Thursday, September 30, 2010
Nigeria marks 50th independence anniversary.
NIGERIA as an independent country from British colonialism since 1960 turns 50 today on October 1, 2010. To mark the golden jubilee, the federal and state governments have mounted an elaborate programme of festive celebrations.
Our Query: Are We There Yet...?
The Nigerian Guardian (www.ngrguardiannews.com) in its editorial on October 1, 2010, mirrors our thoughts about Nigeria in its adulthood at 50 years. According to the Guardian, for a country that has endured 29 years of military rule, survived a fratricidal civil war, and practised an uninterrupted democracy since 1999, there is indeed a need to celebrate...
However, if anyone looks at Nigeria’s performance since 1960, no one can say that it has been an unqualified success. The high promise held out for Nigeria at independence has not been realised. Countries like Malaysia, India, Brazil, and even Ghana (we add Singapore here) with whom we were in the struggle for economic emancipation have all overtaken us. Today our leadership is infested with a lack of vision and corruption. The country as a whole no longer produces anything and thousands of young Nigerians cannot find employment. The Nigerian economy has become a trader economy where goods from all over the world are being dumped.
There is no infrastructure worthy of the name. Electricity, a basic ingredient of development, is lacking. There is no railway. Cholera has assailed parts of Northern Nigeria because of unclean water. Our roads are almost impassable. A journey from Lagos to Benin – an artery to seven other states – that used to be done in three hours, now takes more than one day. Agriculture, the pristine employer of labour is in decline. The country is fixated on easy money coming from oil production, and oil is a diminishing resource.
Nigeria scores low on almost every index of human development. Education is in crisis with 80 per cent failure rates recorded in public examinations, but the children of Nigeria’s rulers attend fine schools abroad. Health facilities are mostly substandard so that almost without exception our rulers travel abroad at public expense to receive medical attention. Nigeria is notorious for very high maternal and infant mortality rates. Nigerian institutions are weak and are not able to sustain the rigorous standards required in a modern democracy.
Security has become a major problem in Nigeria as law enforcement agents prove incapable of apprehending criminals. They have been unable to solve numerous high profile murders. Kidnapping, a latter-day menace, has overwhelmed the Nigeria police as whole communities and towns cowering in fear are shut down. It is a paradox that the Nigeria police that is praised abroad for discipline and professionalism, fail woefully at home.
Despite these negative developments, Nigeria continues to make substantial progress with its human resources. Nigerians are giving a good account of themselves all over the world. In almost every field of human endeavour there are Nigerians contributing their quota to world development. But the atmosphere in their home country is often disappointing and hostile so that many in the Diaspora remain abroad. But a responsible government ought to create conditions that enable our best and brightest to come back home to help in national development.
Nigeria is a valuable member of the United Nations, taking part in many peace keeping efforts of the world body. Both the Nigerian military and the Nigeria police have been noted for their abilities in bringing peace to war-stricken parts of the world. The Nigeria police have participated in about 20 international peacekeeping engagements since 1960.
Nigeria has been an active player on the African scene and played significant roles in the independence of Angola and Namibia, the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa and the restoration of peace in Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia. Nigeria is the spearhead of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) whose activities have helped to stabilise the sub-region.
The problem of Nigeria is political. The presidential system we have adopted without any checks and balances is proving to be a costly misadventure. It nourishes a bloated bureaucracy, an uncountable number of parasites masquerading as assistants to political office holders and a selfish elite. Although Nigeria claims to be a federation, it operates more or less like a unitary government. Many of the 36 states of the federation cannot survive except with subventions from the federal government.
There is a certain lack of cohesion between the federal government and the states. Now and again plans are announced, visions espoused, but in the end nothing is accomplished. Vision 2010 has come and gone so will Vision 2020, if care is not taken. We have fallen behind in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Every administration overturns the things put in place by previous administrations, so that nothing is sustained. At the heart of these inadequacies is poor leadership and corruption.
Nigeria is in open season where a group of so-called leaders lord it over a silent majority with impunity. For instance our legislators are the highest paid in the world and yet nobody, it seems, can call them to order. Many of our leaders and their wives behave badly, often taking their bad manners abroad. It is almost as if any Nigerian who gets to the top must abuse his office to show his importance. Nobody is effectively fighting corruption. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) although loud on posturing, has shown weak service delivery.
Nigerians must worry about the recruitment process that throws up so much mediocrity in the public space. Nigerians in their individual capacities tend to be more intelligent than their governments whose profligacy in the midst of damning poverty is obscene. In Nigeria, there is no linkage between the rulers and the ruled. Fortunately, democracy offers an opportunity for the people to change what they do not like. The question and the challenge is whether Nigerians can rise to the occasion and elect leaders of their choice in 2011.
Our Verdict: We are NOT there yet!
Our Request: Take advantage of the opportunities inherent in the comatose economic system in Nigeria.
Our Advise: Come onboard the train taking us there. Now!
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