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Nigeria in 1960 and Nigeria in 2020 at a glance

By Aare Afe Babalola, OFR, CON, SAN
01 October 2020   |   2:59 am
1960: Nil – Per Lord Macaulay, 2nd February 1835. “I have travelled across the length and breadth of Africa and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief such wealth I have seen in this country

“Nothing is big or small otherwise by comparison”

1960: Nil – Per Lord Macaulay, 2nd February 1835. “I have travelled across the length and breadth of Africa and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Africans think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”.

2020: Poorest country in the world. Over 50 percent of Nigerians live in extreme poverty; while over 7 million Nigerians are in urgent need of life-saving assistance (European Union Parliament Resolution, January 2020. Also: “Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world” (World Poverty Clock, June 25, 2018)

1960: Everybody had enough – Per Lord Macaulay and my personal experience
2020: Prevalent particularly among the lower class. According to the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises, Nigeria ranks in the list of the world’s 10 hungriest countries. With a score of 27.9, Nigeria suffers from a level of acute hunger and undernutrition that is categorized as “serious”. Nigeria only ranks better than several conflict and war-torn countries.

See European Union
(Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti are the world’s 10 hungriest countries in the world)

1960: No unemployment – Per Lord Macaulay above and also from personal experience
2020: According to the Q2 2020 unemployment report published by Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics, more than 27% of Nigerians are unemployed. One in every two Nigerians is either unemployed or underemployed.

1960: Predominantly farming
2020: Farming abandoned. The occupation of youths is mostly politics

1960: Mainly by retired Civil Servants and Principal of Secondary Schools. They were contented and ready and willing to serve and reform the country without salary but Sitting Allowance.
2020: Now a profession. Highly monetized. Do or die in politics. Mostly for jobless people who rely on godfathers. Politics is now the most lucrative enterprise.

1960: Unknown in Nigeria. Abominable and detested. It was introduced to Nigeria by European, Lebanese and Indian contractors, businessmen. Forbidden by native laws and customs and traditional religion. Instant judgment by Sango, god of Iron and Thunder; Amadioha, god of Thunder and Lightning as well as other deities and shrines.
2020: Prevalent. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2019, Nigeria is the 2nd most corrupt country in West Africa and 34th most corrupt country in the world.

1960: Unknown in Western and Eastern Regions. Beggars were few in the North. Beggars were stoned by youths in Western Nigeria. They were despised and ridiculed in Eastern Nigeria. Begging was unknown in both Western and Eastern regions because there was the dignity of labour and so much contentment.
2020: Common throughout the country. Found on the streets, churches, mosques and at parties.

Terrorism and kidnapping
1960: It existed in the dictionary because governments were responsible and responsive.
2020: Found everywhere. On the street, in the house, in the farm, offices, schools, day and night. According to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria is the 3rd most unsafe and terrorism-prone country in the world, ranking behind only two war-torn countries, Iraq and Afghanistan

Also: According to the United Nations, “Nigeria is a pressure cooker of internal conflicts and generalised violence that must be addressed urgently”. In January 2020, the European Union Parliament moved a motion for urgent resolution of Nigeria’s high level of terrorism and insecurity, stating that “the security situation in Nigeria has significantly deteriorated over the last years, posing a serious threat to regional and international security; whereas human rights violations, violence, criminality, and mass killings are widespread and constantly reported, notably in the North-Eastern Region of the country”. The UK’s recent Foreign Travel Advisory on Nigeria warns that “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Nigeria”. Terrorism is a reaction to oppression and dissatisfaction with the system. Kidnapping and ransoming are products of greed and quests to make quick big money, like those in government stealing and looting.

1960: Liberal. West and East are mostly Christian. North – Islam
2020: Cause of armed conflicts in many states and one of the reasons for the emergence of Boko Haram. These armed conflicts were caused by desperate politicians who sought to appeal to extremist Muslim clerics and their followers (e.g. introduction of sharia). After these politicians won elections they couldn’t control these groups anymore. This paved the way for radical Islamic groups to infiltrate the country thereby fueling expansionist agenda to forcefully dominate the Christians South.

1960: Safe (Day and night). Safest in the night
2020: Night travel is virtually abandoned and if done, it is very risky. Daytime travelling – Fear of kidnapping. Most roads are in poor state of repairs.

Type of government
1960: Federal Constitution. Regional, Parliamentary system. Peaceful until 1965 in the West. Fast development in all Regions
2020: A military sponsored constitution described as constitution made by the people was foisted on the country. The constitution concentrated on the centre compelling federating units to be beggarly and over dependent on the federal government. This unwittingly created a unitary system of government in the name of a federal constitution. Weak and undeveloped states. Constitution: Concentrates power in the Centre; cause of poor development. This also breeds politicians of godfatherism, “handoutism” and transactional leadership.

Class of people
1960: Three classes existed: First Class – The Oba, the Chiefs and Ministers.
Members of House earned only Sitting Allowance. Second Class – Teachers and Civil Servants and some Businessmen. Third Class – ordinary people. No rich or wealthy class.

2020: We now have: Superrich or super-wealthy class; the weakened middle class consists of teachers, civil servants and businessmen and extremely poor people now in the majority. The difference now is that people outrightly steal from government treasury with impunity and impoverish others. Meanwhile, they are not providing any form of employment; they just stash the money away.

1960: Highly qualitative and functional. Compared favourably with that of UK
2020: It has dwindled in quality and functionality. Poor funding, poor infrastructure, strikes and poor accountability in public universities. Vital parts of the curriculum are removed e.g. history.

1960: Nigeria Naira stronger than Dollar and Pound Sterling.
2020: $1 = N462 (parallel market); £1 = N600

Foreign Debt
1960: $150 Million
2020: $40 Billion. Source: US Central Intelligence Agency, Fact Sheet on Nigeria

1960: 45 million
2020: Currently 214 million, and is projected to be 392 million by 2050.
Source: US Central Intelligence Agency, Fact Sheet on Nigeria

What are we celebrating on the 1st of October, 2020? Certainly, our constitutional foundation is in need of restructuring urgently. No amendments to the 1999 military constitution can make 1999 constitution a people’s constitution. In order to avoid imminent collapse of Nigeria, we urgently need a Sovereign National Conference to produce a truly federal constitution similar to 1960/63 constitution. I believe that the strong United States of Nigeria can emerge from a constitution that produces transformational leaders as against transactional leaders.

Aare Afe Babalola is the Founder & Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria