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Nigeria at 60: Is there still hope?, by Abdullahi D Mohammed




The union jack, British Symbol of Colonialism and authority was finally lowered on october 1,1960. That episode marked the end of 100 years of British rule over Nigeria, and ushered in indepence from foreign rule to self-rule. The hope, aspiration enthusiam and optimism reached a crescendo.

To many,  especially the founding fathers, the era of self-rule is that which heralded prosperity, given the abundant human and natural resources. As a young independent nation, the whole of Africa looked toward Nigeria for directions and inspiration.

The young nation, and its set of new leaders did not disappoint. Two years after Independence, 1962 to be precise,  the government formulated series  of about four plans, aimed at sustained economic growth and economic independence. The emphasis are on projects which will most rapidly increase and harness domestic resources available for future investment. The plan also harped on the need for improving living standard and redistribution of incomes and wealth across all strata and region, across the nation. These are the First National Development Plan, (1962-1968); the Second National Development Plan, (1970-1974); the Third National Development Plan, (1975-1980) and the Fourth National Development Plan, (1981-1985).

Despite multi-faceted challenges, the first plan birthed the Kainji Dam and the development of the lower Niger River. For obvious reasons and sincerity of purpose, the Kainji Dam is still in use till date, playing critical role in Nigeria’s energy and power sector.

However, civil unrest, military incursion had inherently stalled attainment of the full objectives of the plans. Political instability in the formative stage of the program might also be responsible for some hiccups. Regardless that, had demonstrated how resolute  and determined the founding fathers had wished for the country to be prosperous and economically and socially independent. They were passionate about the unity, progress and development of the country to lead the pack and play a central role in international political economy.

60 years after independence, it is safe to say, the vision,  zeal and motivation our leaders past had is visibly lacking with the type of leadership  we presently have. Obviously, the leadership style adopted by present and successive government negates the principles of good governance and equity. The model, if there is any, had not and cannot lead Nigeria to where the past leaders wished for. Nigeria has become the epicenter of terrorism, proverty, banditry, fraud, corruption and other forms of criminality. How did we get here, when, and at what point did Nigeria denegrate to a near-point of a failed state? Most, if not all the indices highlighting the features of a failed state has begun to increasingly manifest in Nigeria.

The crop of leaders steering the affairs of the country seemingly lost it. The country seems to be on a free fail and fall and on the brink. In as much as we wish to rekindle the hope we have in the country, and, restore hope, it is almost futile. It’s not rocket science to put the nation back on the path of growth and development with a sincere determination and resolve. Most devlopment experts agree on simple steps to achieve national growth and sustainable development.

They are thus promoting education; here, investing in education leads to creating an informed society, investing in science and technology based education is a critical recipe that fast-tracks development. China and India are classical example on how technology has held-sway in theirr mainstream economic empancipation.

Sadly, even by UNICEF standard,  Nigeria has failed to implement the 25% budgetary allocation to education. An enlightened, informed and educated person may likely not be brain-washed, deceived, and initiated into terrorism, banditry and ritual killings. Moreso, the myriad of problems that reared its ugly head could be attributed to proverty, which is, a by-product of illiteracy and uneducation.

Which is why, by ignoring this critical aspect, thebNigerian government is in complict. The endless ASUU-FG strife is a pointer that education has been relagated to the back seat in Nigeria.

Power and Agriculture: Power or the energy sector is the most critical in developing a 21st century economy, because many businesses depend on electricity to thrive. Many cottage and large scale industries had wounded up or, in a state of coma across the country. Also, many manufacturing firms had decried the unavailability of power as their ordeal. In recent years, many companies had either shut down, or moved their operations abroad.

From 1999 till date, well over 50 billion dollars had been spent on the power sector, and yet, day and night, Nigerians continue to groan under darkness. Without any apology most households could not watch the October,1st Independence speech due to lack of power.

Agriculture, which should have been the lifeline or backbone of the country has been the most neglected. With vast arable, fertile and rich land, Nigeria does not have business importing any form of food to feed her population.

Successive government’s  over reliance on Oil and Petrodollars had stiffled the growth in the agricultural sector.Malaysia started off at about the same time with Nigeria, today she’s leading the pack in Palm and other agricultural produce.

Nigeria’s Agribusiness drive,  which should have emphasized on Cash crops to help boost her Forex has suffered setback due to government’s nonchalant.

Sadly, 60 years of Independence, Nigeria’s penchant and desire for foreign rice and other products is legendary as it is disheartening. Although, the present administration had shifted its focus to combat foreign importation, more still need to be done in that aspect.

Empowering, real-time/full-time farmers with funds and techniques is as important as air, because, they would be the link to bridge whatever gap in the food supply chain.
Empowering women is yet another indicator of building an econimically viable country.

Women are the custodians of moral values and are considered natural born tutors. By empowering them, and equalizing academic opportunity, countries are likely to increase income by an average of about 25 percent. An economically empowered woman, especially in a rural setting can assist, train and educate her children. Gender based violence, rape and other forms of discrimination must not be condoned if the womanfolk is expected to contribute to the development of the society. The Girl-child education must be priotized by government.

Health and security are hallmarks of a serious and sane government. In Nigeria, 60 years of Independence could not guarantee effective healthcare delivery system. The decay in the health sector is worrisome and alarming. Those in leadership positions, and by extension, the ruling class and the elites had lost faith in the sector. Between 1999 till date, there had been no fewer than 30 strikes by Nigerian doctors and other health workers. The bone of contention had always been inadequate salaries, welfare and benefits, others arose from poor state of medical centers, teaching hospitals or leadership tussle for CMD, the list is endless.

These anomalies further exposed the most vulnerable population to health risk. Maternal and infant mortality rates would rise in the event of such strike. Undaunted, government officials and the elites usually would embark on “Medical Tourism” in choice location across the globe. Infact, Nigeria spends about 1 Billion Dollars annually on medical tourism, with over 500 patients seeking medical attention monthly outside the shores of Nigeria.

Sometime last year, Nigeria’s First Lady decried the condition of the State House clinic, citing non-availability of Malaria testing kits despite humongous amount spent, as captured in the budgetary allocation for that year. The First Family frequently seeks medical attention abroad, leaving government hospitals in sorry and despicable state.

60 years of Independence could not provide a near-perfect  healthcare system in the country, that shows how evil and despicable the ruling and other political class had been.

Since Independence, Nigeria had not been this insecure, even the 1967-70 Civil War hadn’t exposed the country to this level of insecurity. The situation had deteriorated, leading to mistrust and distortion of inter-group relations. Mindless killings, terrorism, armed banditry, fraud and other criminality have become the features of the country. Eleven years on, Boko Haram insurgency has not been quelled; rather, new armed and deadly terrorist groups had emerged in the fringes of the Lake Chad. These groups had killed, destroyed and displaced tens and thousands of people from their ancestral homes across the Northeast of the country. Government, it seems, has lost control of the situation and, cannot tame the insurgency for obvious reasons. Billions of dollars had been expended to fight off and crush the insurgents, but, today, the terrorists are more formidable and deadly. They wittingly prove a tough nut to crack as they constantly laid siege, killed, maimed and destroyed the Nigerian army physically and morally. Daily attacks on military formations and equipment have been common place.

In the past weeks, Borno Governor, Prof.Babagana Zulum escaped an ambush thrice, when his convoy was attacked; the last attack left some 20 security personnel killed including his personal security detail comprising the Army, Mopol, and Civilian JTF. The lackluster response from the federal government arising from the attack on Prof Zulum is pathetic; it portrayed how detached and hopeless the commitment of government towards ending the insurgency is.

There had been an outcry and calls on government to rejig the security apparatus. Infact, almost everyone in Nigeria spoke against the retention of the Service Chiefs; the Presidency refused to heed the call. Obviously, the Service Chiefs had lost touch with reality and outlived their usefulness, they’ve gone past their retirement stage/age, their retainment had withered down enthusiasm among the rank and file in the Army. The motivation is lacking as junior officers become disillusioned, having had their promotion stalled.

Corruption in the military, especially among senior officers is rife; with government doing nothing to address the situation, more officers would quit, and the fight against insurgency untenable.

The security situation in Northwest has assumed a dangerous dimension as residents are killed and displaced daily. Kidnappings is commonplace, as even District and Village Heads were kidnapped and killed when ransom aren’t paid. In Katsina for instance, District Heads threatened to abandon their subjects and relocate since government cannot protect and secure their communities. The North-central had become a theatre of constant clashes between Fulani herders and crop-growers which often led to deaths, destruction and displacement of thousands, thereby affecting agricultural activity – farming.The Southeast, South-South and Southwest had to grapple with the menace of cultism, kidnappings, ritual-killings, economic sabotage,  Biafra agitation and Yahoo.

60 years of Independence ought have united the country against all odds rather than divide her. Nigeria’s diversity ought to have been her greatest strength. As the most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria should have been a model for development. If population is a parameter in measuring the nation’s wealth, as is with China, then Nigeria has no business being counted among poorest nations of the world.

Unity and patriotism determine how economically diverse a nation could be. A united country, inspite of the challenge has the preponderance of attaining greatness.

Unarguably, Nigeria’s greatest enemy is neither corruption nor insecurity, but – disunity and lack of patriotism. This nation was founded on the platform of unity and patriotism, which was why the  progress achieved at the formative stage of the country was visible. Shortly after the first Republic was truncated, successive government began to plant seeds of discord and disunity which has long manifested in the polity today.

60 years on, what we read most about Nigeria is the question of ethnic identity, ethnic nationality, religious and regional affinity. Indigene/settler question had led to constant conflict and ethno-religious crisis in the country. Progress and development is unattainable in a disunited entity. With huge human and material resources at its disposal, Nigeria had no reason being poor, or classified as a near- failed State. 

Leadership question, uneven distribution of resources and corruption has been some active reasons for Nigeria’s sorry state. A nation which does not celebrate and reward excellence, rather acknowledge mediocrity is bound for failures. Only in Nigeria, touts,  criminals and ex convicts found themselves inadvertantly in leadership positions, and, are celebrated.If for instance, a Medical Doctor is deemed fit to be made Minister of Health, as critical as agriculture is, then, a Professor of agriculture should be made Minister of agriculture, that way, Nigeria can harness full potential of Agribusiness and, attain food security and sufficiency.

But, policies of Nigeria’s political class is retrogressively evil and anti-people. They put their interest, that of their family and friends first above national interest. Whatever policy, no matter how impactful, if it’s not tailored along theirs, the chances of it seeing the light of the day is zero.

A corrupt system breeds corrupt leadership which, in turn becomes endemic and stall the progress and growth of any nation. Only recently, Nigeria’s anti-graft agency; the EFCC, was exposed as a harbinger and haven of corruption. The ex EFCC boss, his cronies and associates had their hands full of shameful corrupt practices. Allegations, and counter allegations against the Attorney General of the federation have not been properly investigated. As such, corruption in high places had been allowed to thrive. During lockdown, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs claimed to have fed millions of school children who were at home, further stressing the exercise gulped about 300 million Naira.

Most recently, another anti-graft agency, the ICPC uncovered about N2.67bn School-Feeding funds in an individual personal accounts, the identity of the said individual has not been established.

60 years of Independence should have guided Nigeria on where, how and when to achieve national greatness and cohesion. The journey is painstakingly slow, but, we must persevere. Our commitment and resolve in making this nation great should reach high-pitch. We do not have any country outside this entity. Elections are few years away, we must correct any wrong – at all cost! Happy 60th Anniversary!

Abdullahi D Mohammed is with the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University – Zaria. He writes from Kano.[email protected]m