Thursday 2 October 2014

Nigeria: A Sleeping Giant At 54 - Ademola Orunbon

Nigeria celebrates her 54th anniversary as an independent nation. Traditionally, every national anniversary brings with it reasons to roll out the drums in celebration. But across the country, the candid opinion of the citizenry is that there is nothing to celebrate because people are bogged down by several inadequacies.

Nigeria has become a place where nothing works; political office holders line their pockets with public funds; graduates have no job opportunities; terrorists such as Boko Haram insurgents have a field day due to lack of security of lives and property; the poor trodden down on a daily basis.

As we mark the independence, many Nigerians, rather than celebrating as it was the practice years back, are busy taking stock of their country’s journey from a height of optimism in 1960 to the current state of despondency.

Can a man be a toddler at 54? This is the question confronting Nigerians from all walks of life as the nation marks this day. Though this is the longest run of civil rule in the country after the enthronement of democratic rule in May 1999, many ills still bedevil the sleeping giant of Africa 15 years on.

In the main, a family political system has led to the “selection” of incompetent ruling class that is bereft of ideas that can maximise the huge – but wasting –potential of Nigeria.

With an inept leadership, Nigeria, the seventh largest oil-producing nation in the world, massive corruption, insecurity, poor infrastructure (lacking of electricity, bad roads, and a moribund railway system for example), a dilapidating education and health system, have combined to leave Nigerians seeking redemption from their self-inflicted woes through several unorthodox means.

Indeed, accessing a country that has witnessed many military and civilian governments in her 54 years of existence cannot be a tea party. Nigeria has experienced military regimes for over 30 years and civilian administrations for a total of 22 years. Eight soldiers have ruled the country, while only six civilians have been in charge of the Federal Government.

Indeed, it has been canvassed over time that the problem of the nation lies at the doorstep of bad leadership. Perhaps, for the exception of Nigeria’s first generation leaders in the class of the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and their band of independence fighters, nearly all that had subsequently held leadership positions, have been found wanting.

As the nation sets for her 54th independence anniversary, questions and more questions have cropped up. Has the country come of age? Is there a need for celebration? Are there hopes of better tomorrow?

The issue of independence celebration is far more than the issue of attaining political maturity and accomplishing the dreams and visions of the founding fathers. Perceptive analysts also frown on the level of infrastructure in the country in the last 54 years. In education, economy, sports, health, agriculture, security and other socio-economic endeavours, it has been a long story of request.

Incidence of religious fanaticism, crisis in the Northern Nigeria, political unrest, killings, maiming and kidnapping of innocents in the country, nepotism, favoritism and like are the vices that easily spring up in the country at the snap of the fingers.

The nation’s political and electoral system is not what it’s supposed to be. There must be electoral reform in order to usher in stability in the polity. Economic development cannot be divorced from political stability. Nigerian people must choose their leaders. Nigerian leaders are being imposed on the electorate.

Another school of thought has also questioned the nature of the nation’s unity since independence. Apart from a handful of religious and political crises, the country has between 1967 and 1970, experienced a 30-month civil war that resulted in the killing of many people of Igbo extraction. Ever since, the nation has not known true peace and unity. This attestation can further be seen in the agitation for a Sovereign National Conference.

So as the 54th anniversary begins, political commentators, analysts and other Nigerians look forward to the actualisation of the dreams and visions packaged by the founding fathers of this country.

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