NIGERIA celebrated “Diamond” jubilee anniversary as it marked the 60th year since it secured political sovereignty from the British colonial masters in 1960 last Thursday. President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the “NIGERIA AT 60” logo at the Federal Executive Council meeting at Abuja. He described the logo as a product of choice from Nigerians who participated in the selection process.
The celebration has to be low keyed because of a number of critical challenges facing the administration. Two of critical challenges are the dilemma of dicey economy and the contentious electoral system. The deregulation of the down-stream sector of oil industry has created social upheaval but the fact remains that it has become inevitable if the economy will be in the tailspin.
Nigeria economy has registered deep degradation due to failure to truly diversify the economy instead of the deceptive rhetoric that diversification has taken place in agriculture and solid minerals sectors. Fact remains that diversification of the economy goes with true federalism as obtained in the first republic federal system of government.
To say that the country’s multifarious challenges are tied to pseudo federalism is merely stating the obvious. A Yoruba elder statesman, Chief Femi Okurounmu affirmed it when commenting on the imperative of true federalism when he said: “Only structural re-engineering of Nigeria through federalism can birth its dream of being a truly great nation”.
In the same vein, Chiedu Uche Okoye maintained that: “Our federalism is a grotesque caricature of what federalism ought to be. The component units that make up Nigeria will achieve rapid development if we are to practice true federalism”.
Adekunle Ade Adeleye in his ‘At 60: Omens Not Good At All’ decried the failure of the Nigeria’s leaders to address the fundamentals of nation building. He averred: “60 years after independence, and after many gaps and hiatuses, insensitive and predatory military governments, and incompetent elected governments, Nigeria has regressed very badly to a failing state, destroyed its economy which is anchored on ad hoc and contradictory paradigms, overthrown its independence and inchoate federal constitution that pretends to be federal, but is in reality unitary”.
Lending credence to these salient positions, columnist Tunji Adegboyega who expressed utter exasperation on the failure of the political leadership to live up to the dream of a great nation as envisaged by the founding fathers of Nigerian independence said: “…That the parlous state of the country has been geometrically deteriorating despite successive governments’ promises is exemplified by the fact that the write-ups and editorial opinions written on Nigeria’s independence anniversaries in 1990, 2000, 2010, only need little adjustments if we want to repeat them today. Very little has changed compared to the resources that we have made from crude oil alone in the last 60 years”.
Economic strangulation and dicey situation came about because of the mono economic structure on crude oil which accounts for over 80 per cent of foreign exchange earnings needed for recurrent and capital expenditures of the three tiers of government.
If the economy had been diversified as was the practice in the first republic, all the natural and mineral resources lying waste in all the states of the federation would have been explored and exploited to generate wealth and massive employment.
The other factor which has tremendous negative narrative on the reputation of the country is poor electoral system which has made Nigeria to be a laughing stock in the international community. To embark on pomp and pageantry with this despicable tag would send signal to the international community that Nigeria is not serious to get it right in such fundamental factor of democracy.
Nigeria’s electoral process have been serially characterised by violence, killings, arson, kidnapping, hijacking of ballot boxes, and brazen manipulation of votes by the returning officials, mainly university lecturers and affirmed by the electoral commission. The vicious aspect of the impunity is that the reports of international election monitors are not taking into consideration by the government which sends signal that the electoral malfeasance has been institutionalised.
Daily Sun editorial summed up the mess when it said: “The electoral infractions have persisted because of the “do-or-die” nature of our politics. Elections are fiercely contested and nobody wants to concede defeat. This is partly because of the monetisation of the electoral process and by extension, our politics. After spending so much on elections, candidates become desperate to win and recoup their money.
Besides, most people who seek public office do not intend to serve but to enrich themselves. They make mouth-watering promises to the electorate only to win and do the opposite of what they promised. When it is time to change them through the ballot box, they manipulate the system and continue in their plundering spree”.
The saying that the court is the last hope of the common man has been observed in the breach. With massive war chest, the master riggers carry their bags of money to compromise the expected integrity of the election tribunal officials whose verdict throw the electorate into a tailspin of confusion and exasperation, vowing to abstain from performing the civic duty in future and that accounts for the progressively low voter turn-out of average 40 per cent.
To demonstrate the grave concern and seriousness which the US and Britain view the serial bungling in the Nigeria’s electoral outings, the US decided to impose travel restrictions on Nigerians who operated with crass impunity and undermined the crucial electoral democratic process.
Taking a cue from the US, the United Kingdom recently threatened to not only impose visa ban but also seize assets of Nigeria’s electoral offenders and prosecute them according to international law.
At this juncture, one is tempted to ask if this annual empty ritual of celebrating independence; in addition to the waste of resources by state governments in the celebration of creation of states is worth it. These grossly irrational annual rituals should stop because the people have never had it so good because of the independence and creation of states.
For instance, in many states, there is no pipe-born water and tarred streets in the urban towns, talk less of other basic amenities and infrastructure that transform the living standard of the urban and rural dwellers. Life has been the same every year and you stand to wonder the essence of the annual celebration of independence and state creations. The public fund expended in the celebrations constitutes channels for embezzlement of fund.
A retired teacher, Josephat Agommuo, an octogenarian who savoured the liveliness, hope and high expectation and enthusiasm of the teachers, students and public servants during the first October 1 Independence celebration in 1960, expressed disillusionment and apparent discontentment with the successive leadership of Nigeria from the military jackboot to the present apparently hopeless situation today due to pervasive and intractable insecurity.
He said: “In fact, there was no need for the military take-over of leadership of the Nigeria because the political crises that cropped up from rigging of election and civil war that ensued, could have been amicably resolved.
“What we expected from the military junta was that having intervened in the political crises, they would have handed back power to the politicians because the army, by their training and orientation, are not for political leadership. The modus operandi of both the military and subsequent civilian government was a far cry from the principles and practice of federal system of government and worthy legacies laid by the founding fathers of Nigerian nationalism and Independence.
“The dumping of the Republican Constitution and imposition of the 1999 Constitution by the military apparently and covertly guided by the so-called “Northern Establishment” to enable them directly and indirectly control the corporate affairs of Nigeria, disabled the ethnic nationalities in their leverage to streamline their collective aspirations and yearnings based on their value system to develop at their own pace and healthy competition”.
Continuing, he contended that “The 1999 Constitution has retarded meaningful socio-economic and political growth and development of the country. Consequently, there is widespread lamentation all over the country about the failure of good governance since the country attained independence in 1960.
The inability of the military regimes, due to educational and administrative handicap, has robbed the country of the awareness of the basic fundamentals of socio-economic growth and development in real and sustainable basis. This, unarguably, is one of the factors that still placed the country among the club of less developed countries of the world; even as Nigeria has been referred to as “the poverty capital of the world”.
It is pointless bordering Nigerians with public holiday on the 1st October, while countries with which they were on the pedestal development wise namely: Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are in the league of be highly developed and industrialised countries of the world. The secret of their exponential socio-economic growth and development is that they practice proper system of government unlike Nigeria, which merged federalism with unitarism and backed it with a contraption called 1999 Constitution, which is the legacy of the military junta, tele-guided by the “Fulani Caliphate Colonialists”, apology to Columnist Douglas Anele.
Other critical factor that propelled the countries cited above was the prime priority accorded to education and merit in employment and building of strong institutions that drive socio-economic growth and development on sustainable basis. What do we have in Nigeria?
The military introduced quota system in admission into the supposed “unity secondary schools” where people who are not destined to go to schools are herded to occupy the space of people who are prepared to read and contribute to the development of the country to join the league of industrialised and civilised countries of the world.
In the universities, the quixotic quota system is applied in admission where candidates who scored 40-50 per cent out of 400 marks are herded into the institutions of higher learning while candidates from the southern part of the country who scored 200-250 are denied admission. With this outright primitive template, how can a country progress? The accumulated result is why the country has been named “the poverty capital of the world and also where herdsmen taken to be the 4th deadliest terrorists in the world are shielded by the security agents from prosecution as they engage in serial slaughtering of people in the name of “herders-farmers clash”. What a shameless style of administration in the 21st century world!
A cross section of public affairs commentators, who had reflected on the 60th years of Nigeria Independence, contended that the founding fathers of Nigeria Independence were in a hurry to seek self determination as there were not sufficient infrastructural landmarks that would prop education which remains the bedrock for sustainable socio-economic growth and development.
The bedrock of development in advanced countries of the world is education. Unfortunately, both the military regimes have never heeded the United Nations moral suasion to allocate at least 26 per cent of annual budgets to education. A cursory glance at the political history of Nigeria from the colonial administration to the post colonial administration till date would reveal that the core of the under-development was the premature agitation for political sovereignty by the founding fathers of Nigerian nationalism.
Going by the stark realities on the ground, the future of Nigeria depends on the convocation of national conference of representatives of ethnic groups who will present how the country should be structured which invariably will be to reinvent the “Con-federation” which was agreed at the famous and historical “Aburi Accord” at the sign of civil war in 1967. A fundamental restructuring of the lopsided structure of governance and strategic institutions in the country which sowed the seed of cries of marginalisation by some ethnic groups like the Igbo, has become a categorical imperative.
Restructuring will reinvent the principles in the Republican Constitution which will be updated to take cognizance of the generally acceptable political innovations like the six geopolitical zones to be the new federating units in a fundamentally restructured Nigeria.
Insecurity in the country has become intractable and it has become clear that all the security summits organised by the Nigeria Police in conjunction with media houses have not yielded dividends.
The level of poverty is alarming and totally unacceptable to the masses; and this is due to dearth of basic infrastructures like roads, railways, energy, education and health which create opportunities for self employment, poverty alleviation and wealth creation. These basic infrastructural facilities are best provided by the sub-national governments under true federalism quite unlike the present quasi set-up where the exclusive legislative list is bloated and the Minister for Works is hard-put in overseeing the entire trunk A roads in all the states of the federation.
The gaping lacuna between the income of elected public office holders especially the members of the National Assembly and state public servants is proof that the country is jaundiced and operating what a commentator described as “a jagged structure” in the name of federal system of government. The reality is that the perpetuation of this dysfunctional structure backed by the 1999 Constitution has been fueling massive corruption and alien to good governance leading to a “Failed State” status.