Dr. Joe Abah, an Institutional Reformist yesterday answered some critical question on the mind of Nigerians via twitter on when Nigeria got it all wrong.
According to his main tweet, he says: People often ask “When did Nigeria go wrong?” My answer is: 27th August 1985. That was when “Every man has a price” became official Govt policy. That was when a self-styled “Evil Genius” proudly took the name of Maradona for his ability to deceive Nigerians. Let’s mark that date.
After much engagement on his main tweet yesterday, where He pointed to the “Maradona Evil Genius” regime as the beginning of when Nigeria took a turn for the worse, Dr. Abah gave reasons in his subsequent tweets today on “why He said so”.
Rather than asking why anyone would say so, the Buharists saw the tweet as vindication that Buhari is not to blame for the state of the country. The anti-Buharists saw the tweet as a dishonest attempt to absolve Buhari of blame. Both are wrong and sadly miss the point.
Some others, quite rightly, pointed to other episodes in Nigeria’s history that did not benefit the country. Let’s look at some of them. Some started with the amalgamation of the north and south in 1914 as the genesis of Nigeria’s problems and where it started going wrong.
However, we were not the only country to have been formed by a forcible merger of different nations. The USA was so formed, as were many other countries. In the UK, the English, the Welsh and the Scots don’t even understand each other’s languages. Yet, they have forged a nation.
Then some people raised Independence in 1960 as the date things started going wrong. Many other countries gained independence from colonial rule and went on to be prosperous countries today. An example is South Korea which gained independence in 1950.
Then, some raised the divisive, ethnicity-fueled,politics of the First Republic. This was unfortunate and damaging. However, it wasn’t entirely uncommon in “amalgamated” countries that then went on to acquire independence. Some have called it birth pangs.
Then some pointed to the unfortunate coup and counter-coups of 1966 as when Nigeria lost it as a country. The 1960’s and 1970’s were decades of coups and counter-coups in Africa. 1966 exacerbated simmering ethnic tensions in a way we have probably never recovered from.
Then there was the horrendous Civil War of 1967 to 1970, where brother turned against brother and 3 million people (mostly Igbos) died. 50 years after the end of that war, it’s effects are still with us and it’s memories (direct or imparted) are still deeply etched in many minds.
Then there was the Gowon regime that many saw as terribly profligate. Then the Shagari regime from 1979-1983 that many saw as hopelessly corrupt and inept. Then the Buhari coup of 1983 that many saw as statist, draconian and economical naive. People queued for basic food items.
So, given all these, why would anybody pick on Maradona the Evil Genius”? Is it because of corruption? The word “Corruption” has been mentioned in every single coup speech of inaugural speech since independence. It is part of our fabric. So, No. it wasn’t corruption.
The grouse that some have with Maradona Evil Genius is the disastrous SAP, the devaluation of the Naira and hyper inflation. Bad as these things were, Maradona Evil Genius is not the only leader to have pursued disastrous economic policies. So, why single him out for blame?
We often judge our leaders in Nigeria with one simple metric: Did he build roads or not? Well, Maradona Evil Genius built the 3rd Mainland Bridge. At 11.8 kilometers, it is the longest bridge in Africa and a marvel of civil engineering. Not many others can point to such.
By the time he came to power in 1985, the era of full chicken and milk in university cafeterias and having your clothes washed for you was well and truly over. You can’t even blame him for it. Unemployment was already rife. Everybody was looking for how to get out of Nigeria.
Doctors & medical personnel were leaving for Arab countries in droves. What we have now, with people wanting to emigrate to Canada was child’s play compared to then. Govt even had to do media campaigns begging people not to emigrate. The jingle “Andrew, don’t check out” trended.
And no, it wasn’t easier to emigrate then, except for doctors. It could be argued that Maradona Evil Genius was no worse than those that came before or after him. So, why would anybody say that his regime saw the end of Nigeria as we knew it before then? What did he do or not do?
My personal opinion is that he oversaw the destruction of certain values and societal morals. Under him, the difference between right and wrong became blurred. The Corruption Virus jumped specie from the public sector, where it was previous confined, into the family unit.
Having an education was no longer the route to a decent life. Hard work, honesty and trustworthiness became things of ridicule. Deception was elevated to state policy, particularly as it concerned when he would hand over to a civilian government. Intellectuals were corrupted.
I think the effects of these attacks on our values and morals have shaped the kind of society we have today, in a different way from other sad and unfortunate episodes in our history. I think also that if we are to move forward, we need to find a way to address these issues.
We need to re-learn the concepts of hard work and reward, crime and punishment, and action and consequences. Some things should be predictable. The more predictable things are in a society, the more orderly it is. The more orderly it is, the more confident investors will be.
However, these are only my personal opinions. REASONABLE people are welcome to disagree. It is even possible to convince me that I have been unfair to Maradona Evil Genius. I would be happy to take in other perspectives, please. If it can be without insults, great! Thanks. End.