If this comes out as a bit random, it is because I have just read online, the appointment of Salisu Buhari as a member of the governing council board for federal universities. Now where do I start? Doesn’t this just typify the mindset of those at the helm in Nigeria? Federal universities are crumbling and who better to return them to their days of glory than a man shamed for falsifying a degree certificate from the University of Toronto? Now the famed Reuben Abati defends this appointment stating that he had been pardoned by the then president and thus his sins wiped clean. Let’s humour that argument for a moment and agree with the ‘esteemed’ Reuben Abati (who always knows what he is talking about) and say they looked at the evidence and found the former House of Rep. Leader no more wanting, found that he had served the party well (for that is more than a enough criteria to get a reward in their books) and decided to give him something back. Let’s say they arraigned a meeting and asked each other how they would defend, to Nigerians, the reward to a man whose fall from grace was witnessed by every Nigerian and who, in any other country, would be a convicted felon. Surely, surely there are more than enough governing boards he could serve on (prisons – if there is one – for example, would not be a bad idea). But no! It had to be the one he was definitely least suitable for, and then they send their faithful stooge to present the pile of filth to the people in a beautiful package of bewildering words.
I would laugh if it did not have far-reaching dire implications, for certainly it has got to be a joke.
This is not about Salisu Buhari for that would be cutting a few leaves from a tree in an attempt to uproot it. He would not be the first disgraced Nigerian, deserving a long jail term, who is honoured instead. It is not about President Jonathan Goodluck; certainly not the first Nigerian President to go down that road. And very unfortunately, not about Reuben Abati now bathed in the oil, the stains of which he once tried to wipe off others. And he would not be the first.
This is about those who still believe in the face abject stupidity; those who still wait for that spark of light in the distance, not letting the quagmire of hopelessness that the country is well imbedded make them falter in their belief that the country will stand as it should some day.
The appointment of Salisu Buhari will not come as a shock to most Nigerians. On the contrary it is what many would expect, given the track record of all that has been in power at one time or another. This is ready ammunition for the sceptics who have long given up and I would not blame them.
Take away a man’s right to feed himself and provide for his family and you strip him of every ounce of honour and self esteem. It is a shame that a country with so much, whose citizens demand so little, are given absolutely nothing. Much as I do not condone corruption on any level, (as it has eaten deep into the pillars that hold us up as a nation so that we could implode at any moment), I empathize with the man who resists for so long only to see his colleagues feeding fat off backhanders. Alas, high morals and lofty ideals, in the face of uncurbed corruption, do not feed empty stomachs. He gives in.
All it takes is a little taste, bitter at first then acquired. When a man first comes face to face with violence, crime, corruption (anything of horror for that matter), he is filled with revulsion and can barely stomach it. Over time, if ‘whatever it is’ stays, he rises to the level of tolerance; the abnormal becomes normal. And if the ‘whatever it is’ stays even longer, he embraces it.
There was a time in Nigeria when it shocked the system to hear a seemingly unattainable amount of money from people’s mouths. Worse when it was heard to have been stolen by some government official. Now it is common place to hear and, what is more, expected of any who ascends to a high enough position in the Nigerian government. Sadder still, complacency is expected; the bad roads, absence of basic infrastructure, squandering of public funds like it was their own money (Like the Uyo state governor shamelessly giving out gifts of cars) and on and on.
It will take more than a hundred years to sanitize the minds of Nigerians completely to the point needed to make the country stand shoulder to shoulder with any developed country. It seems like a long time. Trust me, 2013 seemed like an age away when our founding fathers bickered over who would get what, putting ethnicity before nationality and laying the foundations of distrust. It seemed a long time away when Kaduna Nzeogwu led young soldiers to the first coup, opening the doors to a spate of endless takeovers by whoever felt the most powerful. It seemed a long time away when the first gunshots ushered in an unwanted civil war, the telltale signs of which are still very visible. If we still reminiscence about the days of Idiagbon, Babagida and Abacha, trust me, these times will remain with generations unborn and as we judge the past, what we do now will be scored by our children’s children.
A hundred years is not a long time.
But even a hundred years will be overly optimistic if we do not begin to lay the foundations now. They say a people deserve her government. If that is true then Nigerians deserve much much better. We are a resilient people, undaunted by insurmountable challenges, strong willed and highly innovative. Within the boundaries of the nation are geniuses whose skills have been suppressed by the mediocrity of those who have been in charge, trying to quench the light that would expose their short comings. By the law of averages, one day we will get a leader that will serve (which we have never had), one that will make us proud to be Nigerian anywhere in the world.
We cannot wait for providence though. If an unruly child is not scolded he will grow up spoilt. For so long we have turned the other cheek while we get slapped and asked to say ‘thank you’ for the abuse. I weep for those who died putting this government in place, thinking a change was finally imminent. They were wrong just as we all were. It is called a democracy and it takes due process so we shall wait. But when we see something seriously out of place we cannot afford to remain quiet, not any more. ‘The man dies in all who keeps silent in the face of tyranny.’ That, from a Nobel Laureate. And he is right. But the man in Nigerians live and we shall speak.
There will be many more gaffes to point out, for now though, in one voice, let us tell the President and his deluded mouth piece that Salisu Buhari, impeached for falsifying his credentials (the pardons do not clean the crime) is not fit to be a member of the governing council for federal universities.
Generations to come demand that we do.