Go Nigeria Go

John Otim

Africa's most populous nation is experiencing, many believe, its most dangerous moments since the end of its bitter civil war 45 years ago. Corruption is ripe in the giant of Africa. Social services and infrastructures are down. A crippling insurgency is tearing the land apart. In the face of the odds the quality of the leadership on offer in the country, government and opposition, is lamentable.

How did a country, as endowed and as blessed as Nigeria, get into this mess? The corruption game is not new; it just got worse, feeding as it did over the years on easy and unearned income from oil money. People forgot work and got used to the idea that there is money to be had for free. It is there, take it. Fool if you don’t.

Those who took it, and they are quite a few, engaged in the most extravagant display of wealth imaginable, now become synonymous with Nigerian elite lifestyle. The new rich went on a binge, erected huge mansions, and indulged their friends and relatives. You steal for us; we sing for you. You are our hero.

In the age of the praise singer the race to become heroes and heroines was on. Opportunity to serve became opportunity to steal to loot and to amass. Social scientists thought they saw here a primitive accumulation of wealth on a scale similar to or greater than those that took place centuries ago in Britain in earlier less enlightened times.

Runaway corruption was bound to give way to gross inequality. The few rich became richer. The vast majority became poorer, with millions hanging on the verge of destitution. The stage was set in Nigeria for the emergence of something like Boko Haram. It came with a vengeance.

But for Nigeria as a nation, the really critical moment lies just ahead, days away when the country goes to the polls. It is going to be a break or make moment and some fear, a now or never. Will the voters, the officials and the observers be safe? Will the vote be free, transparent and fair or will it as many fear, be rigged? Will the results even if fair and transparent be accepted by winners and losers alike? Will there be peace after the vote?

Now is the time for leaders, government and opposition, to reassure the fearful population and an anxious world that they will play by the rules, and that come what may, they will abide by the results. Here is the golden moment for Nigeria to put its troubled house in order and to embrace its destiny as Africa’s biggest economy.

Go Nigeria go. You have nothing to lose but your chains.