Nigeria At 55: The Missing Link



Kevin Nengia

At the church service to commemorate Nigeria’s 55th Independence anniversary celebrations held at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Diobu in Port Harcourt on Sunday, Archbishop of the Niger Delta Province, Most Rev. Ignatius Kattey started his sermon on a sarcastic note. Instead of singing the current national anthem, the Anglican priest started humming the old national anthem, “Nigeria We Hail Thee” and was followed by few persons in the congregation.

After the anthem came to an end, the archbishop burst into laughter saying that, “for me the old anthem sounds civil, this new one sounds like we are marching to war and is military-like.” While many were caught feeling nostalgic, the priest inadvertently was pointing at the disconnect between the old and the new. Perhaps, for Kattey, Nigeria is like an old Peugeot 505 carcass fitted with a new Toyota Hilux engine. He wondered why after 55 years of independence many rural areas could not have access to good roads and water despite the country’s huge economic resource.

According to the Anglican bishop, since after independence in 1960 only the Mid-West State had been created by civilian administrations and since the country transited into civilian rule in 1999 no state has also been created but rather corruption is still rampant.

He lamented the deteriorating security situation all over the country which he said the army and police cannot handle alone.

Sharing  Bishop Kattey’s view on the Nigeria development challenge two years ago, former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu at a lecture he presented at the Shell’s Club Port Harcourt to mark the nation’s 53rd Independence titled, “Leadership and National Development: The Missing Link” held that, “Our economy failed simply because the institutions were hijacked by public officers more concerned with their personal welfares than in the development of the nation”.

The Presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011 elections lamented that most of the leaders Nigeria has today only has their immediate interests at heart, and not the nation.

Ribadu had compared the country’s fortune 20 years ago to what it is now and remarked that, “It’s simply impossible to compare our economy, despite our resources, to theirs. None of those countries are on the same low level with us today”.

The view of the former EFCC’s boss was held by Queen Josephine Diete- Spiff. She averred that Nigeria’s weakest link is associated with the greediness of its leaders. “It is not a matter of the executive, legislature or executive because even the three arms of government are competing to have the larger share of the national resource.”

The wife of the first military governor of the state and Amayanabo of Twon Brass further explained that as far as there is greed in the system Nigeria will continue to witness turmoil and stagnation in its development. “Until we have people who are selfless, the three arms of government will continue to be at the throat of each other.”

The best way to reverse the trend she argued is to learn from the past, as she called for effective laws to check corruption at all levels, “ what we have is enough to go round,” she maintained.

But Prof Mark Anikpo of the Centre for Ethnic and Conflict Studies, the missing link in Nigeria’s development is from the executive arm. “No matter how you look at it” Anikpo insisted, “the executive is the engine room of government. The existence of the legislature and judiciary is all about fixing the democratic system.”

Prof Anikpo argued that the implementation of the policies and programmes of government rests on the shoulders of the executive and therefore they should be blamed for the slow pace of development in the country. For him, once there is a disconnect from the executive and the other arms of government then there will be a system breakdown.

Asked how such could be reversed Anikpo remarked, “Let the executive proffer people-oriented policies and programmes then the other arms will come along in the scheme of things.”

Conversely, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Ikuinyi Owaji, Ibani believed that the three arms of government do not have a missing link, “In Rivers State we are working together,” he said; but is of the view that efforts should be made to tailor developmental projects in tune with people demands.

Rt. Hon. Ibani stated that for Nigeria to move forward all arms of government must look towards one direction, while reasoning that the oversight function of the legislature is also vital to balance the equation in governance.

The same view was held by Caretaker Chairman of Eleme Local Government Area, Barrister Phillip Okparaji as he submitted that there is no missing link except for minor altercations especially in the legislative arm.

Okparaji is of the view that once the legislature puts its house in order Nigeria will move forward since the judiciary only interprets laws and nothing else. He described the legislature as the nucleus of government which oversees both the judiciary and the executive arms.

The Eleme CTC Chairman further suggested the need for effective law making as panacea to Nigeria’s development hiccups. “Once the laws are right then it becomes easier for the executive to implement and the judiciary interprets.”

For his part, an educationist, Mr. Henry Ewere, has urged the political class to eschew bitterness and unhealthy rivalry if they hope to impact positively on the citizens.

Ewere said this in Lagos during the Inter-House Sports Competition of the Ronik International School, Ejigbo.

“This is the missing link in our leadership today and we do not intend that our children continue in this inglorious tradition. Sport is one thing that unites us as a nation. I wish our leaders would take a cue from that”,  he submitted.

Ewere, who chaired the ceremony, urged the political leaders to take a cue from the team spirit often exhibited by athletes.

On the best way to put the country on the path of greatness, Ribadu declared, “To get back fully on the track, we need to refocus our energies and commitment in cleaning up critical institutions. We need reforms that will facilitate evolution of institutions that are responsive to our existence and plights. Those institutions – public and private- should be exorcised from culture of nepotism which feeds the corruption cankerworm. In this age of competition and rapid transformation of everything, it is our own challenge to come up with out of the box ideas capable of changing our fortunes beyond the figures.”

The former anti-corruption czar argued that the country’s missing link is as a result of its poor and inconsistent economic policies and programmes, while recalling the old groundnut pyramid and cocoa in the west which were later abandoned as oil was discovered in large quantity in the South-South. The country’s woes, he emphasised, started when oil became the main stay of the economy and the fight for resource at the centre became intense.

“It is however pertinent to state here that our strength as a country is not in oil- which may not be there tomorrow, as it was not there yesterday – but it rather lies in our number and other demographic wealth which are anchored on our resolve to stay peacefully together,” Ribadu suggested .