Nigerian elites and the challenges of now

IN determining the title of this piece, I prevaricated between the words “leaders” and “elites.” After serious evaluation, I came to the conclusion that the word “elites” would be more appropriate. I reached this conclusion because, in one’s opinion, Nigeria has not had real leaders for some time now. Rather, Nigeria has had a great majority of dealers, opportunists, and visionless carpetbaggers with nauseating inclinations for banditry as leaders. Their sole mission has been to loot the commonwealth without thoughts of the country and its future.

The elites, on the other hand, are the totality of all the political, economic, social, religious and professional leading lights in the country. This would also include the various leading lights of several segments of the society such as market women, student leaders, the academia, intelligentsia, media, lawyers, doctors, artisans, transporters, among others. All the leading lights of all these groups constitute the elites of this country. Unfortunately, it seems they do not know that this country is almost collapsing.

At this juncture in our country’s history, time has passed being politically correct. Time is fast passing for us to be aligning with political partisanship. The country is collapsing, and at a scary pace. There is the need for all the elites to have a change of heart and begin to think of what ways they can turn around this country. It is high time we began to think of how this country can be preserved. Though, someone like me, I still believe that restructuring to give ethnic nationalities more control over their destinies is the best way to go. However, if we still want Nigeria to remain united, the time to rethink our attitudinal dispositions is now. Our elites have mismanaged this country for so long. Those most responsible have been the political elites, with their sentries and collaborators in other strata of the society. As things stand now, it is important that partisanship is relegated to the background. There is urgent need to reverse the course of events. To be able to do this, there is the need for everyone to come together and be more candid about the mess in the country. Politics is important, but it should not be more important than the survival of the country, for if the country collapses, politics would become mute. This is very important to remember.

Today, Nigerians are going through serious social, economic and religious meltdown. Social sickliness, economic enervation, and religious languor are a very dangerous mix for any society. For those who have an understanding of this, they are aware that this could be worse than sitting on the proverbial keg of gun powder. And the way things are going, the country can ‘explode.’ And if allowed to ‘explode,’ it might be difficult to put together again. This is because when a crisis begins, it has always been difficult to tell how it ends.

Some are asking for the restructuring of the country now, and any further delay will be regrettable for all. First, there is a need to check the increasing confrontation against the state. The starting point is to give everyone a sense of belonging. Let us come to the round table and discuss the way forward. If we are really serious about Nigeria, we have to discuss how we want the country to be administered. Refusal to allow a roundtable discussion is to suggest that only a section of Nigeria has all the wisdom and would continue to call the shots. If the elites are afraid of losing control of what might result from this, they could at least start by pressuring President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference.

Secondly, it is important that the recommendations of the national conference is set in motion as soon as possible. Failure to respond now might lead to a more complicated crisis that could get out of control. There is anarchy on the horizon as we are all witnessing. This has to be checkmated right now. A stitch in time would save the country from imminent political collapse.

Nigeria is increasingly becoming less free. Religious freedom is at risk. Free speech is now seriously endangered. Political differences are met with detentions for convoluted charges. There is increased abuse of the judicial process. Even, ordinary bloggers are being arrested and harassed by authorities. However, some of these problems did not start under President Buhari.

One could concede to President Buhari that he might have good intentions, but he needs to work hard so that Nigerians can be more comfortable than they are at the moment. At least, this is why they voted for his government in the first place. It is, therefore, time for the elites to come together and make sacrifices to save Nigeria.

Let me, therefore, end with a quotation by former United States president, John F. Kennedy, during his inaugural address. He said: “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”

  • Oyeyemi is a public affairs analyst.