Nigeria came into existence in 1914 when the
peoples of different political, economic, linguistic, educational and cultural backgrounds were brought together to form a country. The British were responsible for this arrangement. However, in 1960, Nigeria gained political freedom under this arrangement. Now, the question is: how has the country fared in her (54) fifty four years of existence?
As already noted, Nigeria gained political freedom from Britain in 1960. But in less than seven years of independence, the country experienced a military coup on January 15th 1966. Another coup followed shortly after the first one on July 29th, 1966. And yet another one after nine years on July 29th, 1975. Then after eight years another coup took place on December 31 1983. This coup was followed by a palace coup on August 27, 1985. Because of this instability since independence, Nigeria has had fifteen heads of state and government in fifty-four years of her existence. The heads of state and government were Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Belewa, Major General Aguiyi Ironsi, General Yakubu Gowon, General Murtala Muhammed, General Olusegun Obasanjo. Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Shonekan, General Sani Abacha, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
These records show that Nigeria has been very unstable since independence in1960. Why has this been so? Many explanations have been given for this. Some attributed it to tribalism, while others attributed it to greed and corruption.
The major problem in Nigeria since political freedom is “corruption.” This problem has lingered long in the country without any sign of cessation. And because of this problem, anti-corruption agencies have been established in the country. They include the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Independent Corruption Practices Commission (ICPC). Meanwhile, pointing a way out of corruption by public office holders.
Many aspiring public office holders in Nigeria have only one objective in mind and that is to access wealth as much as they can while in public offices. This phenomenon dates back to the early post-independence period when some politically active people were accused of one financial evil doing or the other. The conduct of some of them fell far short of the expectation of honest and responsible people. Corruption among public office holders has been one of the common reasons given to coup leaders for taking over government as already indicated.
Corruption is a serious problem that should be tackled in this country if we should move forward and earn our respect among the comity of nations.
The country also experienced a civil war from 1967-70 during which millions of her citizens perished at battle fronts. The war was contained as a result of the able leadership of General Yakubu Gowon.
The above situation notwithstanding, the country made progress in some sectors. For instance, there is progress in the education sector. At independence, the country had two universities only-University College, Ibadan and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
54 years after, the country now has many federal, state and private universities that have been churning out graduates in various disciplines. This is a pleasant progress in the education sector. We should work hard to improve further in education. It should be noted that a country where ignorance reigns cannot see the light of the day. It is when the citizens are enlightened that progress can be achieved.
In the health sector, the country has made some impact. For instance, Nigeria has developed more active policies in health planning and training as well as in medical research. Some billions of naira had been allocated to the health sector for eradication of such diseases as smallpox, malaria, tuberculosis, and the recent Ebola disease. Meanwhile, more than 5000 health institutions including teaching hospitals have been established in the country.
However, Nigeria still has a long way to go. Majority of the citizens are poor. We should endeavour to create a social security scheme to tackle the problem of poverty. Armed robbery, epileptic electric power, kidnapping, illegal oil bunkering and drug trafficking are the problems that are still with us that need to be tackled. We should all work hard to find solutions to them.
It is when we are able to find solution to our problems that we can move forward. Happy Independence Day, my fellow Nigerians
Muoneke writes from Port Harcourt.
Maria Njideka Muoneke