On the road to July 1967

LESS than two years after the governing council of the Obafemi Awolowo, Ile Ife, dismissed Professor Richard Akindele for his involvement in a sex-for-mark scandal, another lecturer in the university, Olabisi Olaleye, is set to walk down the same road of infamy as the panel instituted by the university to investigate the sexual assault allegation leveled against him by one of his students, Motunrayo Afolayan, has found him culpable and recommended him for dismissal.

Why does history keep repeating itself? Olaleye witnessed firsthand the ignominy that Professor Richard Akindele was subjected to; how he was dismissed by the university, prosecuted by the ICPC, sentenced to two years in prison and became the butt of societal joke, yet, as if spellbound, he opted to toe the line that destroyed Akindele. As observed by George Bernard Shaw, the repetition of history is nothing but a proof of man’s incapacity to learn from experience.

But as it was with Olabisi Olaleye, so it is with Nigeria.

The outbreak of Nigerian Civil war on July 6, 1967 was the climax of a number of activities that made the resort to war a fait accompli. The war was preceded by an extensive tension, which no one made any serious attempt to douse. There were also unwarranted killings, which no one made any concerted effort to stop. The abandonment by the government at the centre of its primary function of securing lives and property created a huge sense of disenchantment with the leaders and disillusionment for the country. Consequently, the citizens were forced to look up to their ethnic and tribal leaders for protection and guidance. When this continued over a period of time, the inevitable became the reality and the country went to war.

As it was in the days before July 6, 1967, so it is now.  All over the country, there is tension. In every corner there is an increasing sense of disenchantment and disillusionment occasioned by growing insecurity, unemployment and poverty.

In Nigeria, outlaws seem to be in charge, they kill with wanton abandonment and rabid zest. They abduct, rape and destroy property with a toga of invincibility. From terrorists to bandits to herdsmen, they go about killing, maiming and destroying with a dexterity that dusts the capacity of the military. So, it has been a season of wailing over loss of lives and mass burial for the dead from one part of the country to the other. And the government seems helpless to help the masses.

Consequently, the people are resorting to seeking protection from their kith and kin. That is what gave birth to the Western Nigeria Security Outfit known as Operation Amotekun. Now, other parts of the country are working hard to float their own security outfits. Last Wednesday, Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, said the South East Governors Forum had formed its own joint security taskforce. Similarly, Mr Simon Lalong, Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, said the region has also put machinery in place to come up with its own security outfit.

Now, what does the resort to ethnic outfits by the citizens suggest if not a distrust in the ability of the country to protect them and their property? When citizens lose confidence in their country, the country loses its hold on them. It is the beginning of the end for the country.

Unemployment has reached an unprecedented height in the nation’s history, yet the best the government can do is to ask foreign countries to create employment opportunities for its youths. President Muhammadu Buhari, while participating at the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London in January this year, had asked the UK government to invest in Nigeria to expand employment opportunities for the country’s youths. According to him, “A greater UK engagement in the country would bring jobs to under-tapped sector such as agriculture and manufacturing. Millions of highly skilled, English-speaking but underemployed young people are eager to work but without the opportunities that foreign investments can bring to create jobs and build businesses.” Now, if a government has to wait for another government to create jobs for its population, is that not an admission of failure in the discharge of one of its basic responsibilities?

Poverty is extending its reach in the country daily. Nigeria is currently home to the largest concentration of poor people on earth. Nothing in the horizon suggests a change of the narrative in the foreseeable future. President Buhari, during his inauguration for another term of four years last year promised that starting from 2019, the government would create 10million new jobs yearly for the next 10 years to scale down poverty in the land. It is getting close to one year after that promise was made, there is nothing on ground to show that the government is even cognizant of the promise it made to the people.

This has heightened tension in the country. It has increased disenchantment with the system and disillusionment for the people. Nigerians are growing to hate their country and cannot stand the leaders. That was the scenario that prepared the ground for the first civil war and the country daily inches closer to July 6, 1967. The time to halt the drift is now, not tomorrow, not the day after, it is today. If we keep repeating the mistakes of the past, we cannot stop history from repeating itself.

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