Today, October 1, 2018 marks the 58th year since Nigeria got her independence as a sovereign nation. It was on Saturday 1st October, 1960 that the Union Jack was lowered and the Nigerian flag hoisted in its place to announce the birth of a new nation amidst world jubilation.
Ordinarily, today would have been a day for all Nigerians to celebrate and offer thanksgiving to God for giving them a nation binding them in love, peace and progress, but the reverse seems to be the case.
Hitherto, the nation’s Independence Day anniversary had been a period of celebration of our nationhood, our freedom to self determination, our independence from British colonial rule.
Regrettably, however, today, what is seen is the absence of peace, unity and progress.
Insecurity occasioned by the criminal activities of murderous herdsmen, Boko Haram terrorists, ethnic/religious violence and kidnapping have made the nation one of the most unsafe places on earth.
The ugly development has been compounded by pervasive corruption and the failure of leadership to point the way out of the threatening calamity.
In rallying Christians to prayers, the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) urged them to pray “`against blood-letting, violence and civil war’’, noting that the unity of the country has been under consistent threat, with citizens polarised along various divides.
Indeed, Nigeria has not been this divided since independence. The quests for secession by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), its proscription, the military intervention, the ongoing controversial debate over restructuring and the failure of the Buhari’s administration to deliver free, fair and credible electoral process in the last few months have compounded the challenges facing the nation.
Buffeted on all sides, what the nation needs today is a leadership that has the courage and political will to address the imbalance that is largely responsible for these agitations.
Across board, the nation needs leaders that will no longer pay lip service to peace and unity of the nation. Nigeria needs true statesmen and patriots who would keep to their promises and take the country to the next level.
It is worrisome that since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates as a united British Colony in 1914 and its independence in 1960 under a federal Constitution fashioned by the people, represented by the leaders of various ethnic nationalities, Nigeria has ever since, not had a constitution fashioned by the people.
Two Constitutions in 1999 and 1998/99 authored by the military which seized power in 1966 were approved by the Supreme Military Council. It is against this background and the imbalances in the socio-economic fabric of the nation that the growing calls for restructuring find relevance and justification.
Elder statesmen who had been at the forefront of the agitations for restructuring said the demand aims to reform the governmental structures and attune them to the needs and wishes of the people.
“In a wider fundamental locus, restructuring is a call for the country to make a new beginning under a new constitution approved and adopted by the people at a referendum”. Prof Ben Nwabueze once said.
The import of this is still lost on many sectional champions as the word restructuring conveys toxic meaning to them; even as the nation operates a federalism that is unitary in practice.
The imbalances that exist in statutory allocations, states creation, federal appointments, infrastructure development, among others, have led to the loud call for the practice of true fiscal federalism.
It is also the attendant marginalization and neglect that threw up self-determination agitations by various groups.
It is instructive that an extensive two-year study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), titled, ‘Journey to Extremism’ which was released in 2017, indicates that exposure to state abuse and marginalization, not religious ideology are better predictors of radicalism.
The study also indicates that those living on the periphery of their country with less access to education and health services are more vulnerable to be recruited to violent extremist groups. With millions of unemployed graduates from universities without jobs over the years, it is easy to situate the increasing restiveness across the country.
Against this frightening backdrop, militarisation of the polity is counter-productive. Indeed, the current multiplicity of military operations in virtually all the six elections conducted since the present administration took over power paints a gloomy picturecontrary to the tenets of true democracy.
We believe that those who the citizenry had entrusted their power to govern should seek the root causes of the agitations and violence in the polity and make patriotic efforts to douse the tensions.
At 58, very few Nigerians can afford smiles on their faces today because of hardship, marginalization, violence and insecurity. It is becoming fashionable to emphasise what divides than what unites the nation. And rather than live for the common man and the under-privileged, leaders and those in authority are building empires and reserves for themselves and their descendants to the 10th generation. This, indeed, is a recipe for violence and disintegration.
Towards the end of the first tenure of his administration, President Muhammadu Buhari has come short of his electoral promises as his health status and frequent visits abroad to consult his doctors, have become a disincentive to effective governance.
The under-performance of his cabinet members and issues of corruption involving officials of the Presidency which is reflected in the pervasive economic downturn and hardship faced by the citizenry despite the nation’s attained dubious exit from recession, had led to shrill calls for him to reshuffle his cabinet.
Regrettably, rather than celebrate achievements on the path to industrialisation and buoyant economy like its Third World counterparts, at 58, Nigeria is celebrating under the pangs of fear, insecurity and threat to disintegration.
This is why President Buhari must rightly read the mood of the nation, see the merit in the call to address the imbalances in the polity and stem the rising agitations, violence and insecurity.
Indeed, it is an act of divine providence that in this challenging march on the road to nationhood, Nigeria has remained together, for which we should be thankful to God.
Nigerians are the best judges of our governments, past and present. But, the least we ask is equity and better life for the citizenry.
Happy 58th Anniversary, Nigeria.