The pre-independence African revolutionaries and their messianic coupists would have wept for African states and Africans in the post-independence rape of democracy and abuse of power in reckless abandon. In Nigeria, the sleeping giant of Africa, politicians and the military took their turns in denuding the economy. The flow of oil in the Niger Delta serenades in a siren voice that lures the high and mighty into crass accumulation of oil money to the detriment of governance.
The gush of black gold continued as government became blind with the curse and the region that is host to it comes under ecological despoliation. The people cry out in pain and lamentation as they watch their sky goes up in flame. Their water turns poison as fishes die in school and farmland turns stranger to arable crops. This is just a snippet of the Niger Delta region and the raging storm of insurgency in the years ahead. Up north in Kano State where groundnut pyramids almost became another wonders of the world, when men built pyramids of it to buoy the pre-independence economy. In the south west of Yoruba land, the cash crop of cocoa found affinity with the fecundity of its soil and yielded bountifully. The greatest political sage of that era was grateful to God who blessed their soil with such fertility by shinning the light for his people to follow. It has been more than half a century; his people saw the light and have been in the vanguard of expanding the frontier.
In the South-East, palm tree agrees with the soil that the region gained global lead and recognition as one of the biggest producers of palm oil. Malaysia came in the wisdom of her altruistic leaders to transplant the crop on their soil. Since then, it overtook Nigeria’s Eastern region to become world biggest in the production of palm oil. It also left Nigeria behind in technology and other human development indices.
These are just but few of the abundant mineral deposits scattered beneath the soil of Nigeria. In spite of the enormous economic potentials of all of these natural resources, the spirit of suspicion, greed and rivalry latent in Nigerians galvanised their leaders into scrambling for oil. The oil rush and boom was a euphoria that one past military head of states was quick to boast that; “Money is not our problem, our problem is how to spend it.” In his innocence and naivety to public administration and governance, he spoke the minds of his contemporaries. He and his cohorts squandered the oil fortune for nine years after which other cliques came in succession. In a seamless stretch, the military squandered the oil fortune for an accumulated period of Thirty-Three Years.
As the oil gushes and he demand soars from the industrial countries in the west, our political leaders threw away, all the economic management and theories learnt in business schools for the street and jungle wisdom of looting. In the looting spree, agriculture was neglected and became moribund. Policymaking and implementation suffer summersault as divergent sectional interests’ rivet attention on the black gold. Spending instead of investment became the order of the day.
While white elephant projects reared its head across the country as priority shifted from investment to spending. In the face of huge oil revenue, the Federal and States governments compete to outdo each other in borrowing galore. The debt keeps mounting as one successive government comes and goes. In the end, these debts are given different names coated in World Bank and International Monetary Fund semantics to be passed to future generations.
The Nigerian leadership crises have made a journey of forty days to become forty years as the people grope in darkness until today. This self-inflicted curse has boomerang on virtually every sphere of human endeavor in the society. Even the religious institutions, are not spared of the decadence prevalent today.
As the political elites in connivance with their economic bourgeoisies strangulate the economy, the entire land went up in colophony of restiveness, insurgency, rebellion all cloaked in different under tone to underscore its grouse and demands. A people who lived through half a century oil boom suddenly realised that they have been beguiled by the leaders as they faced a night mare. Just before the oil wells run dry, a jolting rude shock woke the shortsighted leaders and the people to the hard reality.
The international oil price has fallen and as a mono-economy country that depends on oil foreign exchange, darkness has come upon the land. Today the Federal government’s current strategic re-focusing is on agriculture and other non-oil sector to diversify the economy. The focus appears to be shifting to Nigeria Youths. In Africa, the youths in their active years constitute the backbone of labour force, but their active youthful age have been neglected, wasted and abandoned.
Ironically, in the wake of economic downturn, the political leadership suddenly acknowledged the relevance of the youths again. Some of them have begun to admonish that; Africa would face a perilous future unless efforts are made by its leaders to integrate its youths into the new world technological culture. They urged the continent to invest in education, especially girl child education, healthcare, agriculture, technological development, infrastructure development, creative industry, tourism and industrialisation.
They went further to enjoin African countries to sustain its democratisation process and reduce political conflicts induced by British Colonialism. They conclude that the continent must also drive an inclusive African economy for sustainable growth and development. That Africans should not allow the rhetoric of “Africa Rising” to give us a false sense of comfort thereby distracting us from the real work that needed to be done to make it happen.
The later day youths advocacy narratives go further to eulogise and observed that the great potentials, dynamism, resourcefulness, resilience and aspirations of the youths are invaluable capital that can be harnessed and channeled towards a more sustainable future for Africa by refocusing efforts on education, cultural renaissance, agro business ICT, healthcare and the provision of capital for young entrepreneurs.
As the later day apostles of pro-youths advocacy, they lamented that Africa’s transformative agenda was being threatened by a high level of youths unemployment, stressing that the situation has been compounded by an increasing mismatch between the skills offered by workers and those demanded by the labour market. They now realized that having a lot of young adults is good for any country or continent if its economy is thriving. However, if the jobs are in short supply, it can lead to frustration and violence. Realising the potency of the social media as a veritable tool for employment and empowerment of youths, some anti-people lawmakers lobbied to gag the people by sending a bill to the National Assemblies to the effect.
Other later day pro people politicians seeing the handwriting on the wall throw their support against the bill by urging stakeholders to resist any attempt to gag the social media. This group of politicians in a dramatic twist felt remorse that Africa needed more industrialisation than finacialisation. They argued further that although the service sector is doing well, the continent must stir growth in other sub-sector and the real sector, which is manufacturing.
Flowing from this narrative, the perspective of politicians with divergent viewpoint on social development issue, one can really discern how the system and the actors work at cross-purpose in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. Cross sections of different political actors and groups on the platform of bourgeois political party are caught between the edge of the dagger and the deep blue sea. It is at this point of dilemma that alternative political force can rise to mobilise the masses towards a system change. A true change is almost impossible within the status quo of a bourgeois system.
The intense desire for change gave the only aggressive opposition political party platform (APC) the leverage to affect Nigerians emotions towards a protest vote to form a government. It is contestable that the desire change the people mistaken for the APC’s change mantra can only come from them (i.e. from below). The APC variant of change is a reformist one not the revolutionary one that can only come from the people themselves.
No wonder, no sooner that the government of APC change came to power than the very people who voted en mass started crying foul. It is just because they were not part of the change process from the bottom-up but were caught in the web as it transits from top-bottom. This kind of change is not all encompassing as it often turns out to be one section of capitalists bourgeoisies competing with the others in a fierce power game of who control the state.
. The writer, Comrade Ameh is National Convener of Generation for Change Africa