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ON Thursday, next week, Nigerians will as usual roll out the drums and click the wine glasses to mark the nation’s 55 years of existence as an independent nation. Nigeria like some colonial territories in Africa, regained her independence on October 1, 1960 without shedding of blood like others that fought bitter wars of independence.
Although President Muhammadu Buhari has opted for a low-key N70 million budget independence celebration in keeping with the austere times and mood of the country due to the fall in crude oil prices, our main revenue earner, I would rather suggest for a postponement of the celebration. I say this not because I hate the celebration of such a milestone in the life of our dear country, Nigeria. I opted for zero-celebration because there is indeed nothing to celebrate at all.
One does not have to celebrate his birthday simply because he added another year to his other miserable years of existence without any tangible achievement to show for it. I think birthday should be celebrated if the celebrant has made some remarkable achievements in life worthy of emulation.
Why should Nigerians celebrate when we are still fighting insurgency in the North-East region? Why should Nigerians celebrate when the abducted Chibok schoolgirls are yet to be found? Why should Nigerians celebrate when we have many separatist agitation groups in our midst? Why should Nigerians celebrate when kidnappers and armed robbers are holding the citizenry to ransom?
Why should we celebrate when we cannot define who is a Nigerian citizen? There are so many reasons why I think that this year’s anniversary should be postponed indefinitely until we get our acts right.
It is a matter of deep regret that Nigeria has squandered its God-given potentials to be great among comity of nations. We have wasted our oil wealth through greed and avarice. Some Nigerians believe that oil wealth is a curse and not a blessing. Apart from making us to fight a bitter civil war, it has also made us lazy that we go to Abuja at month end to share oil money. When the oil money is not forthcoming, the governors could not pay workers’ salaries and the Federal Government doles them bailout funds.
Let us use our 55th anniversary to take stock of our existence so far and see what we have done wrongly and those that we have done rightly and make amends for a glorious future. We cannot keep making the same mistakes and think that we shall get it right some day.
Truly, Rome was not built in a day but we have spent 55 years yet we have not built a nation in the real sense of the word. Our nationhood is confronted daily with many foundational problems like the national question and citizenship, system of government, constitutional amendments, number of states and local governments, revenue-making and sharing formula, accurate census, inclusion of women in government, leadership crisis, education of the girl child, illiteracy, disease, poverty, insecurity, and religious fundamentalism, amongst many social ills.
While we are still struggling or pretending to overcome these foundational problems, those we began this journey with like India and Ghana are far ahead of us. Even those that came after us like Botswana and some other Asian countries are better than us.
Nigeria, the promising child of the black world is still a prodigal. It is yet to realize its manifest destiny in Africa and the world. Nigeria is a great disappointment to African patriots like Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama and many others.
At 55, we are still concerned with which tribe to give appointments and which tribe should be denied appointments based on how they cast their votes at election, a personal and voluntary decision. At 55, we cannot boast of accurate census and we plan with unreliable estimates.
At 55, we cannot boast of potable water to every part of Nigeria. Our electricity supply is still epileptic and erratic as ever. Our education system is in dire need of revamping to match with global standards. The same can be said of our healthcare system. Our roads remain among the worst in the world in terms of quality and size coupled with famed poor maintenance culture.
We have been worst hit on leadership scale. Whether under the military or civilian dispensation, Nigeria has not fared any better. We lack both benevolent dictators and servant leaders. The nation’s leadership at all levels is marked with leadership crisis and utter impunity. We still have strongmen and weak institutions. There is lawlessness at virtually all levels.
That is why some politicians dip their hands deep in the till and take as much as they fancy. After all, the state money is their money which they dispense at will. Some state legislature has become rubber stamp of the executive. Hence the legislature cannot check the excesses of the governors.
Let our leaders at all levels wake up and salvage this edifice before it collapses. Nigeria cannot continue to live in dark ages while we are in a digital 21st century global village. If Nigeria is indeed part of this global village, it must do things as done in other parts of the world.
The world’s standard is not different from ours. Our leaders travel outside and see how things are done and come home and short-change the people. They build inferior schools and hospitals and send their wards abroad to school and when sick, they embark on medical tourism.
The fight against corruption is good but there is the urgent need to also fight tribalism, nepotism, illiteracy, political exclusion, religious fanaticism and extreme ideology, poverty, unemployment, social inequality and insecurity.
Some elective positions should be reserved for women. For a start, I suggest that male governorship aspirants pair with female deputies in all the states. They should be given some legislative slots at both the National and State Assemblies.
It is paradoxical that we have itemized our problems and articulated solutions yet we lack the political will to implement them. These include the far-reaching recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. For Nigeria to regain its lost glory and achieve its destiny, our leaders should be visionary, public spirited and self-less.
We need leaders that can propel national development and cohesion. Nigeria deserves a leader that will make us bring out our best and believe in the Nigerian project and also be proud to be regarded first as Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, tongue and creed.