Sunday, 4th June 2023

Nigeria at 61: Betrayal of the founding fathers

By Ayo Baje
04 October 2021   |   3:06 am
Consider the following Breaking News headlines as recently presented by several news media outlets across the country: ”2023: Northern governors reject zoning presidency to south

“To fight against untruth and falsehood,
…to fight for our memory;
for our memory of what things were like –
that is the task of the artist.
A people who no longer remembers
has lost its history and its soul”
– AlekzanderSolzhentsyn’

Consider the following Breaking News headlines as recently presented by several news media outlets across the country: ”2023: Northern governors reject zoning presidency to south, say agitation by southern governors unconstitutional”.

“The Debt Management Office (DMO) says Nigeria’s Public Debt Stock hit N33.107 trillion (about 87.239 billion dollars), as at March 31, 2021”.”$200m Loot: Why Nigerian govt is keeping mum on identities of looters —Malami”. “VAT war: Nigeria’s tax system, problematic”. “How unemployment, underemployment fuel insecurity in Nigeria”-Labour and Employment Minister.”

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 16, 1955 Picture released on November 16, 1955 of first president of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe from 1963 to 1966. – On October 1, 2020, Nigeria celebrates its 60th independence from Britain. (Photo by – / AFP)

As if these saddening news items are not troubling enough, there is the ever-threatening insecurity monster ravaging our dear fatherland and making Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of nations:“Bandits attack military base in Sokoto, many feared dead, injured.” “Gunmen abduct Air Vice Marshal Sikiru Smith in Lagos.” “Gunmen shoot late Dora Akunyili’s husband dead in Anambra.” “Join us in shutting down Nigeria on October 1, IPOB woos Yorubas, Christians, others”. Scary and scandalous, aren’t they? Of course, they are!

But how would the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nyong Essien, P.M. Kale (from the Eastern Region), Abubakar Dipcharima (Northern Region), Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Dr. Olorun-Nimbe and Adeleke Adedoyin (Western Region)- (all of the blessed memory) feel right now. That is if it was possible to bring them back to life to witness the murky socio-economic and political mess our successive political leaders have turned Nigeria into, 61 years after political independence?

Lest we forget, they were the patriots who precisely on August 13, 1947, visited the London Office of the British Colonial Secretary, Arthur Creech-Jones to demand the country’s political independence. It would be recalled that they also used the opportunity to openly criticize the anti-people’s Richards Constitution which attempted to convert Nigeria’s abundant mineral and agricultural resources in favour of the colonialists. They were delegates of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) political party.

So, how would these noble Nigerians feel, if they were alive today to witness a country traumatized by persisting insecurity, quite at variance with the billions of Naira surreptitiously spent to quell it? How would Mike Enahoro (of blessed memory) feel, to see that the country, whose political independence he called for in 1953 is currently bifurcated by nepotism in appointments and promotions?   How would the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nigeria’s foremost federalist, who in his book, ‘Path to Nigerian Freedom’ (1947) presented the first systematic federalist manifesto feel about the country balkanized by ethnic chauvinism?

Similarly, how would Professor Eyo Ita, the philosopher and educationist, who returned to Nigeria from the United States of America in 1933 to form the Nigerian Youth Movement (NYM) in 1934, feel about today’s young ones? That is, especially those still clapping for their oppressors- the greedy politicians in their ‘70s and ‘80s, who were decision-makers in their ‘30s, still hanging on to power and denying them of their moments to excel in governance?

With trillions of revenue in Naira, mostly from crude oil sales, agricultural exports, solid minerals, sundry taxes including Value Added Tax(VAT), from the ‘60s till date, it is a crying shame that Nigeria is currently the world capital of extreme poverty with 93.9 million people in Africa’s most populous country currently living below the poverty line. It still parades some of the most disturbing and dismal global figures in the Human Development Index (HDI) across the globe.

That apart, Nigeria is home to the highest number of school-aged children out-of-school. A survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) indicates that the population of out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world. Nigeria also currently boasts of the world’s highest number of deaths of under-5 children.

Still on the parlous picture of the economy, according to Oxfam Report, between 1960 and 2005, about $20 trillion was stolen from the treasury by public officeholders. This amount is larger than what the GDP of the United States was in 2012 (about $18 trillion). The Report goes further to state in categorical terms that the combined wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men, but at  $29.9 billion could end extreme poverty at a national level. Yet, more than 112 million people are living in poverty in Nigeria, while the country’s richest man would have to spend $1 million (N386 Million) every day for 42 years to exhaust his fortune! So, what does this mean to you and yours truly?

On the way forward for economic growth, the World Bank in its report proposed near-term policy options aimed at reducing inflation by implementing policies that support macroeconomic stability, inclusive growth, and job creation. It also called for the protection of poor households from the impacts of inflation, adding that government must facilitate access to financing for small and medium enterprises in key sectors to mitigate the effects of inflation and accelerate the recovery.

The bitter truth is that the country can no longer succeed with the prevailing high levels of insecurity, nepotistic appointments, decrepit infrastructure, unemployment, job losses, illiteracy and health challenges as they are. The earlier our political leaders sacrifice their ego and greed and allow for holistic restructuring along with true, fiscal federalism the better for us all.

Similarly, the earlier the people are made to understand- through political re-engineering and voter education-that power belongs to them and not their elected or selected leaders the better for us all. It is also time to do away with the high cost of accessing power by millions paid to seek nominations at the part level. And the pay structure of political appointees should be drastically scaled-down in tandem with the harsh economic realities on the ground.

Above all, we need Nigerians who are Nigerians-patriots who are not Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo or whatever ethnic colouration to be elected into positions of political authority and take us to the Promised Land.