In October 1, 1960, the future of Nigeria was bright. But, 60 years after, there is gap between expectation and reality. The country’s snail-like movement to progress, despite its rich human capital and abundant natural resources, is baffling.
The Federal Government is rolling out drums. Information and Culture Minister Alhaji Layiwola Mohammed, said it will be a year-long celebrations. It may not be cost-effective. But, really, there is a lot to celebrate.
It could be said that Nigeria has made progress in some areas. The country has passed through many difficulties and survived. From few schools at independence, it now boasts of many universities. But, the relic of giant firms and industries that produced great technocrats of old are gone. Nigeria loathes productivity. It is a country of imports and capital flight.
Many Nigerians living in the towns and cities may not have the opportunity to listen to President Muhammadu Buhari’s live independence broadcast tomorrow. It is not because they cannot afford television sets. As usual, electricity is beyond their reach due to power failure.
Those taking the advantage of the independence holiday to travel will endure the hardship of a boring journey on the roads, which are death traps. The infrastructure battle is slow.
Four days ago, another strike by labour was averted.
Already, confused and restless university students are at home, not only due to Covid-19, but owing to the prolonged lecturers’ strike. There is no end in sight yet.
The fear of the future that has engulfed the tertiary students is heightened by the awareness of the soaring number of unemployed graduates roaming the streets in search of elusive jobs.
Across the six geo-political zone, there is no peace. There are security challenges.
Corruption has not abated among public office holders, despite prosecution by anti-graft bodies.
Nigeria, as it is said, is more disunited than it was 60 years ago. Official nepotism is still the watchword. It reflects in appointments to critical positions. Thus, the feelings of marginalisation and exclusion persist.
Gradually, the preoccupation of those in power is the 2023 calculation. This is the story of Nigeria at 60.
It has been a tortuous journey from 1914. Crises of development have continued to assail the ever fragile federation. At independence, Nigeria emerged as a country of many nations struggling for relevance. The sustaining power was the subscription to federalism by the leaders who sought to build on the foundation laid by the colonial masters.
On October 1, 1960, the future was bright. World leaders acknowledged the enormous natural endowment, the quality and quantity of its population, and vast opportunities available to the former British Colony. The three premiers have laid examples of transformational leadership in the Western, Eastern and Northern regions. Also, the colonial masters predicted that, by the mid seventies, Nigeria would become a medium ranking world power playing enviable roles in the comity of nations and shouldering continental responsibilities in times of peace and war.
The 1966 military coup deepened the distrust and suspicion among the unequal regions. Legitimate authorities gave way for dictatorial leadership. The mistake of the first military ruler, Major-General Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi, who foisted the strange unitary system on the country through his controversial unification decree marked the beginning of the journey to gloom.
Sixty-three years after flag independence, the rich country is in pains. Its oil is both a blessing and curse. The natural resource is domiciled in a region. Ironically, the zone is struggling with poverty. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has become a bastion of graft, theft and steal and go.
Life expectancy has dropped abysmally in Nigeria. Basic amenities, including portable water, electricity, medical facilities, and roads, are in pitiable state of disrepair. The only prosperous people are those in government, who have cornered state power and appropriated public resources. Thus, many analysts described Nigeria as a big contract up for grab.
What has Nigeria learned from Asian countries, including India, Singapore and Malaysia? They have left Nigeria behind in the march of development, although they are not more endowed than Nigeria. But, they became the Asian Tigers because they have good leaders.
At 60, the national question has remained unresolved. It was not Nigeria that was colonised by the British. Only kingdoms were colonised. But, independence was restored to Nigeria. Diverse people; incompatible social formations were lumped together. On what terms? The 1999 Constitution has continued to lie against itself. What is the basis for peaceful coexistence? Restructuring, the projected solution, is put in abbeyance. This is a challenge to the National Assembly.
Nigeria is still being confronted by identity crisis. Why is a section still pushing for disintegration or balkanisation? It is not due to feelings of alienation, marginalisation and injustuce?
The country has also continued to grapple with distribution crisis. How the wealth is generated is usually less important than how it is distributed. Thus, there is no fairplay.
The greatest headache of Nigeria at 60 is democratic consolidation. Civil rule was restored in 1999 after a protracted battle against the soldiers of fortune. The country has witnessed an unprecedented political stability. But, to many, democracy ha not been fully attained.
At 60, government should imbibe a culture of reforms. It should cut across sectors.
Leadership should have national outlook.
The cost of governance is high. This makes the picture of recurrent expenditure very worrisome. The corridor of power is attractive because it is perceived as an avenue for private accumulation
Elections are still problematic. It is always war. Poor elections breed illegitimate government. Also, violence and vote buying should attract stiff penalty. Nigeria urgently needs a special tribunal for the trial of electoral terrorists.
Government should resolve the power challenge. If there is electricity, the informal sector will survive. The manufacturing sector will be revived.
Where should Nigeria be in the next 60 years? A technological giant. A great federal democracy. A self-sufficient country. A secured polity. A united nation state.
The government and people should dream great dreams about the future, do away with habits that impede development and lay a concere foundation for future prosperity.