Nigeria gained its independence on October 1, 1960, the country, arguably, is yet to design a political framework that is capable of stirring its development. This is partly because the country’s polity has witnessed series of regime disruptions that have crippled her democracy and political development. Intermittent rules of the civilian; 1960- 1966, 1979-1983 and 1999-till date, out of the 59 years of Nigeria’s post-independence era, 29 years, was marked by military rule. This piece reflects on the journey and highlights reasons the purportedly giant of Africa is yet to get it socio economic bearings right, writes Oleabhiele Valentine Eromonsele
For a nation to subsist fifty-nine years of ethnocentric prejudice while in the tight fist of an epileptic economy, a aggrandized leadership and biting poverty and yet remain by a large extent, territorially unruffled is not a regular story in this century. The Nigerian state is overly lucky on that regard and it is apparently living its quinquagenarius years on a life support―hanging by a thread―waiting to crash―except a miracle happens. And for these same confronting issues, I assumed, the Buhari government opted to have a low-key Independence Day celebration to stay away from the spotlight and avoid the perennial lamentation of every 1st of Oct: What are we celebrating?
And while this move would be quite tactical for an administration that has advertised clear creative deficiency in public relations in many fronts, the question: what are we celebrating? is an embodiment of the core of the Nigerian problem and an understanding of it would help us unpack the issues, perspective and prospect of the nation after fifty-nine years of ceremonial break away from the British Empire.
To get started let’s get sound bites from someplace at the other side of the world. The People’s Republic of China, just as Nigeria was as well celebrating their 70th Independence Day on Tuesday Oct 1st. Although, China maybe two decades older than Nigeria, the World Bank reported that about 850 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty as China’s poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015.In comparison, Nigeria is the pinnacle of global poverty with 89.9 million people lock in the shackles of penury the largest figure for a single country.
Also, the juxtaposition of Singapore and Nigeria has been retold for the umpteenth time, and the contrast in fortune enders the narrative that those who we started out with in the forties, fifties and sixties, even with the advantage of having oil as the hottest commodity in global trade have outpaced us in both development and growth by all numerical and figurative measures. At fifty-nine, nations that are posed for success are already manifesting signs and setting the footprints. However, when the current actualities in Nigeria are evaluated using basic economic indices, the shimmering prospects being intoned by our political leaders is only a façade of gloom.
Taking a retrospective glance, the prevailing reality of Nigeria may have turned out differently had the early pacesetters after independence taken an entirely different trajectory towards sociopolitical and economic development. And despite the country appearing to have kicked off on a promising start with a parliamentary system of government premiered by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the military put a foot to the door momentarily when Gen Aguyi Ironsi took over power after a failed coup, and then everything went on autopilot, eventually birthing a civil war that the country never recuperated from.
Generations later, the ripple effect of that early tremor still characterize the fabric of the people, stagnating them in a quagmire of factionalism and greed which ironically was the very essence of what Major Chukwuma Ezeogwu, the 1966 coup plotter, alleged to be his motive. While the veracity of Ezeogwu’s assertion could be questioned, what is truer than fiction however is that the reason he went rogue in 1966 is the same reason Sowore is in detention in 2019.
There are rudimentary pointers of a nation that is determined to excel, or just better than it used to be. These pointers and indicators are very foundational, on which the greater good and finer things of nationhood are built upon. Consider national unity or what is otherwise known as social harmony. The whole that forms the parts of Nigeria are in false unity, and that would be putting it mildly. There is a stack contrast along ethnic and religious line and the root of hostility has deepened and researches have shown that no single factor has retarded a country’s economic development as much as ethic ruckus. Interestingly there has not been any attempt to de-emphasis this disparity, leaving the politicians to prey on it for clout. The idea of Nigeria as a sheer geographical expression only manifesting in ink and paper, devoid of the rudiments of a unified identification and oscillating in a spiral of political and economic catastrophe still overshadow our outlook.
Executive governance has been an adventure in criminality and frontal disregard for the constitution. It has clearly demonstrated that the definition of politics and governance in Nigeria does not include those with moral and ideals.
And while the government of the day has been vociferous about curbing the menace of corruption which is a bane of a failed state, they have only strengthened the antigraft agencies to hunt down perceived political enemies while agents of the government itself stench of monumental financial dishonesty. It has been leadership without philosophy as politician cross-carpet to maintenance allegiances that augment their cash flow and guarantee their political ambition leaving the citizens in distraught, traumatized and alienated.
Amid the security challenges, sluggish economy and uncertainties, President Muhammadu Buhari gave a speech during the muted Independence Day celebration in Abuja. A few takeaway from his speech were promise to increase infrastructure, reform power, monetary policies consistency, revenue generation and human capacity development.
While nothing here is actually alien, we can however draw inference from our inability to build a nation positioned for growth and development. One of the most persistent lessons is that Nigeria is deficient in credible and responsible leadership. Since independence and the advent of military rule, the bar of quality leadership has consistently fallen and it is obviously at its lowest ebb in the administration. The nation and its people cannot grow above the level of it leader’s vision. In Nigeria, the primary aim of the conventional politician is to acquire power and stay politically relevant. Development of the nation and its people are only bonuses.
To elucidate this next point, a cursory look at Newton’s third law of motion would suffice. It is formally stated for every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction. However the attitudes of Nigerians towards the evidential contempt being displayed by its leaders on issues that affect the core of the populace defy this law and put it to the gutters. Apparently the people are tired of being tired. And that’s no pun at all.
Holding leaders accountable is a fundamental obligation of the citizenry. Without this, political office holders have assumed accountability and responsibility is a choice and not a necessity, thereby setting a dangerous precedence that has become our new outlook. And this abhorrent approach to leadership has diffused into the psychology of the civil service and private sector, positioning the country for a whirlwind misadventure that would take decades to halt and curb. Suffice to mention that amongst many other possibilities, poverty and fear of persecution has both played a greater role in weathering the storm that could have drawn leaders into scrutiny by the majority of people. Poverty and fear is a potent weapon to divide public opinion and shield politicians.
The prospect of Nigeria rebuilding a solid foundation that economic prosperity and human capital development can be galvanized on would require a conscious and collective effort to restructure the country. The current system of governance has exposed many loopholes that enables mediocrity and devalues merit. A sincere decision to restructuring of the federation would spur growth and development.
Nigeria @ 59: Be Hopeful— Angela Johnson
Angela Johnson, the presidential candidate of the Alliance for United Nigeria, AUN, is delighted to join patriotic Nigerians all over the world in celebrating our dear country’s 59th Independence Celebration. Despite the monumental lost of hope by Nigerians in the Nigeria system’ orchestrated by unresolved insecurity, hunger, epileptic power supply, economic down turn, killings of Nigerians abroad and policy somersaults, I admonish our citizens to be full of hope. All hope is not lost. God still loves Nigeria and things will be better.
At this time when other countries are reinventing their potential, the prevailing abuse of governance through disobedience to court orders by government, growing local and foreign debts with no corresponding uplift in living standard, dysfunctional educational and health system, politicizing minimum wage and inability to enthrone food sufficiency remain unacceptable. However, we must all collectively allow our patriotic spirit to drive our attitudes in the face of multi-ethnic and religious uprisings as we can only achieve our objective as one indivisible country.
At 59, we should begin to see the unity of the country as non negotiable; a country that has become indivisible. As citizens, we should therefore think less about tribal and religious differences and think more about the harmony and progress of the country. I call for peaceful co-existence among Nigerians irrespective of their religious beliefs. We should live in peace and avoid any form of violence.
As a matter of fact, at 59 years of age, Nigerians should also grow beyond ethnic war songs. Hence, ethnic associations and groups beating ethnic war drums should discontinue. Such tendencies have no meaningful contribution to the desired prosperity of the country. We should also leverage on the 59th Independence event to pray for God’s intervention in the affairs of the nation.
Alliance for United Nigeria,AUN, remains committed to ushering only a people oriented government that is responsive to the needs of the governed in the years ahead through the enablement of Nigerians. May the good Lord bless Nigeria people in particular and Nigerians in general on this momentous period of 59th Independence celebration.