AS I move around our cities, I see lots of memoirs and embossments that are no less than efforts to immortalize certain individuals within Nigeria. Some individuals have been named after streets, boulevards, schools and institutions, including monuments and stretches of long ways and some have found their way into our currencies, notes and coins alike, even on postage stamps.
It hasn’t yet occurred to me the ingredients and qualifying standards that sets a man or woman aside in Nigeria that would reckon him or her as a hero or heroine.
Has there ever been any? If there was it could have been in the “good old days”- when we still retained some fragments of discipline and moral conscience that would not allow us name a totally corrupt ex- head of state, a despot and crucial anti- democratic personality after important streets and national artifacts. But now the supposed honour we seem to confer on the so-called deserving Nigerian heroes/heroines and elites seem to bear in itself so much mark of affront and disrespect on the sensibilities of the Nigerian people that sometimes you feel like assaulting such structures that hold the memory of such people.
In my growing years we learned in school important Nigerian statesmen: Nnamdi Azikiwe,Obafemi Awolowo, Mbonu Ojike, Akanu Ibiam, Ahmadu Bello, Ozumba Mbadiwe, Alvan Ikoku, Anthony Enahoro Margaret Ekpo, Mrs. Ransom Kuti.They were called statesmen because they stood for the good of the state. They fought for good of the state. Their lives and philosophy weaved around the good of the state.
We can accept whole-heartedly seeing these great men and women adorn our national space and collective memory because we can account for their character and contributions.
Nigeria’s value construct is in a tail spin that is convulsively out of control. We have an unchecked admittance order in our national hall of fame. A tour to our present hall of fame would furnish a first time visitor a defrauded honours list of absentee honorees who duly merit a national accolade and recognition but are not in the row because they are in the “wrong group”- because the order of merit has changed. The good men and women have to sit outside.
Our hall of fame is famished of quality personages-knocked into poverty by the barren and vain inclusion of people who have toiled to fell the state and robbed her to depravity.
We have conditioned our history to dish out only the false and ugly. Our history bears an image that will frighten the enlightened community who may wish to know those we have honoured and keep honouring.
America will brilliantly and with every sense of dignity beam to the world the content of its honours chambers. The world holds in reckoning the likes of Abraham Lincoln, J.F Kennedy, Martin Luther king. India has given the world Mahatma Ghandi.
Tanzania has produced an icon of moral purity and sublime leadership in Julius Nyererre. Nelson Mandela is an icon that has a symbolic statue in every national hall of fame for demonstrating courage, selflessness and patriotic zeal.
Kwame Nkrummah, Thomas Sankara, Samora Michel were African leaders of repute and respected ideals that made them acceptable heroes within the African psyche.
Our selection process for choosing heroes in Nigeria has offered our nation and the world, past leaders who have been charged with corrupt practices while in office as our heroes. Nigeria has a fresh gazette that teems with names dripping with blood - in that these people instigated and managed a horrendous process where fellow Nigerians were slain. Their leadership produced a combination of greed, conspiracy and vault-looting.
From 1966 till date Nigeria has never produced leaders that radiated globally accepted decorum of fairness, honesty and transparency. Their records had always been patched and muddled with tragic evidences of gross and high-scale corruption.
People who planned and executed coups that cost Nigeria a good deal of resource, persons are still sitting on our honours citadel enjoying to the peak the recognition and goodwill you would normally accord a true patriot.
Today we have a mass-heap of felons, people whose mention of their names would always inflict painful and ignoble memories on our minds and hearts being presented to us as our heroes.
We the older generation might have learned to absorb such punishment and the wounds already inflicted on our personal and collective psyche in being forced to accept people we don’t want as our heroes.
But that’s a betrayal on posterity if we insist on sustaining these images and projecting them far into posterity’s innocent future.
Our nation Nigeria after forty-eight years of existence is standing at the middle of a moral bridge with a totally redemptive option of blowing this bridge from behind or marching with a certain stiff-necked forward option in an accustomed direction.
With the former we would have said goodbye to the poor history of the culture of installing villains as insignias of our national pride and forcing out of our psyche symbols that would hurt and tarnish the purity of our sense of national excellence and honour. The later would only ensure a bastardised social space and a continuum of doom and moral darkness as our children will continue to grope within a void seeking for a hope, and a light to guide them.
No nation can be greater than who and what it honours. If we honour villains we would only be enriching our population with a team of monsters that will only devour and prey on the growing hope of building a progressive nation. If we respect the future of our children and if we truly care for this nation and dream for its high glory we must expunge men and women of dishourable history and character from our honours list.
We should scan our streets and the entire nation space and fell monuments and structures that glorify such persons. We must rename streets and institutions that bear their names. Such acts are not only punitive, to scare prospective offenders but to free our life as a society from the hangover of moral abuse. We can draw fresh power and strength from such act of courage- with which we can move forward and enshrine such practices across our local communities where fraudsters, and robber king pins have been unduly honoured against all ethics of a good conscience.
We can never truly say we are moving forward or have made progress as a nation if we honour men who and women whose life bears no light.