Paradigm Shift: Our Roles In The Birth Of A New Nigeria
Prof. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji
Vice Chancellor, Ahman Pategi University,
Patigi, Kwara state,
Paper presented at the 1st Taoreed Odedele Memorial Lecture and Reception for the 11th Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. W. O. Egbewole, SAN, organized by the University of Ilorin Alumni Association, Ogun State Chapter, at Spices Events Centre, Oke-Ilewo, Abeokuta, on Sunday, November 27, 2022
PARADIGM SHIFT: OUR ROLES IN THE BIRTH OF A NEW NIGERIA
It is auspicious that I start on a note of tripartite gratitude. One, all thanks are due to Allah, the Best Disposer of all affairs. We propose, He disposes; and it has pleased Him in His Infinite Majesty to preserve us till today to witness this momentous twin occasion. Who are we without Him, the Most Powerful Who overpowers the superpowers with His overpowering power that renders all the powerful ultimately powerless?
Two, I appreciate the University of Ilorin Alumni Association, Ogun State Chapter, for the thoughtfulness of organising this programme, which honours our late National President, Mr Taoreed Oladele, and celebrates the second alumnus Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin cum first Senior Advocate of Nigeria to ever become Vice Chancellor in Northern Nigeria, Prof. Abdul Wahab Olasupo Egbewole, SAN. Mr Odedele was a fine gentleman who served the Association diligently and died in the course of duty. Instituting this lecture series in his honour is a right step in the right direction. Besides, our Vice Chancellor, that this programme also honours, is a man of destiny and to him, the golden words of Allah in the Noble Qur’an (92:4) are relevant: wa lalal aakhiratu khayrun laka minal uulaa (the latter is better for your than the former; Indeed, what is to come will be better for you than what has gone by).
Three, I especially acknowledge one of the most dynamic people of this generation and the brain behind this programme, Dr Mutiu Agboke, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Osun state. He had intimated me of this programme some weeks ago and I had assured myself, based on a number of factors that are not difficult to discern, including the fact that we served together in the former National Executive Council of the Alumni Association, that the combined forces of the war-weary Russians and the gallant NATO-backed Ukrainians would not stop me from being here today inshaaAllah. This acknowledgement extends to the Chairman of today’s occasion and Chief Medical Director of the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, Prof. Adewale Musa Olomu. He has demonstrated his competence and contributed a lot to human capacity development in discharging his duty in the critical health sector since he assumed office. He is a role model and I pray that the Almighty Allah continue to be with him.
Preamble: Egbewole wọlé
Having expressed thanks, I want to also use this medium to congratulate the 11th Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. W. O. Egbewole, SAN, again. In my congratulatory letter to him dated September 21, 2022, I had described him as “a man of intense academic productivity, remarkable professional excellence and robust administrative experience”, a personality who epitomises “honesty, humility, versatility and humanity”. I also noted that his “uncommon brilliance, jurisprudential sagacity, commitment to duty, transparent honesty, remarkable team spirit, demonstrable courage and abiding faith in Allah” would make him succeed exponentially. This is not an occasion to explain or expound the rationale behind those descriptions because each of them can be backed up with evidence (Imam, 2022).
That Prof. Egbewole is a round peg in a round hole is self-evident in his magnetic personality. His emergence as Vice Chancellor was widely received across board. He was celebrated even in Igboland of Nigeria in a language I am sure he does not understand. All stakeholders warmly welcomed his appointment with infectious warmth and amazing enthusiasm as a unifying force. This is not accidental as he has proven his mettle over the years and I can aver as a chronicler of the University of Ilorin for many years that he is one of the best within the system.
When I wrote on him after he was conferred with the coveted rank of the Senior Advocate of Nigeria as one of the men of the year 2018 in my rested column, “The Alma Mater”, in Unilorin Bulletin, I remarked thus: “What I have always found inspiring in Prof. Egbewole is that anywhere he is, he leaves a mark, whether as Dean of the Faculty of Law or as Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Ilorin, or any other position of responsibility in which he finds himself” (Adedimeji, 2018a). It is our prayer that just as Egbewole has wole(d) or assumed office in showers of glory, so shall he complete his tenure in a hail of honours.
Permit me to also remark that this occasion ignites my memory as I recall that when the first alumnus Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Is-haq O. Oloyede, OFR, CON, was appointed in October 2007, I was part of his delegation to a programme like this organised in his honour by the Lagos State Chapter of the Alumni Association. It is serendipitous that some 15 years later, I am not just attending another alumni chapter event in honour of another illustrious alumnus of the better by far university as a Guest Speaker, I am also participating as a Vice Chancellor of a university elsewhere. Which of the favours of your Lord can you deny? (Q55:13) It is my solemn prayer that the University of Ilorin Alumni Association and its members shall continue to wax stronger and go higher. I salute the doggedness of the acting National Coordinator, Prof. Jeleel Ojuade, and his dynamic team in steering and steadying the ship of the Association in spite of the stormy waters just as I acknowledge the functionaries of the Association in Ogun state and the rest of the country for keeping the banner of the better by far university aloft.
It is a fact of history that between January and December 1960, as many as 17 sub-Saharan African countries attained political Independence. The countries are Cameroon (January 1), Togo (April 27), Madagascar (June 26), Democratic Republic of the Congo (June 30), Somalia (July 1), Benin (August 1), Niger (August 3), Burkina Faso (August 5), Ivory Coast (August 7), Chad (August 11), Central African Republic (August 13), The Republic of the Congo (August 15), Gabon (August 17), Senegal (August 20), Mali (September 22), Nigeria (October 1), and Mauritania (November 28).
Of all these countries that gained political independence in 1960, Nigeria was poised as the highest in potential and a beacon of hope for Africa. This was not just because of its huge population but because of the abundant talent and creative energy that have characterised the largest concentration of black people in the world. More than 60 years after the lowering of the Union Jack in Lagos and the emergence of an independent Nigeria, the country, like much of Africa, has been consigned to the state of nature due to the continual maladministration of its successive governments and the rapacious greed of its leaders.
In his masterwork, Leviathan, published in 1651, the 17th Century English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, highlighted what he considered the state of nature and called it the state of war. This is the state in which Nigeria, as a microcosm of the world, is where there is increased absence of law and order across all spectra of national life. What is certain in our Nigeria of today is uncertainty as life is becoming typically Hobbesian for the vast majority: “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” (Adedimeji, 2020).
As the world population, which has increased to eight billion this month, geometrically grows, so is the rate of human suffering. In Nigeria, two things appear to increase: our population, which is now over 220 million based on the United Nations projections, and the costs of goods and services along with the associated misery and frustration. Millions of people are living in utter despair and despondency. Within the past one month, we have had instances of a man who could not just let go his means of livelihood, a motor cycle, with a raging flood and he held on to it till he was swept away to imminent death. There was another case of a man who jumped from a bridge into a river, apparently tired of life. And there was another lady, said to be a brilliant DSS operative, who also received a call and jumped into a river.
People are living in abject poverty and hunger is a virus that is devastating many families and communities. The otherwise middle class is being emasculated and Nigeria is torn between the rich one per cent and the poor 99 per cent. The standard of living is plummeting and people have to cope with the same salaries they have been receiving for the past 15 years in the face of galloping inflation. Many Nigerians have been condemned to singing the songs of sorrow. As Professor Otukwe Okai puts it in his poem, “Sunset Sonata”, the reality of the Nigerian situation is heartrending:
For a hundred hells
Hunt for the human heart
While a billion
Blows bang upon its door,
And unpitying paws
Pounce forth from every part
Till cruel cries
Cake up at its very core.
“A hundred hells” are loose upon us through the Boko Haram insurgents, the bandits, the kidnappers, the ritualists, the fraudsters, the traffickers, the armed robbers, the known and unknown gunmen and all kinds of criminals making our life unsafe and security uncertain. The “unpitying paws” of beasts in human skin are pouncing forth from every part of the country and all we have at the core is to lament our misfortune. Jungle justice reigns supreme as trigger-happy gunmen (whether state or non-state actors) shoot citizens at random while hardened criminals raid and rupture neighborhoods leaving their victims in cold blood, “cruel cries”and hot tears. Life is short as those who do not fall victim to all categories of gunmen fall victim to manholes and potholes on our roads, which consume limbs and lives on a daily basis (Adedimeji, 2020).
In January 2022 alone, 915 Nigerians were killed while additional 571 were kidnapped, with the North Central, North West and North East constituting the most affected (Moses, 2022). Within the first quarter of the year, at least 1,743 Nigerians were killed by non-state actors and as many as 269 violent attacks took place during the period with most people dying in Niger, Kaduna and Zamfara states in that order (Akpan, 2022). Between October 1 and October 31, based on the data gathered by the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), at least 725 people were killed and 235 people were kidnapped with some 148 violent incidents recorded during the period (Adebajo, 2022). If the situation is considered from May 29, 2015 to October 15, 2022, it is realised that no fewer than 53,418 Nigerians had died due to conflicts caused by farmer-herder conflict, clashes by religious groups, terrorists and bandits. During the given period, the South West region recorded 2,170 deaths while the South-South and the South-East recoded 3,688 and 249 deaths respectively. The North Central recorded 8,593 while the North East led with a total of 18,213 deaths and North East followed with 13,590 people killed (The Punch, 2022).
Due to the state of insecurity and its associated problems, the current mental attitude for many people is to emigrate by all means possible because of the fear poverty and insecurity. Everywhere is enmeshed in one trouble or another. The South West that was previously considered safe is now being threatened by kidnappers who waylay people on Lagos-Ibadan highway. Apart from the problem of hunger, the emasculation of the middle class, the high rate of unemployment, disemployment and underemployment, there is a high level of impunity. All vices under the sun are part of our collective experience as every single day, people are robbed, people are kidnapped, people are murdered, people are trafficked and people are raped. The list is endless and everything about us appears to be dysfunctional as the social fabric that used to hold the society has loosened with the bad models and loud mouths with base instincts being elevated as celebrities and role models (Adedimeji, 2020).
Successive Nigerian governments, in spite of the best of their efforts, have failed to deliver the dividends of democracy to the expectation of Nigerians. The spiraling orgy of insecurity has cast a shadow of doubt on the capacity of the state to secure its citizens. The situation has degenerated to the extent that some state actors themselves are nudging the citizens to bear arms and defend themselves, an indictment that the state is not capable of defending its own. There was a strident clamour for change at the beginning of the current administration but in spite of the appreciated efforts of the Buhari-led administration, the situation for the majority is just what French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote in 1849: plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose – the more things change, the more they remain the same.
However, despite the problems of the day and the enormity of the challenges, Nigerians must not capitulate to the forces of corporate criminality, gross maladministration, terror and banditry. We must all rise to the occasion by cleaning our corners and doing the best we can to make a difference as exemplified by our most distinguished alumnus and first alumnus Vice Chancellor, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede. We must be MAD (Making A Difference) like him by doing the right thing and confronting the criminal industrial complex that has seized the soul of Nigeria by not abandoning the country. In Nigeria, the truth that many leaders have to contend with is that they are mad just because they want to make a difference. On many occasions, one won’t make an impact until one is branded mad, crazy or karanbani, to use the Ilorin lingo. As repeated in “Sunset Sonata” to which reference was made earlier, Nigerians must:
Still stand stubborn
To stones that strangle the dawn
Still stand stubborn
To stones that maim the morn
Still stand stubborn
To stones that assail the sun
Still stand stubborn
To stones that ambush man.
The birth of a new Nigeria is a collective responsibility and achieving paradigm shift includes understanding where we are coming from, acknowledging what is wrong with us, being committed to playing our roles in our little corners, not just looking up to Abuja or the Government Houses, and being good and responsible as individuals. Good people make good societies and our society is a reflection of who we are.
Nigeria at the Border of History
Let me reiterate that our forebears that occupied the geographical space now called Nigeria started to live in the area more than 60,000 years ago, which was around 65,000BC, according to some records. The early man in Nigeria contributed significantly to Stone Age Civilisation. He invented tools from bones, wood and stones. He later made hand axes as well as developed bronze and metal around 500BC to 200AD. That was the period of our ancestors’ Nok Civilisation. The first contact our people had with Europe was about 1480 after which the infamous Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was kick-started by the Portuguese, later joined by the British.
After the slave trade, the missionaries and traders came. They had commercial activities with people who were largely in Kingdoms, Empires, Emirates and Caliphate. The British attacked Lagos in 1851 and made it a colony a decade after. Subsequent conquests brought all parts of modern Nigeria under British Rule, administered first by the Royal Niger Company. The name Nigeria was first coined and used by Miss Flora Shaw, then a correspondent with London Times newspaper, in her January 1, 1897 dispatch. The name stuck with the adoption of “Northern Nigeria” on January 1, 1900 by Brigadier General Lord Lugard, based on Shaw’s suggestion, to refer to the Northern Protectorates of the “Royal Niger Companies’ Territories”. By the time the Northern and Southern Protectorates were amalgamated in 1914, modern Nigeria was born (Omolewa, 1986; Adedimeji, 2016; Adedimeji, 2021).
Colonial rule prevailed in Nigeria between then and 1960. The indirect rule system was adopted in the North because of its established administrative system while the Southern parts that were not as politically united were ruled directly. Between 1922 and 1960, there were quests for self rule which greatly intensified after the Second World War in which the Nigerian war veterans were able to demystify the invincibility of the “White Man”. Agitations soon attained a frenzied tempo with the formation of political parties and by October 1, 1960, Nigeria became an independent nation, subsequently becoming the 99th member of the United Nations. The destiny of the infant nation was sealed by the coup and counter-coup of 1966 and the eventual Civil War that brutally fractured the country and ended in 1970 (Adedimeji, 2009; 2021).
The oil boom of the 70s ultimately signaled a radical change in the Nigerian public space such that petrodollars made us more complacent and there was a time when our problem was said not to be money but what to spend it on. A bloody coup of the mid-70s in which the gentleman senior officer, General Murtala Muhammed, was killed, could not stop the transition to civilian rule, mid-wifed by General Olusegun Obasanjo. The transition to civilian rule in 1979 provided a temporary relief but there was enough excuse four years after for the military to kick the civilians out.
The no-nonsense government of General Muhammadu Buhari was short-lived and General Ibrahim Babangida mounted the saddle. His administrative gimmicks earned him the sobriquet, Maradona, after the late Argentinian soccer legend and master dribbler, Diego Maradona, and he engaged in democratic experimentation that climaxed in the June 12, 1993 election that was annulled. The annulment of the election and the accompanying civil strife and protests underlined the fate of General Babangida who had to ‘step aside’ for the Interim National Government led by Chief Earnest Shonekan in 1993. When the court ruled that the interim government was illegal, the moment was seized by the late General Sani Abacha to stage a bloodless coup that derailed democracy for years. With his death in office and General Abubakar Abdulsalam’s assumption of power in 1998, all arrangements were made for the successful transition to civilian rule in 1999.
The return of democracy and the freedom it enabled allowed room for agitations by different groups across the country. Violent ethnic supremacists and cultural chauvinists became very active just as successive governments have not been able to fulfill their promises on basic infrastructure and amenities like power, road, water and housing. In 1999, Odua People’s Congress (OPC) was formed by a group led by Dr Fredrick Fasehun to actualise the mandate of Chief M. K. O. Abiola, acclaimed to be the winner of the June 12, 1993 election. Before the end of the same year, Arewa People’s Congress was formed with a promise to defend the northern residents against the attacks of the OPC. The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) was founded by Ralph Nwazuruike in 1999 too with the goal of peacefully seceding from Nigeria. The activities of MASSOB brought it in constant confrontations with the Nigerian authorities. Nwazuruike was arrested and released until the political interventions during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration led to his release in 2007 and his discharge and acquittal in 2011.
In 2010, Benjamin Onwuka formed the Biafran Zionist Movement as a way of giving steam to the secessionist agenda. His attempt to declare himself the leader of the Biafran Republic was confronted by the Nigerian authorities while led to his arrest and bail. He was again arrested in 2018 while marching to hoist the Biafran flag at the Enugu State Government House. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also joined the fray in 2006 and was believed to have carried out the bombing that disrupted the 50th Independence anniversary of Nigeria in 2010. The more radical and violent faction of MASSOB emerged in Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) whose activities gained prominence after the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. He formed the Eastern Security Network in December 2020, a paramilitary organisation that specialises in attacking security formations in the South Eastern part of the country. Though he had been arrested in June 2021, the security situation has not significantly improved, and the case is still in court till the moment.
On his part, Sunday Adeyemo, known as Igboho, gained national attention in October 2020 when he used the opportunity of the Nigerian Independence to advocate an independent Yoruba nation. The murder of a politician in December 2020 made him gain additional prominence as he gave the Fulani herders an ultimatum to vacate his community. Igboho vowed to put a stop to the violent herdsmen perpetrating atrocities in his part of the country. On July 1, 2021, the Nigerian security agents raided Igboho’s house in Ibadan but failed to arrest him. He was declared wanted and decided to go underground. Barely three weeks after, he was arrested in Cotonou, Benin Republic, while purportedly trying to flee to Germany (Adedimeji, 2021). In Nigeria, everyone including those who are part of the problems, has something to complain about and the relevant prayer is that God save Nigeria from Nigerians (Oloyede, 2012).
15 Current Illnesses of Nigeria
The first step towards curing an ailment is its prognosis. To have a paradigm shift and rescue Nigeria from her self-inflicted ailments, we must understand what those ailments are and then know how we can proffer solutions to them. One fundamental rule is that Nigeria can only be saved and developed by Nigerians and until everyone plays a role in curing Nigeria of her illnesses, the situation will not change.
Most of the problems assailing Nigeria can be attributed to poor leadership. This is because, as Chinua Achebe maintains in The Trouble with Nigeria (1983), “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.” He argues further that there is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else but the problem is “the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.” As Oloyede (2012) contends, if Nigeria has leaders who can address the problems posed by injustice, mediocrity, indiscipline, tribalism and corruption, the road to development and nationhood would be smooth.
Bad role models
In this age of globalisation 3.0 and information explosion, technology has brought many bad role models closer home and they are negatively influencing the youth. They are called influencers and they enjoy millions of followers on the social media. They include fraudsters, including the one serving a jail term in the US, drug peddlers, perverts who dress like women and foul-mouthed entertainers spewing nonsense and misleading young people. There must be a way of reining in the influence of these social cretins that negatively influence impressionistic minds through appropriate measures including legislation.
It is unfortunate that greed, which feeds corruption, is an illness that afflicts many Nigerians. The world has enough for everyone’s need by not enough for everyone’s greed. If one spends a million naira on a daily basis and consumes a cow, it will take many decades to finish it. But Nigerians are known to steal billions of naira and we know their names. Selfishness is a vice and greed is a misfortune. Yet, many Nigerians have become congenitally greedy.
As a bigot is that person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, religious bigotry is hatred, intolerance and wickedness motivated by religion. Though Nigerians are overtly religious, the real essence of religion, which is righteousness, is lacking among many so-called religious leaders themselves, not to talk of their followers. That is why Nigerians persecute, humiliate, attack and kill one another on account of religion without realising that the fundamental teaching of religion is to do good and to love the other (Adedimeji, 2021).
Bandits are violent robbers and kidnappers but economic bandits include those in cozy offices engaging in the diversion of our collective patrimony. It was recently discovered that for years, some bandits in official circles have been involved in the diversion of Nigeria’s petroleum products for their selfish gain. Hoarding, robbery, smuggling, betting, falsification of figures, etc. are some of the activities of the economic bandits.
Corruption has become so pervasive that snakes are alleged to be swallowing millions and hundreds of millions were supposedly spent on grass cutting. Corruption has become so endemic that we are branded as being “fantastically corrupt” by a world leader. Forms of corruption that are prevalent in Nigeria include bribery, the act of making an illegal payment to a government official in return for some type of official, state-sanctioned act which would not have been granted without such secret payment or offering money to evade official punishment or sanction; kickbacks, through which illegal payment is made after the service is rendered; extortion, whereby a public official threatens to use or abuse state power to induce payment; graft and embezzlement, which describe how public officials act alone to appropriate public funds or divert their use; theft, stealing state assets or funds under one’s jurisdiction because of one’s position in government; and fraud, imaginative schemes orchestrated by public officials to appropriate public funds in connivance with civilian accomplices which include establishing fake companies, listing ghost workers to pad payrolls, overbilling the government on contracts, etc.
Jingoism is nationalism or ethnocentrism in the form of aggressive policy, such as advocacy for the use of threats or actual force, as opposed to peaceful relations, in efforts to safeguard what one perceives as one’s interests. It is excessive bias in judging one’s own as superior to others and it applies usually to ethnic groups. Ethnic jingoists and sectional chauvinists believe in the superiority of their own ethnic groups and proclaim ethnic exclusivity. It is either we have their kinsman at the helms of affairs or no one else. Most of the ethnic conflicts in Nigeria are caused by one form of jingoism or another. The Tiv-Jukun clashes in Taraba and Benue states, the Ife-Modakeke conflict in Osun state, the Aguleri-Umuleri and Urom-Achala crises in Anambra state, the Zango-Kataf clashes in Southern Kaduna, the Itsekiri-Urhobo crises in Delta state, the Share-Tsaragi attacks in Kwara state, the Ezillo-Ezza-Ezillo clashes in Ebonyi state and others are borne out of the failure of appreciating ethnic relativity and collective humanity (Adedimeji, 2021).
Political prostitution or harlotry can also be seen as prebendal politics. Prebendalism is used to refer to political systems where elected and public officials as well as government workers feel they have a right to a share of government revenues and use them to benefit their supporters, co-religionists and members of their ethnic groups. In prebendal politics, political office is sought primarily for the aggrandisement of self, family members, associates and cronies. Since the ambition is motivated by personal gain, there is nobody that one cannot go to bed with, including the most evil of people. In Nigeria, there is no ideological loyalty as politicians change parties like diapers at every election time because of their obsession with power.
Discipline is the heart of good character as without it, the worth of a human being falls like a pack of cards. It involves patience and forbearance that make one bear discomfort with gracefulness and scorn illegitimate comfort. In Nigeria, however, there is general indiscipline which reflects in almost every facet of national life as people fail to do the right thing. The Federal Government at a time launched War Against Indiscipline (WAI) as a way inculcating the culture of discipline in the citizens. When rules are violated and the needful is abandoned, there is no way development or progress can be achieved. Even as individuals, it is only by self-discipline that one can achieve set goals. As an illustrious son of Ogun state and Nigeria’s foremost nationalist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, said his prison memoir, cited in Oloyede (2022), every Nigerian has to resolve: “I will, more than ever before, subject myself to severe self-discipline. Only men who are masters of themselves become easily masters of others. Therefore, my thoughts, my tongue, and my actions shall be brought under strict control always.”
The quest for the so-called good things of life has made many Nigerians derail from the right path. Life has been reduced to the acquisition of material things and values have been relegated to the background. Unlike in the past when character and good name were cherished and applauded, the philosophy of being wealthy by all means possible is gaining ascendancy. In the era of this corrosive materialism, there is no ethics and no morality as the dominant philosophy is the Machiavellian dictum that the end justifies the means.
Social justice entails that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities. It also concerns fair distribution of resources, power and obligations to all people regardless of their creed, background, ethnicity or status. Social injustice operates where there are exclusion, marginalisation and unequal access to political, economic, educational, health and other opportunities. Nigeria ranks low in social justice where it is number 158 out of 190 countries with a score of 0.534 where 1 is the perfect score. Social injustice fuels agitations, unrest and general disenchantment with the Nigerian project (Onalu and Okoye, 2022).
‘No consequences’ syndrome/ Impunity
There is a culture of arrogance and impunity in Nigeria through which people believe that whatever they do, they will go scot-free because of their ‘connections’ or people they know. The common parlance is ‘Nothing go happen’ even when the person victimising the other knows that he is wrong. This attitude is extending from the government circles to the people themselves as a result of real or perceived inequality before the law and lack of accountability. Impunity manifests where criminals are not apprehended and punished, when people disobey court orders and when people believe that might is right and law is an ass.
Moral meltdown describes a situation of ethical paralysis, the breakdown of norms and order. It can also be called moral atrophy, the type of what we are experiencing in Nigeria. Poor parental upbringing, obsession with foreign culture, personal indiscipline and social permissiveness are some of the underlying factors. Moral atrophy manifests in social vices like alcoholism, drug abuse, human trafficking, kidnapping, prostitution and many others. It is increasingly difficult for many people to separate the right from the wrong and the society has so much degenerated that the bad is considered good and the good is considered bad.
As a result of the way politicians in power have been treating teachers at all levels, education which is the engine of development, is now being treated as scorn while intellectual efforts are considered sheer waste of time. “School na scam”, by which education is considered a fraud, is now taken as an anthem among many disillusioned young Nigerians who have been brainwashed to think that education wastes one’s life as it does not automatically guarantee material wealth. The goal is to make money and scholars are disrespected while corrupt people with ill-gotten wealth are praised and celebrated. Based on the submission of Achebe (1983), if the problem posed by the “absence of intellectual rigour” and a “tendency to pious materialistic woolliness and self-centred pedestrianism” can be overcome by Nigerians, Nigeria will be out of the wilderness.
The widespread looting and destruction that trailed the ENDSARS protests in 2020 revealed that many Nigerians have criminal mentality. Apart from burning several private and public properties in many cities, the sheer inhumanity displayed in mob-attacks are blood-chilling. There was a case of a pregnant lady who participated in burning a police man and still cut and ate up a part of his body in Ibadan. Those who were not poor also participated in the violence and looting spree. The difference between those who are corrupt and criminal and those who are not is just opportunity as many of those who condemn others are likely to do more. This certainly does not suggest that most Nigerians are criminally-minded as there are still many conscientious Nigerians who always do the right thing. Parents and religious bodies have a lot of roles to play in imbuing values in young Nigerians so that people won’t be thinking that God’ grace is taking what does not belong to them.
Mahtma Gandhi once identified “the seven blunders” of the modern world that he earlier referred to as “seven social sins” in an article he published in his “Ýoung India” weekly newspaper on October 22, 1925 as wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle. These seven blunders are still prominent today in our world as features of collective degeneration. Arun Gandhi, his grandson, added the eighth, which he called “rights without responsibilities”. I added two to the list, “democracy without decorum, courts without justice”, with apparent reference to the Nigerian situation in a newspaper article (Adedimeji, 2013).
Then, following my participation at the Conference on “Religious Harmony in Nigeria: Towards the 2019 General Elections” co-organised by the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and John Cardinal Onaiyekan through their Interfaith Initiative for Peace (IIP) in Abuja between October 11 and 14, 2018, I added the 11th social sin, “religion without righteousness”. It stressed that religiosity without righteousness is ultimately meaningless and counter-productive and that righteousness is the key to freedom from the troubles that assail the world, in the words of Naraginti Reddy: “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world” (Adedimeji, 2018b; Adedimeji, 2022).
Prof. Wole Soyinka was once acclaimed to have painted a grim image of the country decades ago. Instead of changing the narrative, the situation has largely remained the same. According to the Nobel laureate, as cited in Adedimeji (2004), ours is thus:
A nation where its public sector is grossly inept, inefficient, dogmatic, arrogant, unfecundious, unpatriotic, erratic, incorrigible, corrupt, abusive, lackadaisical, abrasive and irredeemably over bureaucratic.
A nation where the law enforcement system is actively obsolete, illiterate, myopic, robotic, bigotic, anachronistic, corrupt, suspicious, unprogressive, schizophrenic, prodigacious, psychologically inferior, unimaginative, intellectually porous, academically jealous and pessimistic.
This cannot remain the same and all hands must be on deck to have a new Nigeria, a Nigeria that works and fulfills the dream of her citizens.
Playing our Roles
There is an urgent need for paradigm shift and to play our roles in rescuing Nigeria by being committed to having…
wealth with work;
pleasure with conscience;
knowledge with character;
commerce with morality;
science with humanity;
worship with sacrifice;
politics with principle;
rights with responsibilities;
democracy with decorum;
courts with justice; and
religion with righteousness.
It is also time to reverse the negativities used to characterise Nigeria such that our public sector will become highly efficient and our law enforcement system will become highly disciplined and professional.
It is worth re-emphasising that individuals make families, societies and nations. Whatever Nigeria is today is a reflection of who we are. Nigerians are the problems of Nigeria and for Nigeria to be better, we have roles to play and we must play our part at all levels, beginning from the individual. Nigeria and the world cannot be right if as individuals we don’t do the right thing. The solution begins from the individual and ends at the individual level as man is the sole creative agent of change. These roles can be illustrated with some narratives or accounts as stories tell better.
If a man is right, his world will be right
In their book, Success through a Positive Mental Attitude, first published in 1960,Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone retold the story of a preacher who was being disturbed by his little boy as he was racking his brain on what to tell his congregation. To keep the boy busy, he picked an old magazine, tore a page with the world map, ripped it into little bits and threw the scraps all over the floor.
“Johnny, if you can put this all together, I’ll give you a quarter,” he told the boy, knowing that the task would take him most of the morning.
In less than 10 minutes, however, Johnny was back with the completed puzzle.
“Son, how did you get that done so fast?” he asked.
“Oh,” said Johnny, “it was easy. On the other side there was a picture of a man. I just put a piece of paper on the bottom, put the picture of the man together, put a piece of paper on top and then turned it over. I figured that if I got the man right, the world would be right.”
The minister smiled and handed his son a quarter as promised. “And you have given me my sermon for tomorrow too,” he said, “if a man is right, his world will be right.”
If you are right as a person, everything will be right for you. We cannot be right without seeking knowledge and applying knowledge. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” And we must be determined to do it right and we are not short of examples even among us.
Two companies, same story
Except we change as individuals, we won’t make any progress. Someone just reminded us of the story of Singer Nigeria Limited, a mega company that had factories in Nigeria till about 25 years ago. The factories produced television and radio sets, refrigerators, fans, and many more. But the company had a policy of giving wholesalers on credit so they would pay after their sales. This unique marketing strategy continued for a while until Nigerians started to apply for products using fake business names and addresses. According to the account, products would be packed and the money would never be returned. By 1996, Singer went completely down all its factories that employed thousands of Nigerians were closed down.
Moreover, I also learn that when the Cocoa Industries Limited, Ikeja, was at the verge closing down completely, the last MD was asked by a concerned Nigerian who wondered about the sad fate of the company. The man narrated his experience in all the Oodua Groups, how the various MDs, GMs and Managers would connive with the drivers and security men to load products without proper entries. These goods would be delivered to the top cats’ wives and concubines across the country without the proceeds of the sales being remitted to the company. None of the over 150 companies owned by Oodua Group is functioning today.
No discipline, no progress
At the individual level, we must develop character, discipline and contentment as operational philosophies. The looting and lawlessness that characterised the ENDSARS protests have aptly demonstrated that many people are beasts and it is only the law that is restraining them. A pregnant lady in Ibadan participated in roasting a police officer and she cut a part of his body and ate it! Someone left his motorcycle to loot a bag of rice in a store in Ilorin but the motorcycle was stolen before he came back with his bag of rice! These and several thousands of others are ordinary Nigerians who have no discipline and character to know that right is right and wrong is wrong.
Vote for the right candidates
It is our role to participate in the political process by obtaining our PVC and voting for the leader with demonstrable record in building people and turning round the fortunes of the society or the state he had led. Human beings are social animals and Nigerians are not an exception. Thus, we have various associations and groupings at the religious, social, educational, professional, communal and cultural levels. Everyone belongs to one group or more and those of us here are mainly members of the University of Ilorin Alumni Association. Elsewhere, we easily melt into other groups along the identified areas. In all the groups we belong to, we should set standards and live by them. We should be part of the political process and encourage those within our sphere of influence against political apathy. The least anyone can do is to register, collect the PVC and vote accordingly on the day of election.
When our first alumnus Vice Chancellor was at the helms of affairs at the University of Ilorin, the institution was renowned for many great things, including adherence to time. It was so far-reaching in impact that a young man put “Unilorin Time” on his wedding invitation card to emphasise that the programme would start promptly.
Rather than be lamenting, condemning, cursing and agonising the typical way we do, we should be thinking of the value we can add to make Nigeria better in spite of the pressure. It is within the same system that people are complaining about that others, including foreigners, are making breakthroughs in many walks of life. Everything is about our attitude and it is within our power to be punctual, for example, and hold on to other positive habits.
Which one are you?
Nelson (2022) narrated how a girl once complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn’t know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed.
Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot, and ground coffee beans in the third pot. He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter. The daughter moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing.
After twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the boiled eggs out and placed them in a bowl. He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup. Turning to her, he asked. “Daughter, what do you see?”
“Potatoes, eggs, and coffee,” she hastily replied.
“Look closer,” he said, “and touch the potatoes.” She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.
“Father, what does this mean?” she asked.
He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity– the boiling water. However, each one reacted differently. The potato went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak. The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard. However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new.
“Which are you?” he asked his daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?” (Nelson, 2022).
In this presentation, esteemed ladies and gentlemen, I have attempted to highlight the situation of Nigeria today and traced the country’s historical antecedents. I also examined some illnesses afflicting the country as a way of suggesting the need to cure them from our body politic. These are poor leadership, bad role models, acute greed, religious bigotry, economic banditry, pervasive corruption, ethnic jingoism, political harlotry/prebendal politics, general indiscipline, corrosive materialism, social injustice, impunity/ ‘no consequences’ syndrome or impunity, moral meltdown, anti-anti-intellectual mindset and criminal mentality.
It is emphasised that Nigeria is facing serious challenges but addressing them is not rocket science if we have good leadership and responsible followership. Everyone of us can be the change we want to see in Nigeria by being different and responsible. Against the grain of what constitutes the order of the day, if we pursue wealth with work, pleasure with conscience, knowledge with character, commerce with morality, science with humanity, worship with sacrifice, politics with principle, rights with responsibilities, democracy with decorum and have courts with justice and practise religion with righteousness, we shall shift the paradigm, make a change and save the country.
If a single person, fortunately one of us, can return over 30 billion naira to the government coffers over a period of five years in an agency that found it difficult to remit a billion naira in 40 years, it is a statement on what Nigeria is capable of if everyone toes the right lane and does the right thing. It is by so doing that we shall realise that there is no perfect system in the world but we can attain significant improvement if we shake off the problems confronting us and take a step up at a time.
Finally, you have heard many stories and on the previous point on stepping up, let me narrate the last one. Everyone has heard the story of the farmer’s donkey, I suppose. In case you have forgotten, a brief recap is that a farmer’s donkey fell into an empty well. The poor animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer frantically tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided that the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway in order not to constitute danger to people. It wasn’t just worth it to rescue the poor donkey.
So, he invited all his neighbours to help him. They all grabbed a shovel each and began to pour sand into the well. At first, when the donkey realised what was happening, that he was being buried alive, he cried horribly. After a short while, to everyone’s amazement, he was calm and quiet.
After a few shovel loads of sand and dirt, the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished by what he saw. With each shovel of sand that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbours continued to pour sand on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was astounded as the donkey stepped over the edge of the well and happily trotted off.
The paradigm shift, ultimately, is that we shrug off the challenges we face and take a step up. Giving up isn’t an option.
I guess my time is up!
Thank you very much for your attention.
Achebe, Chinua. (1983). The trouble with Nigeria. Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers.
Adebajo, Kunle (November 10, 2022). 725 killed across Nigeria in October due to insecurity, 235 kidnapped. Retrieved from https:/humanglemedia.com/725-killed-across-nigeria-in-october-due-to-insecurity-235-kidnapped/ on November 23, 2022.
Adedimeji, M. A. (2022). Moving forward is glancing backwards: Towards regenerating a degenerate ummah. 29th Ramadan Lecture of the University of Ibadan Muslim Community Delivered at the Islamic Centre, University of Ibadan Central Mosque, UI, Ibadan, on the 15th of Ramadan, 1443H / 16th of April, 2022
Adedimeji, M. A. (2021). Saving the nation on the precipice: Between re-federation and secessionism. Paper Presented at the 10th Annual Symposium of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN) B-Zone, at the International Conference Centre, Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta, on September 11, 2021.
Adedimeji, M. A. (2020). Fostering functional education system for peaceful co- existence in Nigeria: Islamic and Western perspectives. In Jimba, M. M., M. A. Adedimeji, M. A. Lawal and M. S. Abdullahi (2020) (eds.) Language and Religion for National Development: A Festschrift for Prof. A. G. A. S. Oladosu. (pp. 127 – 137). Ilorin: Department of Arts Education, University of Ilorin.
Adedimeji, M. A. (2018a). Men of the year. Unilorin Bulletin, Back page. Retrieved from https://mahfouzadedimeji.com/2018/12/11/men-of-the-year/ on November 24, 2022
Adedimeji, M. A. (2018b). Religion without righteousness. New Telegraph. Lagos. Retrieved from https://mahfouzadedimeji.com/2018/12/13/religion-without- righteousness/ on April 4, 2022.
Adedimeji, M. A. (2016). The Nation on trial: Faith to the rescue. Lecture Presented at the Formal Islamic Programme on the 56th Independence Anniversary of Nigeria Organised by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) at the Conference Hall, National Mosque, Abuja on Friday, September 30, 2016.
Adedimeji, M. A. (2013, August 2). Democracy without decorum, courts without justice. Daily Newswatch. Lagos. Backpage.
Adedimeji, M.A. (2009). Globalization and the survival of the Nigerian cultural and linguistic heritage: The American Paradigm”. In The Sociolinguistics of English and Nigerian Languages. Dele Adeyanju (ed.) (pp. 69 – 87). Muenchen: Lincom Europa.
Adedimeji, M. A. (2004). The unifying role of English in a multilingual nation: The case of Nigeria. In Ndimele, Ozo-mekuri (ed.) Language and culture in Nigeria: A festschrift for Okon Essien. (pp.67 – 75). Aba: National Institute for Nigerian Languages.
Akpan, Samuel (April 202, 2022). Insecurity:1,743 Nigerians killed in Q1 2022 – Niger, Zamfara top list of victims. Retrieved from https://www.thecable.ng/insecurity-1743-nigerians-killed-in-q1-2022-niger-zamfara-top-list-of-victims on November 24, 2022.
Imam, Abubakar (2022). UNILORIN fortunate with Egbewole as VC – Adedimeji. Unilorin Bulletin. October 3. p.4
Moses, Tope (2022, February 10). ChartoftheDay: Cost of Nigeria’s insecurity; 915 killed and 571 kidnapped in January 2022, Retrieved from https://www.dataphyte.com/latest-reports/security/chartoftheday-cost-of-nigerias-insecurity-915-killed-and-571-kidnapped-in-january-2022/ on November 23, 2022.
Nelson, January (2022). 30 motivational stories to put you forward in life. Retrieved from https://thoughtcatalog.com/january-nelson/2018/09/motivational-stories/ on November 24, 2022.
Oloyede, I. O. (2022). Your future is in your hands. 39th Convocation Lecture of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Addressed to the Graduands at the University Auditorium January 31, 2022.
Oloyede, I. O. (2012). Gove save Nigeria from Nigerians. Welcome Address Delivered by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin at the 2012 Annual Lecture of the Nigerian Academy of Letters at the University Auditorium, University of Ilorin, on April 26, 2012.
Omolewa, Michael. 1986. Certificate history of Nigeria. London and Lagos: Longman.
Onalu, Chinyere and Okoye, Uzoma (2022). Social justice in Nigeria. Retrieved from https://socialwork.ubc.ca/news/social-justice-in-nigeria/ on November 23, 2022.
The Punch (October 23, 2022). N’East leads as terrorists, others kill 53,418 under Buhari. Sunday Punch. Lagos. p.3.