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Opinions of Friday, 5 March 2021

Columnist: The Nation

Nigerian in Ghana…The shame

One dollar exchanges for 5.74 cedis. The same dollar exchanges for N480. And one cedis exchanges for N90. Nigeria is not the giant of Africa. Ghana is the giant of Africa. Nigeria must learn to be humble.

From its entry point, Ghana’s Kotoka International Airport (KIA) unfurls in grandeur; its clean, polished floors, sparkling toilets, orderly processions, polite and very professional staff will definitely astound you compared to Nigeria’s much-hyped yet under-performing Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA). The Ghanaian civil aviation authorities did really well to harmonise the country’s airport operations with cutting-edge technology; the result is a seamless operation, from passenger check-in to boarding of aircraft.

If entry points are acceptable windows into the soul of a nation, and immigration staff ambassadors of every country, Nigeria stands as a gangrenous sore in comparison to Ghana.

Of course, Ghana isn’t some Eldorado, too much of the country resonates Nigeria but the society works.

Nigeria, on the other hand, flaunts an under-exploited landmass and citizens who passionately believe that their country is a zoo. Immigration staff ask for tips at entry point. Some do so with a smile, others simply harass you for it.

From check-in to baggage handling, you are accosted by vile, mean-spirited aviation staff and airline officials. The few times you are enjoy the rare luck of a pleasant aviation worker, there must be the possibility of handing out a tip to the individual.

Every Nigerian experiences great shame checking in and out Ghana’s international airport. It dwarfs the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) in no small measure. As the Yoruba would say, Igi imu jina sori.

It is hardly surprising then that the Kotoka International Airport was recognised as the “Best Airport in Africa” for both 2019 and 2020 by the Airports Council International (ACI).

In examining the Ghana and Nigerian airports, we undoubtedly must face and appreciate the irony of the inherent metaphor. Ghana’s studious uplift of its entry point represents several aspects of its dominance over Nigeria in various phases of existence.

The Nigerian government’s disposition to governance is reminiscent of a has-been nation that is sorely obsessive about her history thus clinging to old glory as a necessary performance of will and pseudo-therapy to withstand the storms of institutionalised corruption and citizenry’s disillusionment.

Investors and tourists are more favourably disposed to Ghana hence they choose the country ahead of Nigeria while making investment and leisure decisions. This has translated to noticeable differences in revenue generated by both countries.

For instance, in 2018, Nigeria recorded $1.9bn in FDI inflows, down sharply from $3.5bn in 2017. Ghana, in comparison, recorded $3.5bn in 2018, up from $3.2bn in 2017 – a remarkable feat for a country with a population six times smaller than Nigeria, argued The African Report.

The intractable failures that afflict Nigeria, from institutionalized corruption, mismanaged economy to abuse of the constitution, substandard education and health care to terrorism in the northeast can be blamed on the masses. More complicit are the country’s political class and the institutions that produce the political elite.

The masses make it possible for an insentient, inept political class to hold on to power to the detriment of the country.

Could Nigerians fare better at choosing their own leaders? First, we must get it right with the citizenship enterprise. Our impoverished minds will never produce the kind of quality citizenship germane to Nigeria’s rebirth.

Sterling citizenship is the fruit of higher learning. In 1967, Theodor Adorno wrote an essay titled “Education After Auschwitz.” He argued that the moral corruption that made the Holocaust possible remained “largely unchanged” and that “the mechanisms that render people capable of such deeds” must be uncovered, examined, and critiqued through education.

There is no gainsaying Nigeria suffers the affliction of moral corruption at insidious and degenerate levels reminiscent of the Holocaust era. To avoid such consequences like the holocaust, the society must foster more progressive scholarship and family institutions. Our schools must teach more than skills.

They have to impart humaneness and values. Failure to do that would afflict us with another civil war, or the kind of Auschwitz Adorno warned us about.

At the moment, Nigeria dissembles to the designs of her corrupt leadership. The latter capitalizes on the heathen dialectic of partisan politics, which is sweepingly comprehensive and accurate about electorate mind and nature. Nigerians vote for tribe, money, and random bigotries.

Politicians know Nigeria thrives as a tribal cesspit and they encourage the country’s immersion in ethnicised muck. In handling the brewing killer-herdsmen vs farmers crisis, for instance, politicians, state governors, the presidency have successfully weaponized the crisis into an ethnic war.

While urging the citizenry to desist from ethnic profiling, they recruit, arm and empower militia and thugs to foment chaos – as revealed by a herdsman in a trending video.

They have diverted the citizenry’s attention away from the real cause of the crisis; their corrupt, feckless leadership. Using cohorts in the media and across party lines, they have successfully steered the discussion away from issues of their failures at governance, government ineptitude, embezzlement of public fund, nepotism, and instead, instigate the citizenry.

Their subtle admonitions and tough talk must be dismissed as shabby artifice. Their ‘truths’ and ‘solutions’ to the crisis are products and vectors of toxic altruism, a system of thought that cloaks cunning and subterfuge under the thick veil of patriotism, in a cutthroat jostle for political and socioeconomic resources.

At the backdrop of these shameful realities, the citizenry, mostly youth’s political illiteracy is embarrassingly far-flung and subsumed in sentimentality, that, the ruling class has learned to gleefully re-invent a political devil in the opposition party, community or tribe, to exploit their ignorance and intolerance.

The youth rant that they have been excluded from power at the state and federal level yet they have populated Nigerian politics for 61 years as thugs, murderers, vote-sellers, rhetoricians and canon-fodder for mayhem.

The altarpiece of their presence manifests in every political season, when the incumbent ruling class, comprising men and women, who previously identified as youth five to seven decades ago, deploy them as unthinking muscles, emissaries of death and destruction.

It’s about time the youth participated constructively in the political process. Nigeria’s current dilemma is a consequence of choices and perversions of the incumbent ruling class, whose collective, pathological self-interest derailed a long train of progress, while exacerbating and ignoring existential threats.

The ruling class’ sociopathic need for instant gratification pushed them to midwife equally sociopathic policies, causing them to fritter away an enormous inheritance, and when that was exhausted, to mortgage the future.

Thus there is urgent need for Nigeria’s youth to coalesce into more definitive roles and forms and make informed choices – like replacing corrupt, dangerous leadership with humane peers.

Until then, Nigeria will continue to careen down the steep ravine of decline and endure shameful truths like her inferiority to neighbouring countries like Ghana.

In 1983, Nigeria, hard hit by declining oil revenue and corruption, expelled two million undocumented West African migrants, half of whom were Ghanaians thus birthing the ‘Ghana must go’ movement.

Thirty-eight years after, Nigerians would happily relocate to Ghana for its stable securities, among other reasons.

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