The complete metamorphosis of the butterfly is a thoroughly adequate analogy for civilisation: the gradual progression from egg to slug to pupa to imago [the beautiful butterfly]. In the Nigerian context, it starts with the colonised state to the inexperienced independent nation-state to transitional nation-state to strong state. The furthest stage Nigeria ever go to was the ugly butterfly that never blossomed. However, after the initial euphoria of the return to democracy, it is now evident that Nigerian politicians and clergy are busy reversing the progress of the nation back into the stage of a slug as a consequence of their thefts and misrule; it suits them well. But does it suit the everyday citizens?
Nigeria once [for several years] had constant electricity, reliable tap water supplies, a world-class education, a modestly corrupt civil service, a postal system that could be depended upon, rape was associated with slum areas, robbery was not something that bothered people, people drove their cars to their home towns 100s of miles away by night, educated women did not have to sleep with men to get employment, kidnapping was unheard of, sexual attitudes were responsible, people were not desperate enough to be easily conned by clergymen, major politicians did not serve rice with an apron in the streets to win votes. Most of all people wanted to be something, upwardly social mobility was open access and the moral cost of doing wrong was high. And this is not a glossy nostalgia for something that never happened, we all lived it even better if one is old enough to remember.
Where has it all gone?
Recently, Nigeria’s glory in the form of scarce funds is being taken away from potential channels of good use by cash-swallowing snakes, cash-grabbing monkeys and cash-sucking fish. When have animals become so plutocratic? Part of the continuing corruption decivilising Nigeria is now the stuff of animals. When will ghosts, fairies, mermaids, ogres, and jujus enter the equation? When Nigerian senators who are the highest paid in the world and high-ranking public bureaucrats resort to imbecilic excuses publicly to answer questions of large sums of money missing, what kind of leadership and administration does Nigeria have? But that is not the right question. Cash-swallowing snakes and similar as excuses and serious national discourse are symptoms of a country witnessing a continued slide deeper into decivilsation. Yes, wholesale national irrationality is a very reliable indicator of both decline and decivilsation. The rest of the world is laughing.
Generally, Nigeria’s progress has all gone overseas. Development and civilisation are not free, not cheap, not easy, not tribal, not religious and it depends on how well leaders [with all their powers] invest constructively in their nations or empires or kingdoms. The United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, the USA, China, Singapore, UAE, Holland, Korea, Botswana, France, Switzerland were all self-built nations courtesy enlightened leadership even though the more colonial mentions were extremely ruthless in getting there. It was gold from Brazil that funded the British Industrial Revolution. This only started to emphasise that inward-flowing or well-used money is necessary for development. How can Nigeria remain civilised or be developed when most of its cash is permanently outside.
In George Ayittey’s notable lament for Africa titled “A Strange Case of Xenophilia”, he contends,
“They will destroy their own domestic trade and then fiendishly promote foreign trade.
They will destroy their own health care system and then seek medical attention or die off in foreign hospitals.
They will destroy their own educational system and then send their children to foreign schools.
They will destroy their own banking system and then stash their loot in foreign banks.
They will harass, jail and even assassinate their own local experts and then spend billions of dollars on foreign experts.
They will destroy their own domestic industries and then lay the red carpet out to foreign companies.
They will hound and persecute their own domestic investors and then draw up elaborate codes to attract foreign investors.
They will destroy their own agriculture and then spend $25 billion to import foreign food.
Where is my “Sledge-hammer”?”
Ayittey’s lament is incontrovertible and complete, and its conclusion is aptness itself. It is now time for the sledge-hammer. Oyesio! Some things need to be very thoroughly smashed without reserve. Incinerators would not be misplaced. However, Nigerians may be too decivilised to appreciate or use the sledge-hammer for pushing for development and civilisation. The practice civilisation to most Nigerians is unique; dressing up well, social posing, speaking in a foreign accent, competence in the latest dance, being popular, being “current”, kissing in public, clubbing, having a bit of money, owning the latest gadgets and toys. And you are civilised – such is the power of the illusion of perceived comfort. Only in Africa is it that easy to be civilised.
It is only because Nigerians completely forgot the sledge-hammer in the search of a little comfort that non-Africans can call them uncivilised and treat them as such. It is time to take up the sledge-hammer! Or Nigeria will further decivilise to the stage of an egg.
Intellectual warriors of tribalism and religious bigotry are the best agents of the decivilisation of Nigeria, do you know or are you one of them?