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Nigeria: A trudging giant @ 59

Nigeria: A trudging giant @ 59

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“Some would argue that Nigeria has progressed with more hospitals, universities, airports and high rise buildings and keeping the country united. While these proponents may be right, the reality is that countries like China, India, Indonesia and Brazil, whose populations are bigger than Nigeria’s, except for Indonesia, and who were at par with Nigeria in the early 1960s, have all overtaken her. Where are the groundnut pyramids, the cocoa farms and the oil palm plantations? How come that at 59 years the country cannot feed herself? The challenge of insecurity of lives and property, massive unemployment, declining living standards, – the worst since 1960-and total collapse of public infrastructure in the land are inexcusable for a country that is ranked the sixth in global oil production”

The spirit of Nigeria’s founding fathers was not to allow anything to be an obstacle in the struggle for the nation’s independence. Instead, they saw everything as a stepping-stone to victory. Nigeria’s founding fathers enjoyed the highest experience of happiness which came as the result of their expression of good qualities. That Nigeria has outlived many of those who fought tenaciously for her independence 59 years ago calls for major celebration. No person had taken; and indeed should take for granted the audacious sacrifices which have been committed in keeping Nigeria trudging on as one indivisible nation state hence the joy of the 59th anniversary of the country’s nationhood.

However, anybody born on October 1, 1960 – the same year Nigeria had her political independence from Britain – who is still crawling and struggling to meet basic needs of life, cannot be said to have done well. At that age, such a person should be stable and free from the challenges of school runs, housing, accommodation, transportation and poor health for self and family members.

Sadly, this is the case with Nigeria. At 59 years, she is still plagued with curable diseases, massive unemployment, hunger, poverty and under-development evidenced in poor health infrastructure, unpliable roads, inadequate educational facilities, poor transportation network and general insecurity of lives and property among others.

It is strange that the country has been left behind by the rest of the world in several frontiers of development indices, especially when compared with countries that began the race with her in the 1950s and 1960s.

Take a cursory look at these countries, namely: The two Koreas, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Brazil and Ghana. One will be bewildered at what happened to Nigeria which prides herself as the giant of Africa. Whereas Ghana has celebrated one year of uninterrupted power supply over a decade ago, Nigeria’s energy delivery has remained among the poorest in the world – despite the privatization of the power sector. As the country celebrates, most parts of the country hardly see electricity beyond six hours a day; some don’t even see supply for days on end.

Indeed, the tolerable progress made immediately after Independence was eroded by the military which seized power in 1966 with a civil war that lasted between 1967 and January 1970. Thereafter, the decline in the fortunes of the country became a free-fall, even when the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon boasted that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it.

Yet, the petro-dollars came in their billions with the military merely corruptly enriching themselves, their families and their cronies and routinely killing themselves through coups and counter-coups to gain or retain power.

For the nearly two score years that the military held sway, the country saw the following holding power as military Heads of State: Generals Johnson Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida as well as Generals Sani Abacha and Abdusalami Abubakar whose last administration on May 29, 1999, handed over power to Chief Obasanjo as democratically elected President of Nigeria.

It’s noteworthy that each of the military regimes had always justified their takeover of power on corruption allegations and poor leadership. This struggle for power waned the confidence Nigerians had in their military and which has persisted. Not even when some of their finest officers were also killed in those power games. Besides, the military also took the country’s development backwards, unlike what happened in countries where their own military grew their economies and stabilized their politics. Ghana and Indonesia for instance.

These self-serving leaders who re-circled themselves one-after-the-other were not bothered by the massive corruption that has made Nigeria the poverty capital of the world with over 50 percent of her nearly 190 million population living below poverty line; 13.5 million children being out of school, a housing deficit of over 18 million as well as over 30 percent unemployment rate, two digit inflation and a system that has failed to protect her citizens from violent criminalities, armed robberies , banditry, herdsmen killings, kidnappings and insurgency.

Today, as the country celebrates 59 years of independence, it is on record that the country has lost over 10,000 lives to the acts of insurgence by Boko Haram in the North Eastern part of the country where also, some 22,000 people including the Chibok girls and Leah Sharibu, the Christian, who refused to deny her faith to gain freedom are still missing since the ‘war’ started 10 years ago. The humanitarian challenge posed by the insurgency remains the worst after the civil war in 1970.
Unfortunately, the country’s political elite appear to be clueless on what should be done to give the citizens some hope even in despair and tribulation.

We say so because, since the return of democratic rule in 1999, the political elite have continued to behave as if they do not owe Nigerians the responsibility of making things better than they met them. They have continued in their selfish, brazen and reckless behaviours with little regard to the principles of democracy, rule of law, accountability and responsible governance. This should stop.

Some would argue that Nigeria has progressed with more hospitals, universities, airports and high rise buildings and keeping the country united. While these proponents may be right, the reality is that countries like China, India, Indonesia and Brazil, whose populations are bigger than Nigeria’s, except for Indonesia, and who were at par with Nigeria in the early 1960s, have all overtaken her. Where are the groundnut pyramids, the cocoa farms and the oil palm plantations? How come that at 59 years the country cannot feed herself? The challenge of insecurity of lives and property, massive unemployment, declining living standards, – the worst since 1960-and total collapse of public infrastructure in the land are inexcusable for a country that is ranked the sixth in global oil production.

Regrettably, the concerted and genuine efforts by President Obasanjo immediately on assumption of office in 1999 to rekindle national integration and nation building, which were also followed by both President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Jonathan through painstaking religious and ethnic balance, political tolerance, economic inclusiveness and respect for the rule of law and the judiciary appeared to have all been thrown overboard by the Buhari presidency, especially in his first tenure as civilian president. We urge the president to use his second tenure to correct these perceived anomalies. Buhari must know that Nigeria belongs to every Nigerian and anybody privileged to lead her must do so in trust to all Nigerians. There is the argument that President Buhari’s current disposition to power has not shifted from what it was in 1983 – as Military Head of State.

We find it unacceptable that the economy, which slipped into recession under him, is still sluggish in recovery, with its growth rate of less than two percent which is far less than the growth rate of over three percent of the population. No country develops in this way as that would mean more people being born into poverty When President Buhari toppled Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s government in 1983 as military officer, he described the country’s specialist hospitals as mere “consulting clinics”. Today, as civilian President, Buhari enjoys medical tourism abroad when the hospitals in Nigeria are now without consultants. His administration has also seen Nigeria more divided along religious and ethnic lines since after the civil war. Never in the history of this country has a President appointed only his tribesmen in all security positions in the land as he has done. These appointees are also of the same Islamic faith in a country with religious diversities. This impunity by the Buhari government must stop.

The Buhari government has a task to galvanize Nigerians for national unity and purposeful leadership. As noted earlier, all hope is not lost. We therefore challenge the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government to be just, fair and equitable to all Nigerians in order to engender the development of the nation. The president should act like a statesman that he is by mobilizing the entire citizenry for the development of the nation. He should stop forthwith, any form of partisanship, religious and ethnic politics that seem to have polarized the country under his watch. President Buhari should do things differently for better results as the country looks ahead of her Diamond anniversary next year. Buhari promised change. He promised NEXT LEVEL governance. Let him walk the talk now that we may have a better and more prosperous country.

For a better society

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