Nigeria as a philosophical problem

Samuel O. Okorocha | Guest Columnist

Philosophical pundits claim that Nigeria is a country that does not work. Indeed, many old breed folks would frankly speaking opt for a return to pre-independence ‘good old days’! Why? Nothing seems to have worked since then, at least when compared with the development feats of our early nationalists.

At independence in 1960, Nigeria hailed as breadbasket of West Africa was well ahead of the so-called Asian Tigers in development terms, whilst the intellectual community at that time gave her a giant-like dread to the entire world, and her prospects intimidating. Moreso, with reputation as centre of academic excellence, Nigeria’s sky-bound potentials and great hopes were not in doubt. So, it was nice and glorious being a Nigerian, until many a “redeemer” emerged pretending to take the nation up to dizzying heights of self-actualization only to drop it into an abyss of ruin.

Contagion, a very terrible thing, is native Nigerian where it has a kind of virulence unheard of elsewhere. Wordsmiths found it in the phrase: “Nigerian factor” – our colloquial euphemism for ‘nothing works’ or ‘anything goes’. It is not just part of our lexicon; it is a great part of our reality as notorious facts demonstrate.

Notorious facts are issues which require no proof. They are indisputable facts or self-evident truth. The Nigerian factor portends that anything good can be attenuated to the negative extent as to make nonsense of whatever hopes are invested for the people. In other words, concepts that work perfectly well in other parts of the world would become inexplicably unworkable here. And, one always wonders what kind of a people we are.

The issue of debilitating Nigerian factor that stems from our great notorieties here as a nation has gradually morphed into a philosophical problem. Nigeria’s shocking decline from the paradise of the past with a prediction of superpowerdom to a parlous state amid greater anxieties about the future is now a subject of deep philosophical concern. And, the justification of Nigeria as a philosophical problem comes readily from baffling failure of essentially: institutions, infrastructures, values, leadership and so on. Secondly, some claim she is jinxed as evidenced by complex problems that seem to defy all laws of thought, writ large in the shape of contradictions – a nation full of riddles where anything from the sublime to the absurd can happen. Hence, notorious existential facts to which no curious meta-social logic can either discern, describe or understand. That is, they are hardly settled or decidable logically, metaphysically and epistemologically.

Other realities, which constitute the legion of notorious facts include Nigeria being a paradox, suffering from historical amnesia and a configuration of dialectical extremes. It is also a metaphor for squandered riches. We blew off opportunities to transform the nation into one of the richest countries in the world. Regrettably, we became the worst tragedy of oil curse’s destructive impact in history. The more oil revenues or riches the nation get, the poorer the masses become. But amid economic life that is relentlessly cruel lies the notorious case of obscene parasitism in one of, if not, the most luxurious governments in the world. The burden of intolerably high cost of its officials and so on is, therefore, an albatross around the neck of Nigerians which keeps them in poverty.

Tragically, Nigeria is home to the only Homo sapiens living on planet earth under the grip of a queer condition that defies all rational explanation – the so called “suffering and smiling” syndrome. Hence, the rating of Nigeria sometime ago as the hub of the happiest people in the world. Toughened by hard times of the past, the resilience of Nigerians may be legendary, but we are today suffering from the evils of a complacent society.

The notorious Nigerian factor is responsible for promoting elitist preferences, raw greed and selfish interests far above the public good in the analysis of our national problems. The Nigerian contagion killed the likes of Nigeria Airways because as a soulless nation we keep quiet in the face of impunity and injustice, when absolute truths are violated and when fundamental values are toyed with. Another tragedy of monumental consequences, the terrible scenario of naira travails, may have been aggravated by intellectually lazy and slavish orientations of pro neo-liberal economic policy proselytes pursuant to imperialists’ economic doom agenda.

Meanwhile, celebrity syndrome grieved the entire political structures and systems and bred a class of arrogant and conceit power-mongers. Giving rise to another notorious fact is the large numbers of fawning sycophants it turns into bootlickers, praise-singers etc, who perceive such immoralities as a way of feathering their own nest. Is it any wonder that while nepotism, tribalism, cronyism, bribery and corruption became prominent features of Nigeria’s political economy, bureaucratic structures encourage large scale stealing by those entrusted with power? In other words, our institutions appear to be modelled and nurtured to promote and sustain greed. Hence, the notoriety of state institutionalized larceny.

To be concluded

Okocha, a Lagos-based independent consultant, wrote via [email protected] and can be reached on 08068338861