Nigeria At 55: Of Wasted Years, The Way Forward

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Development process. It requires patience, steadfastness, integrity and indeed unrelenting resolve to get things done.

Upon independence in 1960, the founding fathers of the nation grappled with the currents of divides that highlighted our diversity. It was indeed a competition of sorts among the three regions: the Northern, Western and Eastern regions which also typified the three largest ethnic groups of Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo.

Each of these regions pursued development programmes, economic integration endeavours and indeed political cohesion. Those were years, when, the regions were viable and indeed wielded stronger influence more than the centre, as would a confederation.

In 1963, Nigeria became a Republic and later adopted Presidential democracy, in place of the parliamentary system that was. During these years, Nigeria was self-sufficient in  food production as each region developed its resource base and enjoyed bountiful derivation from its hardwork.

More than any thing else, the founding fathers laid the necessary foundation for infrastructural development, economic growth, political cohesion and indeed inter-ethnic and religious harmony. However, the military incursions of 1966,  leading to a Civil War in 1967 and protracted military rule till 1979, in many ways, hampered the sustenance of development efforts and the required actualisation of other set goals.

The infrastructural development programme was abandoned. Agriculture too took a back seat in preference for easy petro-dollars that the nation earned from crude oil sourced predominantly from the Niger Delta.

By the emergence of the Second Republic in 1979, Nigeria’s consumption pattern had changed drastically with the ruling class importing even tooth-pick from other nations. Those years of oil boom also encouraged so much corruption among the ruling class with little or no attention given to basic infrastructure development, investments in education and health, electricity power generation and distribution and indeed human capacity building, resulting in a brain drain.

Little wonder, the military struck barely four years later in December, 1983 and ruled Nigeria for another 16 years. With the three arms of government rolled into one and constitutional powers  thereof, exercised by a military council, Nigerians suffered the ripple effects of absolute power, which many know, corrupts absolutely.

Within those years, very little or no meaningful investments were made in the power sector, very little on improving the nation’s education and health profile among many other emergencies, while military officers amassed so much wealth that naturally fashioned the lifestyle of great number of those who made the political ruling class. Therefore, when democracy was reinstated in 1999, most politicians had imbibed so much flamboyant military culture laced with impunity so much that they got farther and farther away, from the electorate, they were supposed to serve.

In the 16 years that followed, successive governments spent N2.740 trillion on electricity, yet power supply remains a problem. There was very little or no consideration for aggressive investment in petroleum by-products development, manufacturing for local consumption and the necessity to open up the country through road infrastructure. Federal roads became death traps, States were created out of exigency and political gratification without commiserate  economic independence prior to those 16 years, had become not only a burden to themselves but also to the nation.

Today, many States can hardly pay workers’ salaries, because, unlike the original regions, they  lack the necessary economic foundation to be called federating units. Because they lack the foresight to create the necessary investment climate to attract, manufacturing, agricultural and tourism related concerns among several others, their internally generated revenue is almost zero.

It is for that reason that they monthly  rush to the centre for hand-outs sourced mainly from oil export, which proceeds have dwindled beyond imaginable ends, thus, raising the urgent need for Nigeria to look elsewhere. This is where we are as a nation. One that cannot harness its enormous resources for the growth and survival of its peoples and instead imports virtually everything the people need.

At 55, a nation-state ought think like a retiring public servant and plans well for family and children. We must together build upon the enviable political legacy bequeathed by the last administration of President Goodluck Ebele  Jonathan, if we are to deepen democracy.

In years before the last elections, there were predictions by agencies of developed nations that Nigeria would disintegrate by the year 2015. And judging from the nature of intolerance, hatred, desperation, violent vituperations and arms accumulation, that attended the electioneering campaigns, everything pointed to the actualisation of that prediction.

That is why President Jonathan’s rare statesmanly response to the electoral outcome even as an incumbent on the African Continent should not only be hailed but be built-upon by beneficiaries of his political maturity and help deepen democratic culture in the land. All public officers must respect the dictates of separation of powers as a necessary tool to ensure checks and balances.

Surely, the days are gone when the  executive arm determined the type of leadership it needs for both the judiciary and the legislature. Happily, the leadership of the two-chambers of the 8th National Assembly have assured that nothing short of separation of powers and necessary oversight of executive activities will be carried out.

In this regard therefore, we expect the Gen  Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to hasten the formation of a federal cabinet to address the many national concerns begging for attention. Nigerians expect an economic team that would help avert an impending economic recession as warned by the Central Bank of Nigeria, recover stolen funds, revamp the petroleum sector, make our refineries work and establish new ones and above all create jobs for the teeming productive youth of the country.

Even so, government must not relent in encouraging the military to bring to a positive end, the protracted insurgency and terrorist activities in the North Eastern part of the country. It should also increase the momentum of the war against oil theft even as government invests in other substitutes to oil, especially agriculture and tourism.

All these would not succeed unless the peoples of the Niger Delta, direct victims of years of oil prospection and production, with their attendant environment problems and despoliation of lauds, swamps and rivers are economically integrated. With the amnesty programme terminating soon, and rebuilding of the Niger Delta yet to gather full steam, now is the time to pursue an oil-bearing areas’ re-integration project to avert another round of violent agitations by the youth.

The insurgency in the North has taken so much toll, Nigeria cannot afford waging two wars, one in the North and another in the South, at the same time. The fatality rate will be huge and loss of capital most devastating.

While The Tide wishes all Nigerians happy independence, we do condole with Muslim families who lost loved ones to the Haji stampede in Sandi Arabia, in which 64 Nigerians have been confirmed killed, 71 wounded and 144 still missing. Happy Independence.