Are We Jinxed, Obtuse Or Just Incompetent?
THE University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, was rated among the best three in the Commonwealth. Patients were referred from several Commonwealth countries, including India and Pakistan, to the hospital because of the competence of the personnel and quality of the facilities. But that was in the 1960s and the 1970s. Today, the same institution has made a near 180-degree turn. The hospital is gasping for breath now; its personnel are no longer as great as they used to be, the facilities are no longer as good as they were and the hospital is no longer the destination for the sick both within and outside the country. Now, Nigerians who can afford it would rather seek medical care in Ghana, India, Israel, Germany, the United States and other places than head for the UCH. Pray, what is so difficult in maintaining a standard? Why did we allow the UCH to lose its glory? What is wrong with us as a people? Are we jinxed, obtuse, or just incompetent?
Have you been to Obafemi Awolowo Stadium (Liberty Stadium), Ibadan, lately? Don’t dare if you don’t have tears to spare because the patent rot will force you to groan and moan. If you knew what the National Arts Theatre, Lagos, used to be like and you visit the place now without tears flooding your eyes then you must have swallowed the head of a tortoise. The place has slid from the sublime to the ridiculous! The National Stadium in Surulere is an eyesore. The Abuja Stadium is derelict. The National Library is rundown. The Nigeria Airways is history. All the refineries are comatose. The Nigeria Railway is struggling to come back to life after over 20 years in the crypt. The First Family could not even trust the National Hospital to nurse back Yusuf to health when he had a bike accident so he had to be flown to Germany! All things bright and beautiful, Nigerians destroy them. So, what manner of people are we? Are we cursed, stupid or just inept?
Before now, hard work was next to godliness. The filthy lucre was loathed, the easy money was despised. The fraudster was treated like a leper, the rogue was kept at a distance and the dishonest was dishonored. Industry was celebrated. Excellence was rewarded. Honesty was applauded and contentment was the norm. Chieftaincy titles, honourary doctorates and other awards were the preserve of worthy members of the society. But not anymore, now mediocrity is eulogized, honesty is spurned and industry is mocked. Now we worship money. Source of wealth is immaterial; the refrain now is “Ki n sa ti l’owo”. A 35-year old man, Izuchukwu Ezimoha, was arrested in Indonesia with hard drugs, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death. After his execution, his remains were released to his family members who brought same to Nigeria and gave the dead man a heroic burial in his village. There was a Christian wake, a burial service with dancing pallbearers and music. There was an outing service the following Sunday. Excuse me, for a convicted drug dealer! What happened to our values as a people? Have we gone around the bend? Are we all bewitched, unthinking or just confused?
The notorious armed robber who was executed in the public glare in Ibadan, Ishola Oyenusi, had no hiding place even among his people. His kith and kin gave the police the tipoff that led to his arrest. The infamous land grabber, Chief Jimoh Ishola Adeyemi (AKA Ejigbadero), who killed a man so as to lay claim to a large expanse of land in Lagos, could not get away with the insidious crime because some people blew the whistle. Colonel Buka Suka Dimka, who assassinated General Murtala Muhammed in 1976, had his rendezvous with justice because staff of the hotel where he lodged were observant enough to identify him and courageous enough to pass the information to the appropriate quarters. But now the story has changed. We are comfortable with criminals living in our midst. We shield robbers, protect kidnappers, house terrorists and defend corrupt people. It is commonplace in Nigeria for non-governmental organisations and human rights bodies to rise in defence of common thieves. Youths form groups to defend corrupt politicians. University undergraduates will speak in support of a governor who has sold them into slavery through senseless borrowings. Market women will sing the praise of politicians who have stolen the country blind because of a miserable N1,000. Ah! What kind of people are we? Are we normal? Or is there a curse at work against us?
In the First Republic, the best minds led the rest of the pack. Anthony Enahoro, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa and others were not just cerebral, they were also men of impeachable character. They were committed to improving the lives of those they led. But what kind of leaders do we have now? People who are deficient in logic and bankrupt in character, men and women who have no qualms betraying their followers for money and power. There lies the problem; degeneration in societal value and orientation is a reflection of leadership quality. Rot in fish starts from the head. A leader cannot give his people what he lacks. If what we have as leaders are dimwits, charlatans, cultists and greedy people who are goaded by crude accumulation of wealth, we will only make progress in the reverse. But how did we end up with this kind of leaders? Were we hoodwinked, bought or just stupid?
Carl Linnaeus, in 1758, wrote that God had a hierarchy for all His creatures with human beings at the head. He added that even among humans, there is a hierarchy. According to him, Europeans are at the top because they are “light, lively and inventive.” Africans are at the nadir of his ranking, closest to animals, because they are “cunning, slow, negligent and ruled by caprice.”
I have had occasions to contest and dispute Linnaeus’ position. But on further reflections, I am tempted to jettison my earlier position. What manner of people will consistently make progress in the reverse? What manner of people will push forward their worst as their leaders? Is Linnaeus right or are we jinxed, obtuse or just incompetent?