[email protected]: The Unchanging Misadventures – By Doyin Okupe


It is difficult to visualise the future without reflecting even briefly on the past.

Hopes and aspirations, both from within and without, were very high at independence.

Although the union was fragile and the very foundation was faulty the intentions behind the facade of the new nation were also far from being noble.

The superintending authorities themselves were culpable, forging a unity on a foundation of dishonesty and masterful grand deception.

Very little wonder about the Crack or Schism that surfaced in less than a decade of the birth of this new nation.

Post independent, the Southern elites, the political and military class MUST take responsibility for what Nigeria eventually became. Having lost control of the center ab initio, a majority of the southern leaders retreated to their home bases, and inadvertently abandoned the center for the North while they pursued regional or personal interests and agenda, taking advantage of their beneficial western education and acquired professionalism.

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They accepted everything with equanimity but occasionally they reacted with subdued vituperations and/or grumblings manifestly through media outbursts and filibustering.

Mostly because of congenital timidity the southern leadership did very little to confront or curtail the flagrant and florid excesses of the Northern ruling class.

Those of us who thought it was better to associate rather than dissociate, and who politically aligned with the mainstream northern ruling class, were compelled, sadly, to play second fiddle since we lacked the requisite political backing from home or respective political constituencies.

Hence we were precluded from being able to caution or even protest internally when things were obviously wrongly done even to our detriments.

On the other hand the Northern Elites must be held accountable for the prevalent state of affairs of the nation, ethically, politically, economically and developmentally. The dictum “to whom much is given, much is expected,” is applicable here.

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Northern military officers held sway in the rulership of this nation for more than three decades.

These were the agonising periods when the very foundations of this country were severely damaged if not destroyed.

Since the military left the stage in 1999, we have had two southern Presidents and two northern Presidents. Yet nothing has changed substantially to date. Essentially “if the foundation be faulty what can the “righteous” do?”

Our nation and its people have not derived desired significant benefits from civil or democratic rule.

In our body politic, there still exists a regrettable absence of an elite national consensus without which a true nation cannot emerge.

In 60 years we have not overcome our primordial and primitive features of; religious intolerance, tribalism, nepotism, prebendalism, greed, selfishness, disregard for law and order, and lack of commitment to equity and social justice. Bribery and corruption have now become the norm at all levels including private and public sectors and even including religious organisations, societies and family.

Certainly we need to change our perspectives and review our strategies of confronting these societal ills. We need to admit that all we have done hitherto have not worked. That is the truth. Strong leadership, draconian laws and legislations have all failed.

We must come together and reason together publicly, honestly in a nonpartisan manner and address these issues. Kenya did something very similar a few years back.

We need a new constitution that must be truly borne out of honest reappraisal of our journey so far and our collective vision for the future. The present constitution is fraudulent, lopsided and ill-conceived. Certainly its opening statement is blatantly false and it is therefore not commendable. For anything built on falsehood, no matter how long it takes will not stand.

Before we attend to the birth of a new constitution, it is necessary to come together on a national forum and settle first the issue of corruption in our society. No blame games, no scapegoatism. Willingness to forgive and readiness to redirect our energies towards national and institutionalised cleansing of our systems, including administrative, law enforcement, justice and acceptable financial practices.

Then we squarely address the issues of hate, hurt and pains of past unforgiveness in our polity.

There are too many issues relating to unforgiveness in our land.

The north must forgive the east. The east must forgive the west and the north. We must all forgive the events before and after the civil war. The people must forgive their rulers and the plunderers. Those that have acquired wealth at the expense of the nation must be allowed to restitute without fear of annihilation or prosecution.

It is about time we healed this land before our collective anger, frustrations and resentments kill this glorious land of our birth and collective patrimony.

Happy 60th Anniversary to a great Nigerian nation full of hope and pregnant with a great future.

*Okupe was Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Olusegun Obasanjo and Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan

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