In the 2006 Nation's Cup BBC preview, an article so beautifully described Nigeria in few words. It stated that only Nigeria can defeat itself. A few days later, a Sierra Leonian friend of mine asked what that statement meant. And I explained to him the the Nigerian story. Just what is the Nigerian story? It is a story of a nation with unbelievable abilities, a nation blessed, a nation strategically positioned to lead which, however, is stuck in its own puddle that it can't take the next step until it frees itself.
That story is being told everyday on the streets, in the National Assembly, in party politics, at Oshodi, Obalende, Sabon-geri, Akpakpava, Oja-Oba, university campuses, hospitals, Abakaliki, Jalingo, Fiditi or inside the 'molue' bus. If only we can pay some attention, we will see very clearly our pathetic drama of a blessed but cursed national individual, a counfounding spectacle that hardly knows within itself how bad the situaton really is.

Nigeria is the best and the worst simultaneously, which explains why the African Nation's Cup was said to be Nigeria's for the taking. Nigeria is one of the richest nations on earth, yet it is one of the poorest too. It can be whatever it wants to be, but it won't.


It is amazing the irony that our nation is. Our strengths are our exact weaknesses; our blessings are our curses. Take petroleum, for instance. It is Nigeria's greatest national blessing. It has brought unimaginable wealth and national fortune. It had transformed us, however, both for good and for worse. With oil money came greed, corruption, laziness and a great national tragedy, such that if you peek though an aircraft window at Nigerian cities, the signs of prosperity are hard to see.


During the last lap of Bill Clinton's United States presidency, he visited Nigeria. The CNN reporter that came with him, John King, gave an accurate account of a paradox that Nigeria is, reporting how infrastructure were so advanced in some areas and so primitive in other areas. He told the Nigerian story accurately after just a few nights of visiting.

It is not so hard to see we are presenting a difficult-to-phatom story to the world. We sell as much oil as Iran to the world, yet we are begging for international aid and debt forgiveness. Our president is fighting corruption, yet his tax return records are a closely-guided secret. We are investigating corrupt officials, and the most corrupt of all time, General Ibrahim Babangida, is attempting to return and even wreak more havoc. While some citizens insist Babangida must not only be stopped but also probed, others are asking him to return to fix the problem which arose from his ineptitude.

Nigeria is a dirty mass of confusion, yet a long roll of film, where anything happens anytime in rapid succession. The problems that make Nigeria are easy to see, but difficult to understand. How can a nation be so endowed and bereft at the same time? Nothing you know can prepare you for what is going to happen next in Nigeria.

Take Obasanjo's third term ambition, for instance, is there anyone on earth who should appreciate the significance of political transition than the President? Whatever respect he enjoys today derives from his history of passing the baton of power on time in 1979. Yet, the very idea that made him now threatens to unmake him. His strength has become his greatest weakness. What a profound irony?

Why is it that makes Nigeria falter when it should walk with grace? What is the explanation for the Nigerian story? It could not be education, because more educated societies have channeled their knowledge base productively. It could not be wealth because on the percentage of the population, our oil money actually translates to less per capital than in many other oil-producing countries. It can not be population since India, Indonesia, Brazil and other developing countries have managed to use their size to improve their lot. It could not be colonization as even in Africa, Botswana, Gambia and some other countries have done well with self-independence.

So what is it? It is bad leadership and greed. But even more than that, it is the failure of ordinary citizens to hold our leaders to very standards of behavior. Knowing that the majority of their subjects care little about how they are governed, and would not form a cohesive voice, our leaders have come to take us for granted. Power does not come from the people - it comes for cliques and cabals of retired generals and their civilian collaborators.

Year after year, the names that circulate in political leadership are the same: Jerry Gana, Adamu Ciroma, Abubakar Rimi, Alex Ekwueme, Lamidi Adedibu, Anthony Anenih, Sola Saraki and the like for the civilian political professional class. Ibrahim Babangida, Mohammadu Buhari, Olusegun Obasanjo, Jeremiah Useni and others represent the military wing. Just for how long will these irritating names make the rounds? Outside of these few people, no Nigerian can aspire to political office, except he receives their acceptance and financial backing. Are these the best that we have? Why is it that people with ideas no longer count, but the rich fools are the lords of the ring?

Until we hold these parasitic fungus to high standards, and effectively neutralize those who have stolen from us, we will never really have a future, which is well within their grips. They pit us against one another with the issues of religion and ethnicity, and steal while they distract.

As Nigeria moves towards a critical transition in 2007, people from different religion and ethnic groupings will be pitched against each other. They will try to make us believe we have non-negotiable issues that separate us. We need to be smart this time around. Our problem is not with us; it is with them - the privileged political class.


We need to start getting smart. If we don't, demons like Babangida will not only return to the house, but bring many more demons with him. He has been cast out and he should remain barred. Babangida will reinforce the Nigerian story, which is about talent that produces no result.

Also by Tunde Chris Odediran
Alamieyeseigha in Babangida's World
Failed by Ordinary Standard
The Undeserving Ranka Dede
Why We Stand Against Him
Nigeria Looks Worse
This Roof Will Be On Fire


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