Nigeria: A glimmer of hope at 57!
Three years to the 60th anniversary of her independence from Great Britain, the story of Nigeria has indeed been a mixed bag of missed opportunities, frittered wealth and marginal growth in her economic potentials. All the indices of development – in education, health, agriculture, political and social engineering, infrastructure development, power generation and supply, the manufacturing sector, short and long term strategic planning, and capacity to fully exploit and utilize her natural resources – show a dismal performance by the men and women who have had the privilege of piloting the affairs of the country.
What is worse, fifty-seven years after independence, most distraught Nigerians have continued to query and reject the very basis of the Nigerian State.
When the pre-independence conferences started in earnest in 1953, Nigerians were aglow with optimism. The relentless struggle put up by the nationalists including of Herbert Macaulay, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello and others showed a determination to create a society ‘where no man is oppressed’ and where all Nigerians would realize their full potentials. By 1963 however, optimism gradually gave way to despair and cynicism. The political class mismanaged the post-independence elections and the crisis that followed particularly in the South West. The nation has never really recovered from the tragic after-events of that period.
It was in this climate of fear and uncertainty that the Military sacked the first elected government in Nigeria in January 1966. The counter-coup of July of the same year consolidated the military in government and set the nation into a long unhealthy romance with dictatorships. Unelected and without a popular mandate, they mismanaged the country’s vast resources. The height of it was a bloody and internecine civil war from 1967 to 1970. After the war, the military remained in power, brazenly ousting their counterparts and replacing them in a chain of coup de tat in July 1975, February 1976, December 1983, August 1985 and November 1993. Being untrained in the art of governance, the economy the military politicians mismanaged the economy. Besides, the regional and federalist structure that they inherited was distorted. Indeed, the current tension in the country is one of the negative long-term effects of military misadventure in politics.
The negative effects of military rule have been more far reaching on all fronts. For instance, education that ought to have been consolidated has been left ill-funded, poorly planned and weakened. Public primary and secondary schools across the country are now empty shells. The universities are in perpetual crisis owing to poor funding. Education, yes education, is the bedrock of any society that wishes to realize its full potentials. Manpower development, which enhances the human resource base of any country, requires consistent and credible policies via education over a long period of time. Sadly today, our university graduates cannot boast of being thoroughly schooled in modern techniques. The reasons are quite clear: Laboratories and classrooms are substandard in most cases. The national will to make education top priority has been lacking. Consequently, the elite continue to send their wards to foreign institutions for further education. Definitely, the State is not committed to investing in this strategic sector.
As we celebrate today, we should wage a war on mediocrity that has become our lot. It is therefore our view that a radical curriculum review based on our cultural peculiarities should be on the priority list of all state and federal governments today.
The Health sector remains a nightmare to Nigerians. Hospitals lack equipment to handle even simple, let alone complex cases. As a nation, therefore millions of hard-earned foreign exchange is spent through visits to foreign hospitals. To know that our Teaching Hospitals once had excellent services and treated visiting patients from Asia and Europe is frustrating. These same hospitals are now in a state of anomy, barely carrying out routine services. Where did the rains start beating us? Even the President passed a vote of no confidence in the health sector by his own medical checkups and treatment in the U.K.
In the Agriculture sector the country cannot be said to have a pass mark. Any nation that cannot feed its population after fifty-seven years of political independence cannot be taken seriously in the comity of nations. Farming remains largely manual, devoid of the benefits of modern mechanized farming equipment. Subsistence farming cannot sustain a nation. Food preservation is virtually nil. The careful planning, which produced the groundnut pyramids and cocoa was abandoned with the discovery of oil. Manufacturing is not one of the nation’s strong points. Companies argue that it is often cheaper to import finished goods than producing them in the country because of high costs of local production. The textile industry, which once thrived and produced local fabrics, is one of such examples. Another example can be found in the tyre production subsector.
In spite of the huge natural crude oil resource, which the nation has, she still imports fuel to meet its energy needs. The refineries are not functioning at useful capacity. Thus oil has not been given added value. This has also affected power generation and distribution. Once in the history of the nation power failure was a rarity; now it is a national pastime. In spite of private sector participation through unbundling, the power sector’s electricity supply is still epileptic.
On the positive side we have managed to sustain democracy as a stable of government for nearly two decades. The government has also embarked on an open confrontation with the monster of official corruption. While we commend this effort, we also call on the government to ensure that impartiality and openness should be a critical factor in the fight.
The era of military intervention in governance is over or so it seems. Military adventurism into the corridors of political power is now an anachronism. The Army should not be allowed to slowly crawl into the democratic space. It is now left for the political class to manage the country to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. From all indications, there has been an increase in agitations against the current structure of the Federation. On the 57th anniversary of our independence therefore, the nation is in need of statesmen to steer the ship of state from the near anarchic situation we have found ourselves.
The clamour for political restructuring of the nation is overwhelming and should not be ignored by the incumbent Government. The space for discussions and negotiations should be tolerated and broadened. This is the spirit of democracy. Nigeria, in our view, should remain one nation, but restructured in true federalist terms to guarantee equity, political, economic stability and justice.
It is a paradox of development that on our 57th anniversary, there is little to celebrate. The Buhari administration, which promised change, has been sucked into routine acts of misrule and political insensitivity. A huge chasm is growing between the presidency and the Nigerian people. There is hunger in the land. There are too many of our young people without any form of gainful employment. Cost of living is high and the good life continues to elude millions of our people. The drastic and military approach of the current government to political agitation is increasing tension and uncertainty in the land. The government should listen to the people.
We would, therefore, like to salute the tenacity and resilience of the Nigerian people in the face of economic and political difficulties. The government should harness these virtues to build a solid and virile state that is set for the challenges of the 21st Century. It should invest heavily in education and ensure that we make great minds of our youthful citizens. It should invest in infrastructure, which will stimulate growth. A 57-year-old country is not a young nation. The experiences of the last six odd decades should provide a solid framework to create a great Nigeria. The onus is today on the Buhari administration to create and keep hope alive. May the God of all creation, who has kept the nation together from infancy till date be our guide and guard still. Happy Independence to all!
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