Nigeria @ 50: How Far Have We Gone?


Nigeria is a country in West Africa. It shares boundaries in the west with Republic of  Benin, Chad and Cameroun in the East and Niger in the North. Its coast lies on the gulf  of Guinea in the South and it borders Lake Chad to the northeast. The total area of  Nigeria is 923,768km2 out of it, 910,768km2 is land while water occupies up to 13,000km2.

Nigeria, the world’s most populated black nation, derived its name from Niger area and  came into being in 1914 through the amalgamation of northern and southern protectorates  by the late Sir Lord Lugard.

Nigeria, itself, is 96 years old since the amalgamation. She gained her political  independence from the British Colonialists on Saturday 1 October, 1960 which brought in  indigenous political leadership.

Ever since then, there have been governments both military and civilian which have not to  date, justified the exit of the British colonialists or brought to the people the  political and economic gains of independence. The colonialists and our own early  nationalists created milestones which remain lustrous and prominent like mountain ridges  along the landscape of history.

What is instructive is the knowledge that it is the coalescence of such positive and  negative forces of individuals which has helped to make us what we are, and helped to  affirm our people’s faith in a still enduring, humane ethos which has remained,  to date,  a distinct feature of our identity. The past is certainly important as a backdrop to show  us where we are coming from and hence, furnish us with a firm footing to confront the  world.

It is even more important as a mirror, to show us who we are in the present and to bring  us as well as reflection of who we are going to be in the future.

Nigeria is a country with favourable atmospheric condition that makes her terrain and  vegetation blessed with abundant natural resources. Nigeria is rich in culture and  wealth, prosperous in natural and human resources, endowed with mineral resources that  have become a source of envy to many other nations.

She also prides herself ‘The giant of Africa.’ Where have all these taken us to? After 50  years when we stopped paying obeisance to the Queen, we, the giant of Africa, are still  moving at a snail pace.

When the excavation and extraction of these mineral resources started, especially  petroleum, my dear country was financially buoyant enough to implement her development  plans to the fullest. Then we began to see a country with a promising future, but  immediately we became a sovereign nation, things began to turn upside down. We began to  experience quagmire in development.

Regrettably, however, Nigeria, as a country, has witnessed a lot of political and  economic crises from her independence to date, some of which are the wetie political  uprising of 1965, the military coup of 1966, the civil war of 1967-70, the religious  riots of 1981, 1988, 2002 and 2010 in the northern, the annulment of 1993 presidential  election and so forth.

The greatest crisis rocking Nigeria from her inception as an independent nation are the  monstrous twin brothers of bribery and corruption in both government and private places.  The police, the customs, the civil servants are all collecting bribes as a way of life  and looting the state treasury as well.

They are joined in this shameful acts by the political office holders, other armed forces  members and many other Nigerians. The shameful acts have rubbished the positive  orientation of Nigerians resulting in national infrastructure failure and inhuman  treatment of Nigerians who are derided as criminals all over the world.

Today, nothing seems to be working in Nigeria as education is already bastardised,  electricity supply is epileptic, road network across the country has become death traps,  civil service delivery is laughable, drug peddling activities of Nigerians have reached  an alarming rate, the airports are no longer safe for aircraft to land, mass unemployment  visible everywhere as qualified able-bodied adults are largely unengaged, poor living  standard as most Nigerians cannot afford 3 square meals per day, increasing wave of armed  robbery, kidnapping, assassination, unsafe environments and so forth.

The leadership is not right. This winner takes all syndrome is bad, the average Nigerian  politician is selfish. Once he gets there, he takes everything, leaving nothing for those  coming behind. We cannot run an economy like that. Now the rich cannot sleep because the  poor man is awake. If a man has billions of dollars now he will find it difficult to  drive his Rolls Royce on our roads at night, whereas people still drive Rolls Royce on  the streets of London at 1 a.m.

You can’t find an English man having billions of dollars in his account without being  judiciously utilised. But when you have people here who suddenly amass billions, I call  that primitive stealing. Stealing what you don’t need. Some Nigerian politicians are  behaving like monkeys because when a monkey gets into any farm, it does not eat more than  four combs of corn but it makes sure that it destroys everything.

Therefore, as an independence message to our incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, I  enjoin him to start demonstrating a clear departure from the materialistic tendencies of  his predecessors. His ideology should be tailored towards bequeathing good and enduring  legacy to Nigeria. Wealth without good name amounts to nothing.

Mostly responsible for all the aforementioned problems is the misappropriation of  available resources by our leaders. Nigerians’ hope of seeing their country joining the  developed world has been a mirage. This hope can only be realised if we have dedicated  leaders that wish the country well.

In Nigeria of today, no institutional sector is working. For instance, the education  system in Nigeria is nothing to write home about. From primary to tertiary level, there  is one problem or the other, ranging from non-conducive environment for learning, lack of  educational materials and teaching aids in our schools, frequent industrial action by the  teachers and other non-academic staff.

Also, in the health sector, the facilities available are either outdated or in decay.  This is manifest in the very rampant seeking of medical attention abroad by our leaders  and ther elites even for the simplest health issue.

Talking of power sector in Nigeria is out of it. Nigerians have been experiencing  epileptic and erratic power supply since independence. This has adversely affected our  economy. Infrastructure and social amenities are virtually nonexistent. No potable water,  our roads have turned death traps. No affordable housing accommodation for the mass of  our people. Nothing is on ground to assure Nigerians of a worthy living. As a result, the  life of an average Nigerian has become miserable. Our everyday life is in abject poverty.  We survive on whatever we stumble upon. Our desire is no more available while the  available has become desirable.

Election is here again, I urge all the eligible citizens of this country to cast their  vote wisely in order to elect credible people into our public offices. Do not collect  bribe before you vote because if you do, you have indirectly sold your right and  mortgaged your future.

It is unsavoury to hear that an unrepentant tyrant like General Ibrahim Babangida is  planning to rule us again. His eight dark years of misrule saw the institutionalisation  of corruption and total destruction of our economy. IBB must be stopped at all costs.

However, in spite of these problems confronting the country today, I still hope to have a  Nigeria of my dream where the following will be obtained:

The Nigeria of my dream is the one where all sectors will be working as expected be it  health, education, power, economy among others. I want to see Nigeria’s education system  competing with those of the developed nations like United Kingdom, United States of  America, Japan, Germany, Spain, etc. In the nearest future, I want to see Nigerians enjoy  uninterrupted and stable power supply at affordable tariff. I long for Nigeria’s health  sector equipped with adequate modern facilities. I see a Nigeria having socio-economic  amenities such as functioning potable water, good road network, affordable housing for  all and sundry; zero inflation economy and security of life and property. All these we  should all work earnestly for. And for these to be feasible, there must emerge selfless  leadership – patriotic leaders who will curb the worrisome stealing of public funds meant  for provision of basic amenities for the common benefit of all. Unemployment must also be  tackled headlong.

Nigeria of my dream must guarantee job availability to all able-bodied citizens  especially university and polytechnic graduates.

My dream country must inculcate good value system that de-emphasises materialism and  money worshipping.

I have a dream of a safe Nigeria. A country where there will be no armed robbers, where  one can safely walk around in the night, a great and corrupt-free Nigeria. A Nigeria  where the leaders are approachable and humble, leaders who will not terrorise citizens  with sirens.

I dream of a nation where the honest and just would be celebrated rather than being  persecuted; a society where leaders will listen to good advice and rid their domain of  sycophants.

I dream of a Nigeria where universities are not closed for months and where children of  the rich go to the same schools the children of the poor attend. A country where children  of the rich will not have to go to schools abroad because of lack of school facilities  and teachers.

I dream of a Nigeria where our economic standard will compete with that of other nations,  where people will have access to housing and even the poor could own their own houses.

I dream of one-Nigeria where people from different ethnic groups will peacefully and  harmoniously cohabit.

The Nigeria of my dream will stand out and receive ovations from other nations of the  world. There shall emerge a country with premium human resources development. A country  with democratic value, where elections will be free and fair. A country where every  citizen has equal right, where every citizen can aspire to any position without fear or  molestation.

A country that is self sufficient, that can cater for its teeming population through  comprehensive agricultural development. A country with articulated youth development  programmes.

And for these dreams to be achievable, we need servant leaders who are ready to truly  serve the country selflessly with untiring patriotic zeal and who will be courageous  enough to stamp out corruption in governance and in our day to day businesses.

We have enough resources to develop as a nation but bad governance and corrupt leadership  have been our bane, and if these anomalies are corrected, Nigeria of my dream would not  be a pipe dream.

Above all, Prof. Attahiru Jega, the INEC chairman, should ensure the conduct of a free  and fair 2011 election. This is the greatest 50th birthday gift the Jonathan  administration in conjunction with INEC can give to Nigeria and Nigerians as only this  will make us truly independent, free from internal colonialism of a monstrous cabal.

I am proud to be a Nigerian. What about you?

Happy celebration!

•Abdulkareem Sulaimon is from Owode-Egba, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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