By Rev. Fr. Gerald Nwafor
They said we have come of age to rule ourselves in Africa. Who said so? The colonial master. But my worry is to impose on us the system of rulership or government as the case may be.
My friend told me that when you are in pain you would go for morphine even when the morphine would kill you, and only stop the pain temporarily. He argued that you go for the morphine in the belief that the pain would kill you too. The pain may kill you or in some cases may not, the same thing with morphine, it is bad for the body, but it may kill you or may not. At this point, one may ask the question, “What the goal is of having a government?” Is it not for the simple reason to bring safety, happiness, and order in each society? If the government fails to provide the needed components of a good society, they are as good as nothing in the rank and file of governance.
Someone has said, “For forms of government, let the fools contest, but whatever is best administered is best.” I do not believe that statement to be perfect, but I look at Nigeria today where the civilians in the name of a democratic society have milked us dry and made jokes of the common people in the senate by passing a motion cajoling the citizens by saying that the poor should be allowed to breathe. In the whole of Africa, save South Africa, which African country would say that the civilian regime is more desired by the people vis a vis the military regime? I make bold to say, none.
When I was growing up it was the military era. It was the era of UPE (Universal Primary Education) championed by the military era on Yakubu Gowan, Murtala Mohamed, and Olusegun Obasanjo, but we went to school free. I remember being admitted to the general hospital Onitsha several times. It was a government hospital. We only needed to buy our medication when necessary. All these were handed over to the civilians in 1979 and by 1980 we saw the incompetency and lack of trust in the then-civilian government headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari. The amount of corruption in that second republic invited the military back to power.
There is a saying that the worst civilian government is better than the best military government: I would say in Nigerian English, far-far-foul (it is a lie from the pit of hell). What is the goal of government according to the fathers of modern democracy like John Adams? “The best government should prioritize ease, comfort, security, and happiness to the greatest possible number of its citizens.” Any government that is lacking in these enumerated areas of leadership should be overthrown by ballot or by a bullet. We cannot sacrifice our lives because we want a democratic government.
A government that rigs elections to stay in power has no moral authority to call a government that staged a coup to come into power “illegitimate,” because neither government is at the will of the majority portraying the democratic principles and tenets.Today Nigeria is at a crossroads, because since 1999 we have handed over power to the civilians in the name of democracy; but look at where we are after 24 years. The question we should be asking ourselves should be, “Are we better off?” I do not know the answers myself but if we look at the indices and the indicators of good government since 1999, any well-meaning Nigerian could answer the question.
The level of corruption in the government today in the governance of Nigeria is astronomical. Look at the last aviation minister who swindled the whole country in the name of starting “Nigerian-Airways,” and made away with billions of dollars without a single airline and even rubbed it in our faces on the last day by borrowing an airline from Ethiopia and tagging it Nigerian Airways only to be discovered by the airline operators that it was a scam. That minister is still walking free and among the advisers of the new government. If the same minister had done this in the military era, should he be walking freely in the street? I saw the Niger citizens beating the government officials and breaking their skulls on the streets of Niger. I did not pass judgment because when you are suffering untold hardship your reason and mental capability are not working to the maximum capacity.
The minister of finance in Niger was captured and told to account for the money he spent, and he started crying. I was not moved to pity; I say please account for the billions of dollars spent as minister.Therefore, I am not interested in the form of government in the countries of Africa. What I am interested in is good governance. The West should allow the African people to govern themselves in the best way possible to deliver the already-mentioned benefits as proposed by John Adams. Saudi Arabia is not a democratic country, but they enjoy good governance.
Britain is not a democratic country, but they enjoy good governance. Brunei is not, Kuwait is not, Qatar is not, and many more countries have discovered that the American system will not work in their country but adapt to what is possible and live peacefully. Nigeria is going down the road of self-destruction set out by the political class. The people of eastern Nigeria said that he who fetches the firewood infested by the ant has invited the lizard for companionship (Onye kpatalu nku aruru siri ngwele bialua olili). The reckless behavior of the political class is an invitation for trouble.
If they continue on this path of insensitivity to the feelings of the people the only question on our lips would be “How long,” and the reply would be handy like Martin Luther King Jr. “Not so long.” No one is glorified in misery, and no one complains in affluence. WE NEED MORPHINE NOW TO STOP THE PAIN.