The trouble still with Nigeria
THE legendary Chinua Achebe wrote a popular book titled ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’. In it, the novelist of note argued: “The trouble with Nigeria is leadership”.
Over the years, I have come to realise that we can never get over our leadership problem if we refuse to address the where-are-you-from challenge.
Some weeks ago, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu appointed Miss Ngozi Ugochi-Igbo, an Igbo woman, as Special Assistant on Gender, Research and Documentation, and some clowns started screaming ‘she is not one of us’. If these clowns have their way, they would have rejected Mrs. Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu as First Lady because she is also Igbo and from Imo State.
Some of the arguments against Ugochi-Igbo’s appointment, aside from being Igbo are: “We have never heard about this new appointee”; “She contributed nothing to the campaign”; “She is reaping from our sweat”; “Our area has no single appointment from the state-level nor single project”; and “He is busy sharing appointment to non-indigenes”.
In Nigeria, it is always about the spoils of office and the governor committed the offence of asking a non-indigene to ‘come and eat’ when the locals have not ‘beleful’. Service is relegated to the background. Stomach infrastructure has beclouded our sense of reasoning.
The furore over Ugochi-Igbo’s appointment once again brought to fore the severity of the where-are-you-from challenge. So bad is the situation that when politicians return to their states of origin to seek elective offices, they are reminded by home-based politicians that they are ‘imported’. They are not accepted where they reside and pay taxes and seen as lepers by people in their home towns. Double jeopardy!
For us to develop, we need to get over this where-are-you-from challenge. The advanced world has shown us this clearly. At a time in the United States, two Bush brothers were governors in two different states. If it were Nigeria, they would have been confined to Texas where their father was from. It matters not that they were born in different states and had contributed to its growth through tax payment and other means.
Save states such as Lagos, Kaduna and a few others, indigenes of other states have no place in their civil service. Whether you were born and bred in those states mean nothing. You are from where your father comes from. Your mother’s state is irrelevant. Our problem is so compounded that some people will not even agree to sell landed properties to non-indigenes. The most ridiculous is when love affairs are put asunder because parents will not allow their son or daughter to marry from outside their state or tribe.
Even within the same state, the part where you come from also matters. It is not alone for you to be from Kwara or Lagos or Ogun. In some instances, what part of these states you come from also counts. For me, we can never grow with this sort of mentality.
Within Yoruba land, some sub-ethnic group will not allow their children to marry from the Ijebu stock. The myth is that the Ijebu are fetish and can do anything for money. So for this ridiculous reason, love has been sacrificed. There is also the myth that Egba women are quick to abandon their husbands when things are tough. As a result of these, an Egba woman is no go area for some Yoruba. In the Southeast, some parts believe that they are the ‘superior’ Igbo.
What do we make of discrimination within the same town? Some towns are divided culturally into two, a situation which leads to what I once referred to as “one town, two people”. Loyalists of the two traditional rulers in such towns clash regularly and blood is shed. Yet, these are supposed to be one people. They have been made two by tradition, which someone describes as “peer pressure from dead people”. The hatred dates back to ancestors who are long dead but their evil is living after them.
If people within the same town cannot accept one another, how can we blame people from different ethnic groups? But what really should matter is the fact that Nigeria is one country which needs all of us to work as one to get it out of the crossroads. We are in trouble and everybody is needed to run and help the area they are born or where they reside.
I believe that if I have lived in an area for over ten years, I should be free to aspire to anything there, including the governorship of the state.
The tight corner that the challenge of state of origin has pushed us into has seen people committing perjury to claim a state that will help them get the best of every situation. Not a few have been known to claim Lagos today and shift to Ogun the next day. A sizeable number of students in our universities have had to pay a bribe to get documents showing they are from a catchment area. This would not have been the case if you are allowed to claim where you reside or were born, instead of where your ancestors hailed from. In states where governments pay bursaries to indigenes, forged documents are used by students to be eligible.
I ask again: Where are we all from? And I answer: We are from God. And that should be what matters most. Every state or town or village begins with people coming from some other places to occupy it.
We need more of the like of Ugochi-Igbo’s appointment to show that a country like Nigeria cannot continue to allow the where-are-you-from challenge to deny it of the goodness in all its citizens. For too long we have been sold selfish interests as national interests, where the good of one is hawked as the good of all, and we have all gladly patronised this retrogressive market.
I look forward to a Hausa man having a space in the Ondo State Executive Council and a man from Epe calling the shots at the Ondo State Broadcasting Service. All that should matter is: Can they deliver? Once this is sorted in the affirmative, forsake any other factors.
My final take: We can never have the right leadership to take our country to the Promised Land if merit is relegated to the background in choosing who leads us. Leadership knows no colour, gender, race, state of origin or language. If all these continue to play a role in deciding leaders, then leadership will continue to be the trouble with Nigeria.
The trouble still with Nigeria