A 62-YEAR retired Inspector of Police told how his mother, Anyanwu (not real name) missed the independence celebration of Nigeria on October 1, 1960, because she newly gave birth to him at the time. He was only two months old and too tender to be taken outdoors, especially to occasions that could draw large crowd.
Historic was exactly what the Nigeria’s independence celebration depicted at the time and no living soul with sound health would wish to miss it. She rued missing out on such landmark moment for Nigeria until her death in late 1990s.
Perhaps, the spirit of independence and the promises it conjured to all citizens could be mirrored from the feelings of this late mother in whose time, a great country was born.
The burning passion to be identified as a Nigerian was overwhelming and the national symbols were revered like sacred entities.
Shockingly, the hopes began to wane with passage of time as poor leadership continued to drag the country down. From a country hosting lavish events like the 1977 Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) – a feast that underscored the rich acquisition of resources in the black African country, to a quick emergence of austerity in 1983, just six years after, tells the conundrum post independence Nigeria had gone through; such that 62 years after self-rule, the narrative completely changed.
From an agro based economy in first two decades of her independence, the country switched to oil dependent economy midway in the 1970s and never returned to the primordial path that made her truly great. Like Argentina – another once-upon-a-time giant, in the South American Continent; whose potentials as one of the greatest countries in the world was not in any doubt;
with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) far higher than Spain, which gave them independence in 1816, Argentina was well ahead of Canada and Australia in population and total income per capita as at 1930 and maintained enviable position of number 10 in global wealthiest state in per capita ranking in 1913. They were also known to be ahead of Italy, Austria and Japan in GDP per capita as at 1962.
However, with military interventions and policies inconsistency, the South American giant slipped into depression and had continued to straddle in all movements and no progress status until 2015. The county’s switch to oil economy leading to her joining the Latin America Free Trade Association, under the rule of AturoFrondizi did not help any matters in their infamous reverse journey.
When the Finance Minister, José Alfredo Martínez de Hoz held sway in 1976, inflation hit an annual rate of 5000 per cent, with output declining sharply, forcing a hiatus on import substitution policy of the military juncta, headed at the time by Gen. Rafael Vidala.
Nigeria’s journey has not been any different, going from bad to worse in what many had attributed to bad leadership. To chronicle the catalogue of woes that forced the once vibrant Giant of Africa to comatose is recycling information replete in many literatures.
The questions that continue to agitate the mind are, ‘how much has Nigeria learnt from the mistakes of others? What drives the motives of her successive leaderships that had made progression a huge task despite opportunities and resources?
The story of Singapore will continue to hunt Nigeria as a country and lampoon her leadership as highly insensitive. If Lee Kuan Yew could turn Singapore economy from Third World to First World in 1986, after their independence in 1965, it will not fly, whatever reasons adduced by past leaderships of Nigeria, why 62 years after, industrialisation is no more an important issue but security.
While Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew’s remarkable success lampoons Nigeria and her mundane leadership, Malaysia’s economic growth spearheaded by Mahathir Mohammed lays bare ineptitudes that characterised the past leaders, under whose watches the country sank deep into consumption economy, elevated corruption to intolerable heights, polarised the polity and killed hopes of industrialisation.
Malaysia was no march with Nigeria both in existing per capita to GDP and growth potential in 1960s but her economic policy from 1971 to 1991, hinged on poverty eradication and societal restructuring ensured that racial identity issue was solved, making the National Development Policy of 1991 to 2000 a huge success.
There is an erroneous notion held by different thoughts that Malaysia took their first palmnut from Nigeria, the fact is that they collected germplasm of Nigeria’s palm specie to boost their oilpalm program.
However, the stronger fact is that today, Malaysia has become a major exporter of palm oil in the world, while Nigeria’s palm produce currently falls less than three per cent of the abysmal 10 per cent total agro contribution to GDP as at 2021. Would anybody care where Nigeria got it wrong?
Perhaps, in a country where ethnicism drives conclusions on rightness or wrongness, lawful and unlawful of actions; accountability continues to be compromised.
The strength of the United States of America can be seen from their national cohesion and patriotism. Theirs is a clime where merit drives recognition and competence overrides ethnic, nepotistic and other petty considerations; the result is having square pegs in square holes. The greatest undoing of Nigeria could be seen in her disregard to equity, fairness and justice.
The Governor of Ondo State, RotimiAkeredolu, in a recent reaction to perceived selective justice in the system, threatened to arm a regional security outfit in his area (Amotekun) with sophisticated weapons if a similar regional security organisation in Katsina State is authourised to carry such weapons. Apparently, there is issue of differential treatment in the context here which negates equity and fairness.
As the cannon sounds for the 62nd time in the life of Nigeria, the question where she is headed will continue to agitate the mind. Arguably, the primary feature of a responsible government is concern for its citizen.
This responsibility makes it imperative that social security, infrastructural provision, as well as honest communication of policy directions of the government will not be denied the citizenry. This will earn leaders respect, confidence and deep trusts of their subjects.
Beyond the undercurrents of anniversary amid insecurity, hunger, animosity and indifferent to national issues, citizens believe the skyline is not without some silver linings. What it takes is to get the governance machinery on a functional path by getting the right leadership.
Good enough, the 2023 general election is only four months away and the opportunity will come for electorate to choose between stepping out of darkness and remaining in the dole drums ruing their fate.
Incontrovertibly, that many Nigerians like Anyanwu, recall with nostalgia the past aura that made the anniversary memorable, measures the current despondency besetting the nation. In all sectors, there are tales portent enough to crush the spirit. Currently, the United Nations puts Nigeria’s out-of-school children at above 20 million.
For eight months and still counting, the federal university students have been away from classes due to strike. The rate of kidnapping, banditry and terrorism had gone notches high for citizens to bear. The roads are in shambles, while inflation has hit record level of 23 per cent.
The oil, which made Nigeria abandon her agricultural policy has turned out an albatross that even when the price appreciates at the global market, Nigeria is pushed further down poverty line with subsidy responsibility.
Debt burden is putting much pressure on the country’s back, while national institutions are parking up. Where does the cheery news come but the resilient spirit of citizens?
Arguably, if the founding fathers of Nigeria were to come back to life today, none of them will survive the heartaches of gross failure of a country they sacrificed their lives to establish.
How can they recognise the once prestigious naira, so much currently devalued to exchange one United States dollar with as much as N403 at the official market and N720 at the parallel market. Was that what they laboured and some died for? Definitely not!
Nigeria can today be said to have a rail system with rail-line stretching as far as Niger Republic from Daura, Katsina State. Surprisingly, no functional rail-line connecting her Eastern Zone with the West or the North can be said to exist.
In the oil sector, which has been the major driver of the economy, capital flight continues to characterise the sector with the refining of the country’s crude abroad and re-importing it to serve domestic demands. This comes at the expense of the nation’s refineries which rot away in disuse, at a time unemployment spikes to a very worrisome level.
To remind Nigerians of the claimed burden of subsidy payment for the commodity is deliberately pouring salt to an open wound but the fact that it constitutes part of the reasons for government’s borrowings cannot be denied. Sadly, the future of Nigerian children is rapidly going up in smokes with such insipid policies.
The best of Nigeria had always been seen in the face of extreme challenges. The never-say-die spirit is put to test once again and the mileage already covered in the journey of the second half of her Centenary age shows that a dawn will break some day for the much expected light to shine again.