Lord Lugard, the former governor-general of Nigeria, in 1926, wrote his unfiltered thought about Nigerians. From his book, The Dual
Mandates, come these excerpts: “In character and temperament, the typical African of this race-type is a happy, thriftless, excitable person, lacking in self-control, discipline, and foresight. Naturally courageous, and naturally courteous and polite, full of personal vanity, with little sense of veracity, fond of music and loving weapons as an oriental loves jewellery. His thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future or grief for the past. His mind is far nearer to the animal world than that of the European or Asiatic, and exhibits something of the animals’ placidity and want of desire to rise beyond the state he has reached.
“Through the ages, the African appears to have evolved no organised religious creed, and though some tribes appear to believe in a deity, the religious sense seldom rises above pantheistic animalism and seems more often to take the form of a vague dread of the supernatural. He lacks the power of organisation, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or business. He loves the display of power, but fails to realize its responsibility – he will work hard with a less incentive than most races. He has the courage of the fighting animal, an instinct rather than a moral virtue. In brief, the virtues and defects of his race -type are those of attractive children, whose confidence when it is won is given ungrudgingly as to an older and wiser superior and without envy. Perhaps, the two traits which have impressed me as those most characteristic of the African native are his lack of apprehension and his lack of ability to visualize the future.”
I have read so many responses to these excerpts on the internet. A few of the Nigerian respondents disagreed with Lugard’s assertion, but a majority of those who commented agreed with the former governor-general’s assessment of Nigerians. Those who remarked that his views of our people were imperialistic undermine the real state of Nigeria today. As we take a critical look at his analysis, any rational Nigerian can actually see that we do not visualise the future of this country, especially by the decisions and actions of our leaders. Nigeria, in all ramifications, has not improved since the time of Lugard. Our living standard is constantly on the decline and, of course, there is no hope for the future as our tertiary schools have become worthless. There is no way we can plan for the future of our children without constantly reinforcing our educational standards. The future of this country is plagued with obscurity. No view and no vision. The rat-race attitude of changing the tides of our academic values at will can only bring forth a generic qualitative education that will always be below standards in comparison to anywhere else in Africa (let us not even think of other more serious continents).
Prior to independence, Nigerians embraced a sense of nationalism. The reason was simple: we needed to unite to fight against what we termed, then, imperial colonial masters. That unity gave us strength to evolve as an entity. Soon after independence, about six years to be precise, that nationalism gave way to suspicion and unrealistic desire to secede. Regional and tribal affinity became the ultimate voices of recognition as the three regional leaders fought separately to secure social and economic freedom for their people, while at the same time preaching allegiance to the federation. Lord Lugard’s emphasis on our leaders’ quest for power and authority without knowing the responsibilities attached to such positions is highly visible today, and I challenge anyone who can refute this assertion. This country does not live with the dictates of reason. We shy away from basic realities but at the same time look towards an illustrious future that will never be.
Nigerians were exalted to the highest level of hope when probes of former public office- holders started about 15 months ago; but, not even the greatest believer in our midst can hope for any retribution or restitution soon. Probing of public officers is as unexciting as the next arrest of armed robbers on our roads. Corruption, as part of our cultural values, has been entrenched into our generation and those younger. The future of Nigeria, to me, is as vague as our imagination of life after death. Gross unemployment and growing hopelessness have rendered our youths, especially those who have paper qualifications, restive. Despondence covers the panorama of the future.
Nigeria is heading back, again, to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for redemption. This is another classic example of Lugard’s assessment when he said “his thoughts are concentrated on the events and feelings of the moment, and he suffers little from the apprehension for the future or grief for the past”. We have learnt no lesson from our previous romances with the IMF, and will never learn from the mistakes of others. The Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and Austerity Measures, which were introduced during our earlier marriages to the IMF in the 1980s, have thought us nothing because leadership is not a continuum in this country. Argentina, which had been considered by the IMF to be a model country in its compliance to policy by the Bretton Woods institutions, experienced a catastrophic economic crisis in 2001 as a result of IMF-induced budget restrictions. Nigeria never recovered until the Paris Club magnanimously wrote off our debts about three years ago. Our dreams of personal vanity have erroneously eroded our vision for the future of our children, and since tomorrow should plan for itself, enriching other countries with Nigerians’ looted funds can also attest to the vision of moving this country forward.
As we plan to revisit the IMF, there will ultimately be devaluation of the naira and another cycle of debts will hang on the next generation, while our imaginary foreign reserves deplete by the hour.
The drive to go back to the IMF raises so many questions about how constitutionally oil revenues must be distributed to states and local governments to spend at will, without any form of accountability. The majority of Nigerians pay for the executive recklessness of our political office-holders, and we cannot even demand retributions but suffer the scourge.
In this age of great enlightenment, Nigerians cannot decide who should lead them, since votes are mere symbols of compliance to democratic norms. Election process is marred by deception, diversion and delusion as we claim political and economic stability in a nation devoid of hope for the future of our youths. Nigerian politicians suffer from lack of comprehensive system of beliefs and attitudes about social and economic institutions and processes – this system is what political scientists call ideology. Survival of the fittest is the core reason for political alignment and mass migration of politicians towards the party in power. Consensus is based on monetary value and, as we loot and loot our own treasury, the next cycle of politicians watch, with nostalgia, the crooked process of assuming office by all means. Death can also be the alternative to losing.
By throwing away common sense in managing our windfalls from oil revenue, the dwindling effect of global economic recession will soon bring down, below budget, the price of our oil. Then, what next? Of course, the art and science of stealing will never stop until the whole nation sinks into violence. Clearly, this feudal edifice must not be allowed to survive, as tomorrow looks very vague.