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Nigeria: It’s high time we healed our divided polity


National assembly building

National assembly building

NIGERIA’S history is chequered. It was last year that Nigeria marked its 100 years of existence as one country.

But our journey to the attainment of political freedom and nationhood was tortuous. Freedom fighters, such as the erudite Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Nwafor Orizu, Anthony Enahoro, and some others fought for the political emancipation of Nigeria from the stranglehold of Western imperialism.

Great jubilation by Nigerians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds greeted our attainment of political freedom. The British imperialists handed over the baton of leadership to Nigerian political leaders on October 1, 1960.

As Nigerians were in charge of the affairs of the country, millions of expectant Nigerians had hoped that our political leaders would transform our country to a highly industrialised and technologically advanced country.

But 55 years after we had gained political independence from Britain, our history is a tale of dashed hope and unrealised dreams.

Nigeria’s economic woes, technological backwardness, and disunity are blamed on bad and inept political leadership that has characterised the country. Chinua Achebe, the great novelist, diagnosed Nigeria as having leadership problem.

The bane of Nigeria is inept, egregious, and rudderless political leadership that is rooted in corruption, visionlessness, religious bigotry, and ethnic hatred. People with leadership qualities and moral probity abound in Nigeria.

Highly educated Nigerians in the Diaspora are contributing to the development of their host countries. But, sadly, Nigeria has never been led by its best and first 11.

The departing British imperialists sowed the seed of the imposition of leaders in Nigeria when they helped Alhaji Tafawa Balewa to become our prime minister in 1960.

Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua – these political leaders, who ruled Nigeria in the past, were products of the imposition although we were hook winked to believe they came through the normal process.

But did any of them take Nigeria to the pinnacle of technological and economical advancement? The answer is a categorical no.

Until 1999, in Nigeria, democratic governance was interspersed with military regimes as the brass hats and jackboots would overthrow civilian government.

Those military leaders believed themselves to be messiahs on redemptive mission. However, they ruined Nigeria instead of putting it on the path of national development.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which is touted as the largest political party in Africa, boasted that it would lead the country for 60 years; it maintained a suffocating stranglehold on Nigeria for 16 unbroken years. And the PDP leadership of Nigeria deepened corruption in the country.

Political leaders who governed the country on the platform of PDP failed to tackle the vexed issues of youth unemployment, corruption, and lack of infrastructural development. Their bumbling and egregious leadership of Nigeria caused disaffection among us.

But, before the conduct of the 2015 presidential election, the All Progressives Congress (APC), a formidable political party was formed. It is a coalition of such political parties as ACN, CPC, ANPP, and a part of APGA. The party has its strongholds in the South West where it was much more promoted, making great in-roads into the North. While APC leaders were busy mobilising grassroots support, the ruling PDP imploded with the concomitant effects of some PDP governors defecting to APC.

President Goodluck Jonathan couldn’t appease the indignant PDP members who felt wronged; and he failed to bring them back to the PDP fold. He was fiddling and engaging in the perpetration of inanities until the APC political tsunami swept him away from office.

The internal crisis that bedevilled PDP and Jonathan’s inability to entrench internal democracy in the party are some of the reasons that contributed to his loss of the 2015 presidential election.

But, the 2015 presidential election has brought to the fore the ethnic differences and religious intolerance that characterised Nigeria since its inception.

We are suspicious of the motives of one another, and fear that the ascension to the loft of power of a man whose ethnic and religious backgrounds are different from ours would lead to the political subjugation of our own ethnic group.

Have we forgotten that the Boko Haram group stepped up its acts of terrorism when Jonathan became our president in 2010? And the cause of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war was partly due to the ethnic distrust and suspicion that existed in our country, then.

Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) is the President-elect, now. It behoves him to see the whole country as his constituency, and unite Nigerians who are antagonistic to one another owing to their ethnic and religious diversities and prejudices. The existence of national unity as well as cohesion is a prerequisite for the economic and technological advancement of a country. A country at war cannot make any progress as anarchical situation undermines political leaders’ developmental initiatives.

More so, the reduction in the global price of crude-oil has the potential of throwing our economy into a tailspin and recession since we have a mono-economy that is based on crude-oil. It is imperative for us to diversify our economy.

In the past, when we had regional governments, huge revenues accrued into the coffers of the government from the export of our agricultural produce to other countries.

But we neglected agriculture when crude oil started yielding more revenue to us than the exportation of our cash crops to other countries. And I urge the incoming president to govern the country based on democratic ethos and principles. Again, he should urgently tackle the issues of insecurity of lives and property, infrastructural deficit, and youth unemployment.

As the leader of Nigeria, he may have the temptation and inclination to embark on a mission of vendetta against his political foes. But, I am advising him not to take actions that will further bifurcate the country along ethnic and religious lines. Nigeria belongs to us all.

And Nigeria’s greatness lies in its diversities. Nigeria will realise its potentialities if political stability is guaranteed in the country.

A united, strong, and indivisible Nigeria cannot be vulnerable to external aggression by its neighbours.

Now, it is high time we healed our troubled political polity.

•Okoye wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State. 08062220654.


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