Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, and one of the oil producing nations on Earth is 63years old. As Nigeria celebrates its 63rd Independence Anniversary, I salute all Nigerians for their efforts and sacrifices in our mission towards development. A lot has been done in nation building but there is still much room for progress.
We have struggled with almost the same issues for years and decades, coming out of some and returning into others and going round and round in the same circle
It is not that Nigeria has not been fortunate to make some progress since independence. That the country has not achieved political and economic stability as expected is of concern to many Nigerians.
In spite of efforts of the past 63 years of nation building, Nigeria is more insecure, with huge unemployed and underemployed youths. Today, many Nigerians are more concerned about the state of the nation.
In fact, a business editor of a newspaper wrote a report recently in which he brilliantly likened the country to a working-class professional who today would be 3 years and few days past the statutory retirement age of 60 years as she celebrates her birthday, but broke with little savings and a pile of debt to show for decades of service. Nigeria is blessed with many talented and creative people, most of whom are disabled by poor governance in the country.
Most Nigerians have passion for growth and potential for greatness. Unfortunately, their potential has not been harnessed for greatness. Why? The major problem with Nigeria is squarely leadership. It’s true! Leadership is a major requirement in the list of complex factors required for greatness as a nation.
At the core of the issues that continue to plague the country is the question of quality and genuine leadership, and all the values and qualities associated with such. Yes, to a large extent, the failures in our national systems are all tied to the question of leadership. That is why some scholars posit that “Just as in conventional war, no democratic society can win the techno-economic war without visionary and committed leaders.”
One wonders why we cannot continue to do those things we did well in the past and move ahead as a nation of great people. Unity in diversity should be our starting point. A group of individuals should not see themselves as being superior to others. Acceptability of the uniqueness of all Nigerians followed by humility and respect for all citizens are necessary. Interestingly, Nigerians are not lacking in all these. What we need to do is to keep the fire burning as citizens of Nigeria with a collective pursuit of greatness in sight. We must not be divided. Individualism will not work because we need each other. Team approach with respect and love for one another irrespective of tribe, religion and culture will enable us to achieve our aspirations.
Our progression as a democratic nation and our efforts at achieving a stable and leading socio-economic polity are the sum total of the core objectives of our contemporary national endeavours. But these have always been the goals of our historical union since decades of constitutional reforms that followed independence.
Invariably, we have struggled with almost the same issues for years and decades, coming out of some and returning into others and going round and round in the same circle. A tortuous and very painful experience! Indeed, Nigeria has not been that lucky. Nigeria emerged from her colonial past on 1 October 1960 with a population of only 32 million which then was ably supported by a strong agricultural base.
Today, it is estimated that our population is more than 200 million, and the oil boom of the 1970s has not only weakened the agricultural base, but has destroyed the budding impressive socio-economic foundation which would have sustained the phenomenal upsurge in population. This was therefore, the genesis of Nigeria’s current economic problems.
As Nigeria’s population grows with a double-digit inflation, coupled with increasing poverty, the economy remains sluggish. Thus, in a context of rapid population growth, one expects that policies and programs to reduce poverty and hunger must expand faster than the population is growing.
At the heart of our challenges is the endemic corruption in our system. Corruption in any shape and size will never breed progression but retrogression. And as long as the monster called corruption is enthroned in the country, I hold firmly that development is very far from Nigeria.
Experts have made a plea for an economic development plan. They affirm that emerging countries which have enjoyed accelerated growth and structural transformation are precisely those countries that never jettisoned economic development plans. By implication, if we fail to have an economic development plan, then we have planned to fail no matter how excellent our policies and implementation strategies are.
We have heard that the government wants to develop infrastructure. A lot of funds have gone into providing social and economic infrastructure. But we need to appraise the achievements of the country in infrastructural development after 63 years of independence.
Nigeria is indeed a country blessed with enormous human and material resources as well as potentials but committed leaders are scarce. In fact, our human resources would have been the country’s greatest assets towards promoting and sustaining a virile economy. Unfortunately, because of the absence of an enabling environment and the so-called “Nigerian Factor,” which tends to enthrone mediocrity, our human resources have continued to suffer from excessive brain drain.
It has been stated on many occasions in this column that it takes a generation of committed leaders to build a nation. Nation building is majorly about the people. We need to build our people as they will ultimately build the nation. This will happen when those with constitutional authority remember that democracy is about the people. In order to prepare the people for national greatness, security of lives and properties must be guaranteed while acknowledging that professionals and technocrats have a role to play in the economic development of the country. Let’s join our hands together to make Nigeria a great nation!
Happy 63rd independence celebration to all Nigerians. Thank you.