Post Independence: A Giant After 53 Years Still Crawl By Anjorin Oludolapo
For the most part, Saturday, 1st October 1960, is well known as an emblematic day in the history of Nigeria. It was a day when Nigeria broke into pieces the gates of brass and cut in sunder the bars of iron to free herself from the shackles of colonialism. Unreservedly, the year 1960 marked the end of the British reign on the Nigerian terrain. It was the year in which high-priced independence and self governance was conferred upon Nigeria. John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, couldn’t have nailed it any better when he said, “The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future is the revolution of those determined to be free.”
Amazingly, all Nigerian citizens from all walks of life were full of optimism for a promising and prosperous future with our destiny placed in our own hands. But as the years of nationhood roll by even at the belaboured speed of an old mollusk (snail), all vagaries of pandemonium and crisis has engulfed and threatened the corporate unity and cordial existence that came on the platter of struggle.
Here, the controversial 1962/1963 census crisis that paralyzed the hallowed chamber of the federal parliament for three days easily comes to mind. Though the initiators of the head count meant well for Nigerians, they wanted official figures that will be used for developmental matters viz constituency delimitations, allocation of seats to the parliament, boundary adjustment and the distribution of national resources to different regions of the country. The regions covered the eastern, western and northern regions.
The action group entanglement of 1962 led to the declaration of state of emergency, the first of its kind in our fledgling independent locale is another sorry case. The federal election quagmire of 1964 that was marred with the allegation of thuggery and kidnapping in the northern and western hemisphere as well as the western election chaos of 1965 that was also tainted with many electoral malpractices, gave rise to smuggling of ballot papers into ballot boxes and unfair collation of electoral results. It was this poll that birthed the famous political cataclysm: “OPERATION WET E.”
Without mincing words, that Nigeria has not fared well in some quarters since her 53years of existence, is engraved within the walls of our historic catalogue. Interestingly, since gaining independence in 1960, Nigeria had received $400billion (£257billion) of international aid. This is six times the amount the American government pumped into the reconstruction of the whole Western Europe after World War II. Of a truth, the model of the Nigerian economy is no different from the portrait of a patient plagued with marasmus and kwashiorkor. Chinua Achebe in his book titled, “The Trouble with Nigeria,” posits that, “Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is one of the most expensive countries and one of those that give least value for money. It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest and vulgar. In short it is among the most unpleasant places on earth.”
One would not be wrong to state that this is a country where the present generation, and those next, may continue to service debts incurred by our erstwhile and incumbent political administrators who have regarded official thievery and corruption as more normal a business than public probity and accountability. Despite seating on crude oil reserves that is rated at 35 billion barrels (enough to fuel the entire world for more than a year) and this is not to mention the 100 trillion cubic feet of unutilized natural gas. Sadly, 70% of Nigerians still live below the poverty line of £0.63 a day. There are over 112million (65%) Nigerians living in abject poverty and pauperism. Can we really anticipate security and stability in a country where government policies and agendas have inadvertently condemned tens of millions of citizens into a life of persistent hunger?
Basic infrastructures like electricity, pipeborne water, motorable roads and shelter are highly required in order to make life more tolerable and enjoyable. These amenities largely exist in the urban areas, hence shutting out the majority of rural dwellers. In all honesty, apart from the poor culture of maintenance bedeviling the system, questions must be raised concerning the erection of sub-standard social facilities. Vast shortage of housing and transport utilities are on record. Our health care and educational sector continues to snooze in the abyss of disrepute. In spite of the best effort of the government to resuscitate and revivify our dysfunctional public apparatus, so as to present them worthy of patronage for the citizenry, and yet, failure is at its end. Policies that were aimed at ameliorating the standard of living of the populace have been a ruse and a mere walk in the park. These arrangements further expose Nigerians to infiltrating poverty and laborious denials while our unworthy representatives escape to fanciful exotic locations of the world for an undeserved time-out from their duty post.
Consequently, the economic intelligence unit has ranked Nigeria as the worst place to be born in 2013. At the last Pan African investor conference that was held at Lagos in February 2013, the honorable minister of finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stated that 80% of Nigerians hold 35% of the Nation’s wealth while 20% hold 65%. These automatically connotes that 20% of Nigerians are in the upper class and 80% in the lower class. This statistical index leaves a sour taste in the mouth and this continues to ravage and spread all over the polity. This is especially lamentable, at this point in time, when we are supposed to be self-sustaining and towering high with head and shoulders above the rest of our equals around the world.
The exclusive data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that the unemployment rate for both male and female indicates 29.3%, while another estimate that, at least 20 million or (42%) of Nigerian youths between the ages of 18 and 35 are unemployed. Some gauge that only about 20 million Nigerians have jobs of meagre wages out of a total population of nearly 170million. Many young people are without jobs and have infinitesimal chances of finding one. How can a country rise to the zenith of her potentials and development when all these overwhelming odds and indices stare us in the face? How can a country with this benchmark of unemployment truly experience economic liberty and sufficiency not to mention peace and security?
Even after graduation from higher institution, we still have some able bodied youths and young adults depending on their aging parents and this is mostly after many years in which they had left their citadel of higher learning. It’s highly worrisome when a young male adult has to beg for money from parents and/or relatives for a common haircut. Should we really expect a tranquil and crime free society when millions of our young men, despite finishing with suitable grades, remain unemployed or unmarried simply because the basic elements required for settling down – job, shelter, feeding, clothing – are way out of reach? These are fundamental questions begging for answers even after 53 years of self-rule!
It is calamitous that a country that was once awash with great promises for the future has now found herself in a cross fire with terrorists. The Federal Government has made tremendous and commendable exploits in stemming the tide of this tsunami, but undoubtedly, the northern hemisphere has now turned into an abattoir where innocent citizens are meaninglessly slaughtered with impunity. The concatenation of bomb explosion at a time when we are celebrating five decades (plus extra three years now) has distorted our sovereign status, insecurity in varied forms like armed robbery, kidnapping, menace of child trafficking, child labour and prostitution etc have been accelerated to a new height and the government are claiming to be on top of the situation but it is seemingly obvious that they have failed in their primary assignment of protecting the lives and properties of her citizenry.
Mediocrity has built a terbanacle of oppressive rule on the head of our greedy leaders who portray themselves as angels of democracy to deform the polity by using state apparatus and all sort of gimmicks to consolidate their grasp of power. Free and fair election still remains a shadow of mirage designed to perpetually keep us under the rule of these nescient leaders after donkey years from independence. Nigeria’s current cost of governance remains the highest in the history of this nation. Our Law-makers acquire one of the highest salaries in the world averaging $189,500 in earnings per annum. This is almost doubling the annual earnings of the British Law-makers and many hundreds of times above those of the country’s ordinary citizens. Nigeria suffers from what economists term ‘resource curse’ which implies that less developing countries like Nigeria endowed with abundant natural resources would experience harsh economic conditions as opposed to countries without mineral reserves and fuels.
It is no more news that Nigeria is up against a hydra-headed monster popularly known as corruption. In the early 60’s, corruption was in its infantile stages, but the most excruciating part is that it has now aggravated into a chronic malady after 53 years. It was Alexis Denisof who long stated that, “The inherent corruption of man can often bring down the best system.” In historic pattern, the Nigerian system used to be one of the best systems in the world, but in contemporary alignment, the avaricious and kleptomaniac group of people at the helms of affairs have decided to disdain probity and accountability by advancing solipsism, treachery, rottenness, bribery, profligacy and dishonesty to debilitate and bring down the system on its knees. Those that have been decorated with the insignia of power now see political office as an El Dorado where they can milk the nation dry. Here, it may be necessary to narrate a practical scenario. The former governor of Delta State that was discharged and acquitted of the crime of stealing $266million by the Nigerian Law Court was however found reprehensible following his apprehension by the UK authorities.
Inevitably, corruption has become endemic in Nigeria from the hands of parents inducing teachers with financial rewards in order to boost grades or get hold of question papers for their wards prior to exams to the duty posts of law enforcement agents acceding to bribes and turning a blind eye to the demerit of justice. One could eke out hours writing a thesis on the anomalies that has befallen Nigeria since the pre-mordial times of 1960 and still won’t finish writing because its an endless tale. However, one thing stands solidly sure: we may be knocked down but we are not knocked out. There may be blinding darkness now, but the beacon of light that is ceaselessly shining will no doubt increase to dispel and conquer this wanton darkness in the end.
Finally, let all and sundry be encouraged to remain rigidly resolute and steadfastly strive to be a catalyst for change and not be a beggar for naira and kobo at the meeting tables of perverted leaders. Free your selves from enslavement and march to financial riches from the rags of obscurity. The freedom train is fast advancing on the rails informed by our heroic past. Don’t be a political condom; seek no populist refuge in corruption’s Sodom. Let’s brace up for transformation. Let’s make up for a change to get an exchange for excellence. Let’s consolidate our strength and take the chance to stand up in order to stand out. Let all minds and hearts pulsate and resonate as one. You never know, one day, this giant nation will not only make giant strides; it will make quantum leap into prominence! God bless Nigeria!
Anjorin Oludolapo is a student of Political Science from the University of Ibadan. You can also engage me on twitter via my handle @dollypizo.
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