A Nation on its Path to Golgotha
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
Even though it qualifies as a national tragedy that deserves every attention, it is important to underline that the present piece is not a direct reaction to the recently reported bombing by ‘terrorist’ of a moving train along the Abuja-Kaduna rail track- an incident that resulted in the death of some innocent Nigerians and the kidnap of many, with others sustaining varying degrees of injury.
However, in an applied sense, the ugly incident also rings a bell to the fact that when the present federal government emerged, precisely on May 29, 2015, my generation and of course Nigerians with critical minds, looking at their lavishly made promises, expected that the positive result of democratic practice as evident in other nations, would be replicated here to at the very least, assist cushion the poor electricity crisis, bring to an end the problem of galloping youth unemployment in the country, send back to school our innocent children that are out of school not because they were not willing to be educated but because their socioeconomically disempowered parents were unable to pay their school fees.
That was the hope. Never did Nigerians envisage that President Muhammadu Buhari led administration would abysmally fail in protecting lives and property and the economic welfares of Nigerians which of course are the two constitutional responsibilities of any elected president.
Today, the administration has failed to the point that terrorists/bandits are now so audacious and daring in their attacks to the nation’s major public facilities; airports, and train stations among others.
Way back in 2015, the masses never contemplated that one day, bandits/terrorists will stop a moving train in the country.
But contrary to that expectation, they are presently not only witnesses to tears occasioned by such unimagined action, rather, but the tears by Nigerians have also refused to go away because their hopes for a healthy economy have been dashed, promises made by this government at the centre recanted and chances of building a more united Nigeria waned and expectations of all now hang in the balance. What is more, less hope for the future?
The frustrations resulting from these failings, failures and disappointments gaze Nigerians on their faces, and presently manifest in challenges such as; irredeemable insecurity in the country, absence of water, no petrol, skyrocketed the price of diesel, perennial electricity crisis, outrageous number of out of school which currently stands at an all-time high of over 10.2 million with girls leading in number, and unemployment rate, going by the NBS report stands at outrageous 33%.
The pain of these tragedies is deepened by the fact that they were avoidable.
While many, going by commentaries, believe that no nation-best typifies a country in dire need of peace and social cohesion among her various sociopolitical groups in Nigeria as myriads of sociopolitical contradictions have conspired directly and indirectly to give the unenviable tag of a country in constant search of social harmony, justice, equity, equality, and peace, others believe that our country Nigeria is awash with captivating development visions, policies and plans, but impoverished leadership and corruption-induced failure of implementation of development projects on the part of the political leaders are responsible for the under-development in the country. To the rest, President Muhammadu Buhari’s below-average performance has set the nation on its path to Golgotha.
Golgotha, as we know, is the common name of the spot, a hill near Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified; it is a place of suffering, a place of burial. It is interpreted by the evangelists as meaning “the place of a skull” (Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17).
Of course, Nigeria and Nigerians may not have physically gone to Golgotha to suffer, crucified, died and buried, yet, such assertion may not be wrong looking at the daily occurrence in the country. As right-thinking citizens, we stand crucified emotionally each time ‘we stand and watch the sufferings of our dear ones, the poverty of our people, their tattered clothes, malnutrition, no water, and no electricity’.
Nigerians have in the past seven years come to the sudden realization that it is harder to watch the pains of those we love than to bear our own pains.
Even more, the nation’s social and economic journey to Golgotha gets quickened when one remembers that currently, the greatest and immediate danger to the survival of the Nigerian state is the unwarranted, senseless, premeditated, well organized and orchestrated killings across the country.
What about the nation’s economy?
As noted a while ago by Raymond Anoliefo, Priest and Director, Justice Development and Peace Commission,(JDPC), Lagos, a social justice arm of the Catholic church that monitors social, economic, political and public leadership-related activities in the country, the country’s economy has shown its inability to sustain any kind of meaningful growth that promotes the social welfare of the people. The result can be seen in the grinding poverty in the land (eighty per cent of Nigerians are living on less than two dollars per day – according) to the African Development Bank (AFDB) 2018 Nigeria Economic Outlook. Nigeria is ranked among the poorest countries in the world.
Sadly, the running of our country’s economy continues to go against the provisions of our constitution which stipulates forcefully that the commanding heights of the economy must not be concentrated in the hands of a few people.
The continuous takeover of national assets through dubious (privatization) programs by politicians and their collaborators are deplorable and clearly against the people of Nigeria. The attempt to disengage governance from public sector control of the economy has only played into the hands of private profiteers of goods and services to the detriment of the Nigerian people.
Away from economy to education, evidence abounds that 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria, the highest in the world.
Our industries continue to bear the brunt of a negative economic environment. As a result, job losses and unemployment continue to skyrocket, creating a serious case of social dislocation for the vast majority of our people.
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has faced unprecedented hardship as the nation continues to deprive them of legitimately earned salaries. It is quite unfortunate that as a Nation we are still debating minimum wage, and not even living wage, especially in a country where every commodity has skyrocketed save the monthly take-home of workers. And we supposedly have “leaders” who claim to have the interest of the masses at heart. Tell me another lie!!!
On social issues, Life in Nigeria, quoting Thomas Hobbs, has become nasty, brutish, and short. Nigerians have never had it so bad. Indeed, while Nigerians diminish socially and economically, the privileged political class continues to flourish in obscene splendour as they pillage and ravage the resources of our country at will.
This malfeasance at all levels of governance has led to the destruction of social infrastructure relevant to a meaningful and acceptable level of social existence for our people. Adequate investment in this area, it has been shown, is clearly not the priority of those in power.
As to the solution to these challenges, leadership, the cleric noted, holds the key to unlocking the transformation question in Nigeria, but to sustain these drives, leaders must carry certain genes and attributes that are representative of this order.
It is only a sincere and selfless leader and a politically and economically restructured polity brought about by national consensus that can unleash the social and economic forces that can ensure the total transformation of the country and propel her to true greatness.
This will help to ensure that there is the provision of adequate social infrastructures such as genuine poverty alleviation programmes and policies, healthcare, education, job provision, massive industrialization, and electricity, to mention a few.
It is critical to jettison this present socio-economic system that has bred corruption, inefficiency, primitive capital accumulation and socially excluded the vast majority of our people. The only way this can be done is to work to build a new social and political order that can mobilize the people around common interests, with visionary leadership to drive this venture. Only then can we truly begin to resolve some of the socio-economic contradictions afflicting the nation. This is the pathway to true, genuine and lasting peace.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via [email protected]/08032725374