It is unfortunate that Nigerians are asking questions even as we celebrate the 61st Independent Anniversary. They are at a loss at to if this is the Nigeria our founding fathers worked so hard and gained independence for.
There is no contesting the fact that Nigeria is a full-grown adult, perhaps an aspiring grandfather, if not one already, were she to be a human being. Had she been a human being, she would have been counting achievements and not just grappling about looking to find even one for a mention, except as a propaganda. Unfortunately, reeling out strings of achievements is not our lot now. Except the politicians that belong to the ruling class, irrespective of their political party, the other Nigerians are not in any dispute that a lot is going on in the opposite direction in our courty.
No need regurgitating those issues, which we already very well know but, but it is obvious even to the blind man, that we have departed from the path of progress carved by our founding fathers. When our nationalists like the Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello; Prime Minister, Abubakar Balewa; Premier of Western Region, Dr. Obafemi Awolowo and others, came together and worked for Nigeria’s independence, they were not in any doubt they were creating an egalitarian nation that would be the pride of the black race across the globe.
They were not disappointed at all in the outcome of their endeavours. Although the different political parties they emerged from had their different ideologies and programmes, that did not deter them from forging ahead with the pursuit of greater Nigeria as their overall objective.
No doubt the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), the dominant political party in the Northern Region and the nation immediately took off, creating a wonderful economic base, using the groundnut pyramid, to set a developmental base that have defied any form of caricature.
In the East, Zik’s protégé, the Premier of the Eastern Region, Dr. Michael Iheonukara Okpara, turned the Eastern flank of the country into a huge industry and palm plantation with several countries trooping in to learn the techniques he adopted that made the East thick to the extent of building the premier world-class University of Nigeria at Nsukka. In the Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not disappoint anyone as he made cocoa farmland traverse the entire landscape, spurring the populace to nurture a spirit of industry and competition which saw both the Coco House, then the tallest building in Nigeria, the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation and the University College, Ibadan, as unparalleled institutions of unassuming pedigree.
These progenitors of our national heritage set the ball rolling for a healthy national economic revolution based on a healthy competition, a feat that have remained unequalled even globally. But, it is disappointing that several decades down the line, especially in the last 22 years, Nigeria has continued to wobble and tumble. No doubt the military from 1967 up to 1999 set no discernible example to emulate, but it was believed as at 1999 the civilian administration which emerged was capable of restoring the lost dignity of Nigeria and bring this country back to its leadership position as the numero uno among the black nations of the world.
However, it appears that events especially in the past ten years, have not helped matters at all. All with the increasing insecurity situation which skewed out of hand with a band of political thugs hired from both within and across the nation’s boarders in Borno state by political Gladiators, which transmutted to the nation’s, nay West Africa’s nemesis, the Boko Haram sect. The inability of the current President Muhammadu Buhari ‘s administration to appear to seem disturbed by the troubling menace of herdsmen, bandits, kidnappers, unknown gunmen and separatist agitators, worsened the plight of Nigerians, and further pushed her back to the abyss. Insisting that the terrorists have been “technically defeated” have set the eye ballsrolling back and forth in its socket.
There is no gainsaying the fsct that Nigeria is approaching the nadir in terms of every indices of development. Talk about the economy, it is facing the worst crises ever. Not just by the ripple effects of Covid-19 and global economic meltdown, the level of crippling corruption and absence of accountability have made the ordinary Nigerian to just resign to faith regarding the country’s future. As at now, only the personalities piloting affairs at the Presidential Villa, State Government Houses, National Assembly, Central Bank and a few political office holders, understand the direction the nation’s economy is heading to.
The rest, including members of the acadmica, research institutions, business moguls, members of the Organised Business Sector, are confused and have been wallowing in ignorance of the type of economy Nigeria is operating at the moment. Although the 1999 Nigeria’s constitution in Chapter 11, Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy (Section 14(2)(b), unequivocally states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”, but it appears that this inalienable charge given to the government has been totally abdicated. No other time in the annals of this country, not even during the civil war, have security and lives of the citizenry been so threatened as it is now. With millions of people now taking refuge at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps scattered across the country, while others who live in the hinterland are perpetually overwhelmed in uncertainty, the nation is at best a cesspool of armagedon.
On the infrastructural level, almost all the federal and state highways are in a state of disrepair, while rail transportation are being rehabilitated slowly only along the Western Railway Corridor, with no visible effort, aside unfulfilled budgetary announcements, cascading on the Eastern Corridor, described hitherto as the most lucrative corridor at the inception of railway transportation in Nigeria. With the current insistence by the Buhari administration to take railway lines to Maradi in Niger Republic, in preference to expanding the nation’s internal railway lines, even with the slim economic state, it seems we are in hot pursuit diving into a bottomless pit. From the economy to education, the story is not different. With industrial unrest embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and associated trade unions in the sector, apparently due to insincerity of public officials detailed to negotiate with them, as well as industrial unrest affecting almost all other sectors, including hose operating on the health, energy, telecommunications, etc, Nigeria appear to be fighting on all fronts.
The political landscape is also restless. As at now, none of the registered political parties can boast of having horoughly democratise its internal management mechanisms and especially the processes for selection of candidates for an election. Due to lack of transparency and more tendency to political gangsterism and disregard to the rule of law, the political landscape appear to be highly tubor charged, emitting sulphur at every turn and point.The level of assassinations and lawlessness now pervading the country have made several Western countries classify Nigeria as the global topmost risky country.
This classification have denied us foreign direct investments as expatriate Blue chip companies now turn to the neighbouring West African countries to site their businesses. This is in addition to the chilling security advisory dished out daily to their nationals on the bleak security situation in the country.
There is no need regurgitating our woes endlessly because our political leaders know quite well that things are no longer at ease, but will chose not to face the reality. As things stand now, we should urgently do away with our current method of self-assessement, face the reality and start all over to pick the pieces. It is not impossible to recreate Nigeria and restore her dignity. However, doing so will entail people occupying leadership being exposed for who they really are which is the primary reason we are pinned down where we are.
Our politicians are fully aware that even with the current situation whereby they can no longer travel home to their constituents for fear of being waylaid and killed while at their homes, they should realise that all the amorphous greed which they had entenched are meaningless and stupid. Political leaders at the National and state Assemblies, and those at the various Government Houses, should sit up, embrace the reality and accept that things are not moving in the right direction. There is no need prevaricating over this matter. If they continue to pretend that everything is going on well, then, in no distant future, they may have no country to govern as strife is almost engulfing the country and its people.
The lessons of the 61st Independent Anniversary should not sound alarmist to our leadership. It is the reality and we have to face the fact as they are. We cannot continue to play the ostrich. Continuing along the current path is dangerous and except we accept that we are heading towards the rock, we might end up skidding off the path and cascading along the path of Afghanistan. May God forbid that it should be our portion. However, to be forewarned, is to be forearmed.