mass. Until there is a revolution in consciousness, a revolution on the streets will at best be a chance for murder, looting, and all round exercise in futility.
The question then is what has kept the average Nigerian mind stagnant? First and foremost is the problem of religious fundamentalism. This has dulled the thinking faculties of so many of our citizens when it comes to objective reasoning. It is not the religion that is the problem. It is how we are made to understand it and how we incorporate it with our cultural ideals. From an Islamic perspective, Prophet Mohammed was said to have married a successful merchant (his first wife). But today Nigerian Muslims will tell you that a wife is somehow meant to stand beneath her husband. From a Christian perspective I need not tell you how much respect Jesus showed to women, and while men are quick to quote that the bible asks women to be submissive to their husbands, they forget it also says be submissive to each other, but I am not here to educate anyone of religious matters, just merely citing examples.
Thanks to a broken education system and widespread poverty most Nigerians are not able to participate in their governing. We run a democracy where most of our citizens cannot even tell you the functions of government on different levels. The poor man (which represents the majority in Nigeria) is too busy trying to survive to engage in thoughts concerning politics. The rich on the other hand is too full to be bothered by the suffering around him, well at least bothered enough to get politically active. For a long time I was of the notion that my generation would be the ones to bring some kind of change but from what I can see today I dread I could be very wrong if our priorities are not rearranged. While I am a fan of entertainment I have voice my disgust at the level of engagement and participation devoted to mindless art, gossip, and other celebrity related culture that does nothing for the progress of our people. It is almost as if this brewing celebrity culture marked by materialism has become the defining factor of what it means to be cool these days amongst the youth. Yes, all young people are not like that, but a look at the most popular blogs in Nigeria will tell you what the majority are interested in.
So we are left with a lower class too hungry to care and a rich too indulged to care. And there you have it, a nation of faith without action submitting empty prayers and cyber riots where posts of problems clutter the cyberspace but action towards development remains unseen. There is so much more to be discussed on this issue but that is the subject of a book or serious essay. Welcome to the stagnant nation, declining since I can remember
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