14th September, 2010
A lot has happened since the last Independence Day celebrations. The whole brouhaha over theÂ Christmas day would-be-bomber which led to Nigeria becoming a pariah of sorts has partiallyÂ faded from memory, as more recent news have taken its place. Nigeria has lost a sittingÂ president to natural causes and uncertainty hung in the air for a while, as people ponderedÂ what the next move would be in such an unprecedented situation. The constitution is veryÂ clear on the steps to follow should such a case arise; however, the fear at the time was ifÂ the law would be peacefully obeyed. Some people tried their very best to find means ofÂ circumventing the law, but in the end, they had to let the constitution reign supreme. TheÂ whole speculation over whether the current president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan would run forÂ office come the next election has abated as all signs point to him running for the office ofÂ the president in 2011. The focus right now is on the elections as the hopefuls are preparingÂ themselves and the Nigerian masses are wondering if there will be any difference this timeÂ around, or if it will be business as usual.
Nigeria has come a long way since its independence from Britain in 1960. So much water hasÂ gone under the bridge and now, at 50, it is only right to ask ourselves how we have fared asÂ a nation.
When infrastructure is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is roads. This isÂ because Nigerian roads are overburdened. About 95 per cent of goods and passengers in theÂ country are ferried from one point to the other via the roads. It is the only mode ofÂ transport for many people. Air fares are beyond what the average Nigerian can afford. ThereÂ is no subway system, neither are the waterways an alternative. Many households in NigeriaÂ have at least one car, which means that there are millions of cars on the roads on any givenÂ day. These roads take a lot of pounding and the result is obvious for all to see. TheÂ airports have none of the sophistication which other countries have become used to. TheÂ railroads have lain dormant for so long that market women have turned rail tracks intoÂ places to sell all kinds of products, notwithstanding the risk to their lives from theÂ occasional trains that utilise the tracks. Power supply is exceedingly erratic and all theÂ billions of Naira allegedly poured into reviving this sector have yet to produce anyÂ tangible results. I would like to say that the one area in which giant strides have beenÂ made is communications. The growth of telecommunications in Nigeria has been reallyÂ explosive in a few short years. This is a very lucrative market and the investors have takenÂ matters into their own hands by providing their own power and other kinds of infrastructureÂ that are taken for granted by investors in other countries.
The simple truth is that security in Nigeria is very poor. It is no longer news that theÂ police are under-equipped, under-funded and under-trained to carry out their job in anyÂ meaningful way. There is a dearth of forensic science as a method of apprehending culprits.Â There are no security cameras placed at strategic hot spots of crime to help deter orÂ apprehend criminals. This is why most crimes are committed with impunity. Kidnapping hasÂ become one of those things to live with instead of being fought. People have the burden ofÂ providing their own security, even if it means barricading themselves inside their ownÂ homes.
This is still a volatile issue in a country where there are different types of religion, butÂ mostly Christianity and Islam. Adherents of both faiths have not learnt to coexist inÂ harmony but rather, view each other with suspicion and barely disguised contempt. This isÂ why there have been numerous religious conflicts in the past 50 years which have tragicallyÂ ended the lives of too many souls needlessly. If after 50 years Nigeria has not worked out aÂ formula for the two faiths to live together peacefully, then I wonder when this miracle willÂ happen.
The 1979 Constitution makes it the responsibility of the state and local government toÂ provide education at the primary level. The federal government has concurrent powers withÂ the state government over post-primary education. There is free primary education inÂ Nigeria; however, it has not stopped a lot of people from denying their wards this basicÂ foundation. Househelps are in most cases made to stay at home more days than they go toÂ school; if they go to school at all. It is not uncommon to see very young children in theÂ market hawking different wares when they should be in school. The universities, polytechnicsÂ and colleges of education are overcrowded while the private universities charge prohibitiveÂ fees. The youngsters who make it through the educational system often find it hard to fitÂ into the job market due to a rather high rate of unemployment. The sad reality is thatÂ Nigeria is blessed with truly gifted individuals who will excel if given half the chance.
At the risk of sounding overly negative, it must be said that the healthcare system inÂ Nigeria is a massive failure. You cannot call an ambulance to come to the aid of someone whoÂ needs help. Even if there are ambulances just waiting for such a call, how on earth willÂ they get to the person in time through the eternal traffic jams and network of deplorableÂ roads? If the healthcare system is so fantastic, why is it that highly placed governmentÂ officials or their relatives are airlifted to foreign countries when they have the slightestÂ ailment? The paradox is that Nigerian healthcare professionals are doing exceedingly well inÂ different parts of the world.
How can one evaluate Nigeria without mentioning the ever present corruption? Corruption isÂ the major reason why Nigeria has so many problems which have not been solved such as theÂ lack of power, refineries and good roads. Successive administrations talk about the hugeÂ sums of money that have been spent on these sectors, but nothing exists to validate suchÂ claims. On a brighter note, Nigerians are doing the country proud in different fields.Â Sports, writing, music, inventions and so on.Â I suppose if you can make it in Nigeria, withÂ all the difficulties, then you can make it anywhere in the world.
Telecommunications is a very lucrative market and the investors have taken matters intoÂ their own hands by providing their own power and other kinds of infrastructure that areÂ taken for granted by investors in other countries.
â€¢Akunna Ejim can be reached on [email protected].