Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A nation's laziness

No doubt most you have seen the documentary on Nigeria Village Square, the one about General Vatsa's execution at the hands of Babangida's regime. The documentary is called "Babangida and Vatsa: A Widow's Pain, A General's Burden", except that we don't hear about Gen Vatsa until the 29th minute, more than half way through the film.

The scriptwriter/producer made a hash of a job, considering what could have potentially been an entertaining documentary. The casting was good, with the Effiong guy, Vatsa widow and son. But the narrator said "coup d'etats", when it's actually "coups d'etat". I'm obviously quibbling here, and most Nigerians will say I'm commiting hateration. I won't slag it off anymore, but it's disappointing viewing.

What the documentary brought home above all else is how docile Nigerians are. Our armed robbers and vagrants are happy to use violence to get their way. Except that they do it against defenceless civilians, and not to the military governments that terrorised Nigeria in the past. There is no reason for a country with Nigeria's population to be so dominated, even by military power. The men in khakis kept coming back because they Nigerians would do diddly squat.

If you look at the ten most populous countries in the world, none of them have stood, or are standing for the crap we've been dealt. Correct me if I'm wrong:

  1. China. Population of over a billion. How free are they? Not very. However, modern China was founded on Mao's Cultural Revolution, which the Chinese believe/believed in. China is changing rapidly, and the people there are effecting change.
  2. India. World's largest democracy. Free.
  3. USA. Democracy. Free.
  4. Indonesia. General Suharto ruled fo 30 years, before being pushed out in 1998, during the Indonesian Revolution. It took 30 years but the people still did it.
  5. Brazil. Democracy. Even though they had military presidents between 1969 and 1985, Brazilians still had a large say in how they were governed. In 1985, people power put pressure on the government, and the military was sent back to the barracks.
  6. Pakistan. Military dictatorship. General Musharraf came to power in 2001 after the military had been out of power since 1998. Something is brewing in Pakistan. Musharraf is a pro-US, war on teror supporter. The people under him seem to be trying to undermine him, by, say, supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan
  7. Bangladesh. Democracy. Free.
  8. Russia. Democracy-ish. Free-ish. Putin's authoritarian streak is the complaint.
  9. Nigeria. Democracy. Free, but never fought for anything. Military let Nigerians have power, and then gave them their very own civilian military president. Surprise, surprise.
  10. Japan. Democracy. Free.

See my point? Most countries do something, but we're just happy to sit there and let things happen to us. How can you subdue 120 million people? You can't, unless they're Nigerian.


Anonymous said...

The national laziness you discuss is not limited to Nigeria, it's continental in spread. Africa is blessed; the place is a paradise on earth - good weather, good soil, rich in everything, but...

All it takes is just one season of winter - when everything shuts down and becomes lifeless. Imagine how our people will sit up and plan for the coming season - they will work harder, be more creative, plan ahead, and generally excise their rights as and when due.

Anonymous said...

I find your analysis in this piece rather disappointing. Your particular brand of Nigeria as 'other' and exceptional (negative) grates. Your analysis of China, India etc. is far too simplistic and does not stand to support your arguement. What is 'democracy'?! What is 'free'?! Surely, you of all people should know better!

However, I will take from this the evident frustration that has been a theme in your recent posts.

That frustration, that anger, that disillusionment with 'happy survival' - I share, and so will therefore accept, the tenor, although not the inadequate analysis, in this post.

Chxta said...

Look at it this way: the 'South-South' youths that are making noise now would keep quiet should we get another military government.

I agree with Imnakoya...

soul said...

US is not really free, not when you throw in all the new strains on the constitution.
But that's just me, quibbling with you, so I'll stop there and focus on Nigeria.

The problem for me is this, I think we Nigerians are so used to bad government that we expect it.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the man on the ground in Naija will sell their vote for 1000Naira and then complain for the next 4 years about what the government is doing, without taking personal responsibility that he/she helped put that person in place.

We willrather have figure heads than people who can actually do the job, the man on the ground won't vote for a female president who can do the job, they'd rather vote for a man who can't becasue he's a man, and a woman's place isn't in govt.

We would rather go round about the houses, spend 30 days chasing some deal in order to make 5000Naira and avoid paying tax.. When we could have spent those same 30 days in paid employment earning 6500Naira and maybe paying 1500 tax on it.

We don't believe and anyone who does gets shouted down.
It's not about democracy, it is about a willingness to do and a pride.
Our pride extends as far as partying, dancing, wasting money, but never about building for ourselves.
And that is why today, many people don't care who gets in govt, cos at the end of the day, they don't believe that the govt will make an impact on their lives, so they don't vote, or sell their votes or vote for their townsman who they believe will do NOT the right thing for every one, but the right thing for them.

sondjata said...

As the previous posted noted the US is not as free as you'd like to believe. The US has a very very pacified population that has been largely bought off (and will soon realize it).

I would like to give an example. When the Elections in Georgia (Old Russian state) went wrong (or was that the Ukraine) Folks basically shut down the country until they got action. In contrast, the 2000 election in the US was clearly flawed and yet no where near the amount of protest happened here.

Mexico had a similar issue with thier election and folks were all over the place in stark contrast to the US.

Another example The US President admitted on national television to have broken the law by authorizing wiretaps on US citizens without warrants. He is still in office and is yet to be charged with the crime that is known to have occured. Has the state capital been shut down? Any heads rolling? No.

Don't confuse a lack of military or armed exploitation with 'freedom" or even "Democratc". It is not that simple.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the reason why Nigeria accepted military rule was
(a) Lack of education- This pretty much says it all. People perish because of ignorance. The other countries you mentioned have highly educated population. Not Nigeria.
(b) Until recently, Nigerians were not seeing themselves as Nigerians but as ibo, hausa, youruba e.t.c. As the saying goes, UNITED WE STAND!
Nigerians are not united, fullstop. Lets hope that with the age of internet and the fact that one can easily get hold of quality information, we will know better next time the men in khaki comes along.

toometoblog said...

We're just a nation of talkers. If we did too much too quick we'd run out of stuff to talk about. Nah, we're a bunch of lazy f-s.

Anonymous said...

To those who think the US is not free, and generate as their pathetically weak example the 2000 elections are either cracked or on it. A pacified population? Obviously, such people don't venture far from the samizdat cattle farms of the big eastern and western cities. People like this keep getting shocked and appalled when liberal 'rats who vomit such idiotic notions continue losing elections.

I read in some book a long time ago that in Africa, one man with a gun controls thousands. I don't know why and frankly, it doesn't seem to matter much anyway. It's too ingrained in the African DNA to suppress individuality to ... well, everything.

Noella said...

Hey Babe
Quick question - are you advocating a civilian coup? I knew your biafran blood ran deep. Speaking of Biafra. that was an example of nigerians not taking it anymore, or was it just the igbos!!

Anonymous said...

Whatever, the Biafran war was started by the Igbo military and not really the Igbo people who supported the war because they felt that that was the only way the could be protected after their plight at the hands of the Northerners.

Quest said...

i think i like the angry Nkem. Blog on.

Anonymous said...

you tend to get lazy if you fought a civil war only 40 years previously... too many people alive still remember what it was like.

Anonymous said...

Is Nigeria really a country? you have to bear that in mind whenever you talk about Nigeria. When the Northerner is in power, do you really think he will team up with an ibo man or yoruba man to protest no matter how corrupt the regime is? that's where the riddle lies

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Long Comment
Should have put it on a trackback, but my blog is temporarily down.

In 1983, just as NITEL was burning, Shagari jetted off to India to receive an Indian honorary doctorate degree which we had only just rated as equivalent to a Nigerian Masters.

We at YabaTech decided to protest, so off we went to Tafawa Balewa Square to highlight the sad situation of the president not appreciating the gravity of losing a national symbol amongst other grievances.

As we got there and raise up our placards, the police arrived and the Inspector General of Police, yes, the IGP, Sunday Adewusi got on the Student's Union bus himself and started whipping the students with his staff/truncheon whatever.

When I returned home, my father said, "There was a time when Nigeria was worth dying for, that time is past".

My father was of the generation that travelled abroad to study and could not wait to return to build Nigeria, in fact, he was back within months of the civil war ending with hopes, ideas and visions of greater Nigeria.

However, a sense of lawlessness, possibly the lack of the rule of law, abuse of rights, suppression of dissent and activism, justice for the few and rewards for the corrupt and the corruptible - these endemic issues have had people either play the game or flee the country for places where there is at least of sense of knowing where you can stand.

What does it take to lead a revolution in Nigeria with the almost futile protestations of the Ogoni people with Saro-Wiwa, the press with Dele Giwa, music with Fela, the arts with Soyinka, civility with Tai Solarin, science with Prof Awojobi, the law with Fawehinmi etc. - the list of those sacrificed on the altar of seeking a change in Nigeria reads like a dirge of opportunities lost.

The change we require in Nigeria needs leadership not a mob - it is not about the 120 million people, it is about that one person who is brave, bold, courageous and also untouchable - at least - to the point that enough seeds have been sown in the minds and hearts of others to continue that work after an assassination which is the likely fate of that leader - Just like Martin Luther King.

Like Rome, until we have a Tiberius Gracchus, the laziness you have exemplified would be the case for a long time to come.

Chxta said...

Excellent post there by Akin...

The change we require in Nigeria needs leadership not a mob - it is not about the 120 million people, it is about that one person who is brave, bold, courageous and also untouchable - at least - to the point that enough seeds have been sown in the minds and hearts of others to continue that work after an assassination which is the likely fate of that leader - Just like Martin Luther King.

Monef said...

ditto what chxta said.

Anonymous said...

i see some points very clearly in the comments:

i. as a nation, nigerians expect bad leadership.

ii. we would rather sell our votes.

iii. we have bad leaders, up till the present day.

iv. we need leaders of the calibre of the mandelas and dr. kings of this world.


i say a big part of the problem is an ingrained ignorance coupled with fear. our people don't know the extent of their power, and are too afraid to see how far they can push for change.

we don't appreciate the value of our votes, because far too many are too ignorant to realise that selling our votes for a price that feeds us today is simply consenting for the "benefactor" to starve us tomorrow. illiterate people have not learned the power that their choices yield, they would rather live in poverty than fight for change.

thats where leadership comes in. the current generation is full of selfish, greedy bastards who have sacrificed their integrity on the altar of self-aggrandisement. we need a more influential wole soyinka, a less polarising gani fawehinmi, a more eloquent and transparent adams oshiomole etc.

the days after the june 12 travesty is a good example of what we can acheive if we mass our energies to resist tyranny and oppression. the people forced ibb out of power, but ran out of steam when abacha's murderous goons started targetting the leaders, in places like ogoniland and elsewhere in the country. should we have suffered 4 years of that? no. but we did.

sadly, some lying, deceitful wretches are already campaigning for ibb again, returning us to the dark days of unaccountable government. if they succeed, its because of ignorance and fear; ignorance that we could have stopped them, and fear of trusting someone else, or opposing the money bags. fear is the reason the best minds are staying out of government, fear is the reason none of us would lead a campaign for change.

the future is not clear at all.