The following has been extracted from "The Sad Story of Nigeria" by Reuben Abati, in which he highlights the potentially damaging effects of the current nonchalant attitude to 2007's elections.
Is this a fair depiction of the attitude to the elections generally amongst Nigerians? As with yesterday's article, is it possible that the good accomplished by the outgoing administration has been overlooked?
"The Sad Story of Nigeria" By Reuben Abati
It seems to me that as the Obasanjo government begins to wind up (I hope it is winding up) and as we prepare for the next elections ( I want to assume that we are preparing!), what we need is a kind of reality check. We, the people must begin to ask the hard questions about our lives. There are no easy answers, though. Our life as Nigerians is one long interim report, there is also no lack of knowledge about our problems, but the questions must be examined again and again. How for example does the world see us? What are the strengths that we possess, the weaknesses that tie us down? Are we serious at all? Do we know where we are going? Have we learnt any lessons? What do we have that we can leverage to achieve greater possibilities? When outsiders visit our country what do they see? What insights do we gain from an aesthetic distance and emotional memory?
Unfortunately, no auditing process is going on. Nigeria is about to turn a new page in its history (transition from one government to the other, the end of the Obasanjo era...); you would ordinarily expect that this would require careful planning and collective reflection, but oh no, the entire country is blundering towards that future, the election is taken as yet another festival, and like drunken sailors at a feast, there is so much ribaldry, cat-calls, rivalry and no meaningful stock-taking. If care is not taken, President Obasanjo will leave Nigeria in as much a confused state as he met it in 1999.
No country can make progress without its people. It is regrettable that we have spent eight years of democratic rule without placing the people at the centre of the reform process. Nigeria's greatest asset is its human capital but it is also its greatest burden. Nigerians are gifted, they have boundless energy, they want to do things, they love freedom, they want to express themselves; they are assertive, boisterous and ambitious. But like people in all societies, they need to be managed, their energies need to be channeled constructively; they need heroes who can define a vision for the community and a mission for the populace. We are a nation in search of such heroes. This is why every Nigerian is a product of self-help. Too many people are living in personal countries of their own, and so they belong only to the empire of the self. They are not part of any social process of agglomeration or aggregation. We cannot continue to have a country in which people prosper in spite of the country. Every country that has made progress began the process by developing its people: through education, through mission statements, through a sense of nationalism. What is the legacy of the past eight years: the thinking that the people do not matter; the belief that every man is on his own, the conviction that you should not expect government to do anything for you because the people in government are only interested in themselves; the widespread conclusion that government is irrelevant to the people's lives. If democracy must serve our purpose, the cynicism of the people must be brought to an end through due recognition of their relevance to the development process. Who will do this? Will this result from an evolutionary or a revolutionary intervention? Candidly, I do not know.
Reuben Abati is Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper. Since 1999 he has written two weekly columns in The Guardian and is now one of the most prolific and respected newspaper columnists in Nigeria today.
The full article can be found at The Nigerian Village Square or at the NAS websites.