Nigeria at 60: The mother of all backslides is in the area of human rights

Nigeria at 60: The mother of all backslides is in the area of human rights

Friday, September 18, 2020 2:19 pm


Ifedayo Babalola

By Ifedayo Babalola

There is a video on WhatsApp of a young man narrating what happened in Efon Alaaye (now in Ekiti State) on 10 January, 1949. That was when the authorities hanged Oba Samuel Adeniran Asusumasa Atewogboye 11 for ritual murder of a 15-month old baby.

1949 – 2020 is 71 years. That was before Nigeria was born. That is if you believe Nigeria is only 60 years old simply because we got independence from oyinbo in 1960.
But what does that matter, really? No matter how far back you trace the existence of this country, the usual refrain is, ‘But our dear country is still young…. Rome was not built in a day…. The developed countries did not get to where they are in 60 years…’
Maybe discussing development and progress in a country like this in general terms really serves no useful purpose, because generalisation is bound to give apologists an easy ride.
This video, for example, gives us a yardstick to examine the progress we have made in the area of justice and the right to life (the defence of which we are told is the primary responsibility of government to the citizenry).
71 years ago, ‘a whole Ọba’ (our lesser mortals being broken pieces), was hanged for the murder of the measly little child of a bloody nobody! And to ensure justice, a large chunk of government machinery was unleashed – just for the missing child of a nobody.
Only one peasant, whose exchange rate, if compared to today’s big man, is the worth a naira against the pounds sterling!
Fast forward to 2020. Try to count how many times you have scrolled leisurely past stories of missing children whose loss have no chance of being investigated. If you think we have made progress, think of how you are no longer overcome with the daily reports of twenty people gunned down, pregnant women disembodied, aid workers beheaded, familes kidnapped, and the list goes on. We shrug our shoulders now in exasperation, knowing fully well that nothing will happen except the next mass murder. Progress you think is that?
Discussing if Nigeria has made progress, I repeat, is not a discussion of generalisations. If you do that, the optimists will always win, because all they need do is throw in one of those worn-out escapist sentences like, ‘Nigeria is not as old as European countries.’

Maybe in in his 60th Independence Day anniversary speech, Mr. President will this time express gratitude to Nigeria’s lazy middle class for giving this broken polity a free ride

But, wait a minute. Let me tell you what Europe was doing through its long history: developing social, political and economic systems, discovering electricity, carrying out the industrial revolution, inventing stuff etc. And they have not stopped!
Now, we are not reinventing science and technology, are we? Even socio-political, economic and judicial systems have merely been handed over to us, same as the electric yam pounder which the white man himself does not need.
We did not have to invent the light bulb, the printing press or writing. Yet you think it should take us 600 years to become a decent society?
Yes, I know the problem now. The middle-class is the engine room of change in every developed/developing country – from The US to Europe to China to Malaysia. But unfortunately, the
middle-class is indeed the problem of Nigeria. Period. Maybe in in his 60th Independence Day anniversary speech, Mr. President will this time express gratitude to Nigeria’s lazy middle class for giving this broken polity a free ride.
And before I start my preparations for the celebrations, let me add this. Countries develop or are destroyed incrementally. If you look at our 60 year history, mathematicians can almost plot in details the little step by steps of our decay. And although we focus on infrastructure, the mother of all backslides is in the area of human rights. For example, in 2014, Nigerians could go on the streets to protest peacefully if they felt strongly about an issue. Just in six short years (not sixty), that right, (together with the relics of a once vibrant human rights community) has practically been swept away by the Abuja hurricane.
The best way not to make progress is to take one foot forward and two backwards. Who knows when and if that right will ever be restored!
Happy Independence Day, even though as the years increase, the more dependent we become on our former European colonial master and the newly acquired Asian one.

-Ifedayo Babalola, a public affairs analyst, writes from Ibadan

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