NIGERIA AT 51

Nigeria is 51 years old having won independence from Britain on October 1, 1960. The occasion of Nigeria’s independence anniversary offers one a golden opportunity to reflect on her journey from independence to date. There is no doubt that Nigeria at independence held out a lot of promises to Nigerians. Our founding fathers who fought for Nigeria’s independence thought that Nigeria would shortly after independence assume leadership position in the world, considering her enormous human and natural resources.

Looking at Nigeria today, one will not fail to agree to the fact that the promises which independence held out for Nigerians have not been fulfilled. In other words, the beautiful dreams and hopes of the citizens for a better Nigeria have been dashed and shattered on the altar of mediocrity and other negative factors.

It is important to state that there is nothing to celebrate in Nigeria at 51. The living condition of many Nigerians leaves much to be desired. There is hunger and starvation in the land. And suffice it to say that many Nigerians cannot have three square meal a day. Deepening and excruciating poverty have become the lot of a large proportion of Nigerians. Unemployment among school leavers including graduates has reached a dangerous dimension.

The above ugly situation in Nigeria has compelled some citizens to regret over Nigeria’s Independence. A lot of people felt that Nigerians were not mature and fully prepared to cope with the challenge of nationhood which came along with independence. There are people who felt that Britain made a great mistake to have fused both the North and South together as one country.

Apart from Nigerians, foreigners have expressed doubt over the survival of Nigeria as independent state. For instance, America some years back predicted that Nigeria would disintegrate by 2015. The prediction of America was informed by the fact that Nigeria presently has all the indices of a failed state like Somalia. The socio-political and economic problems of Nigeria are frightening and have defied solutions over the years.

Furthermore, sometime last year the embattled strongman of Libya, Muammar Gadaffi reacting to the incessant killings in the North as a result of ethno-religious violence called for the division of Nigeria into two countries. According to him, the Northern part of the country should be a country for the Moslems with capital at Abuja while the Southern part of the country with capital in Lagos should be for the Christians. Many Nigerians rained abuse on Gadafi for speaking his mind. The Senate President, David Mark called him a mad man. However, one important fact Nigerians should not ignore is that Gadafi’s views were made based on the Nigerian-Biafran civil war experience.

The Nigerian military has been severally blamed for the evil that befell Nigeria and made her to remain a cripple at 51 years. In the first place, it had no reason to intervene in the political process of the country in January 1966. Mayor Chukwuma Nzeogwu and his group should have allowed the politicians especially those from the Western part of the country to resolve their differences. Suffice it to say that it was the January 16, 1966 coup that opened the floodgate for many coups in Nigeria and led to the 30 months Nigeria-Biafran civil war which claimed the lives of one million Nigerians.

Many well-meaning Nigerians have attributed the intractable socio-political and economic problems militating against Nigeria to the faculty foundation created by the military after the civil war, having destroyed the foundation built by the founding fathers of Nigeria at independence through the independence constitution. Our nationalists who fought for Nigeria’s independence in their wisdom accepted the federal system of government in view of the socio-cultural and religious diversities among Nigerians. But, unfortunately, the country is practicing unitary system of government in disguise. Consequently, every constituent unit in Nigeria today look up to the federal government to solve her problems. An important feature of federal system of government is derivative principles and fiscal federalism. It compels people to explore their human capital and resources to their own benefit while they give about 50 per cent to the government at the centre.

Chinua Achebe in his book “The Trouble with Nigeria” dissected Nigeria’s problems and put the blame at the doorstep of leadership failure. He catalogued the several ways Nigerians especially the masses have been betrayed by their leaders since independence. However, he took a sweep on Chief Obafemi Awolowo. He accused him of introducing ethnic politics in Nigeria with the sad event which occurred in the Western House of Assembly in 1951 in which Zik of Africa lost power and returned to the East only to edge out Chief Eyo Ita, a minority from Ibibio nation. Chinua Achebe also criticized Zik for his actions against Eyo Ita which strained the relationship between the Igbos and their minority brothers I the then Eastern Region.

President Goodluck Jonathan must rise up to the numerous challenges militating against the progress of Nigeria. He must tackle the power problem and the security challenges. He must also tackle head long the Boko Haram insurgency and the ethno-religious crises in the North. Corruption in Nigeria is a hydra-headed monster that has eaten deep into the nation’s fabric. It is the opinion of many Nigerians that the president must step on the big toes of the sacred cows of this country if he wants Nigerians to take him seriously. The Economic and financial crimes commission (EFFCC) under the leadership of Mr. Farida Waziri has failed in the fight against corruption. The system of selective persecution adopted by the EFCC has made it impossible to prosecute corrupt leaders. If President Jonathan can address the above problems, Nigeria will surely be on the part of greatness. #####