Is Nigeria too big to fail? This question assumes that the country is still tottering to failure. Let us, therefore, examine the fundamentals;
• Nigeria has no accurate data that shows how many people live in Nigeria, how many are Nigerians, and how many are illegal nationals of other countries living here. In other words, Nigeria has no credible census of any kind and is not in control of its borders. If you do not believe me, just ask Boko Haram.
• Nigeria’s economy for decades has been a patchwork of fragments of agriculture, mineral exploitation, and trading of all shades. There is no one economic sector that is outstanding, consistent and secure to external manipulation. In other words, we are at the mercy of the international manipulators of the global market.
• Nigeria has no dependable or functional infrastructure that could aid economic and social well-being. There is not one good stretch of highway anywhere in this country. Railroad transportation of anything is a phantom. A country with two of the seven longest rivers in Africa has no inland water transport system. With 853km of coastline in our southern borders, Nigeria is unable to develop more than four seaports in three towns with only the two in Lagos fully serviceable. Nigeria today has no national airline, yet it meddles in the affairs of private airlines whose survival as business entities it has never invested in. In other words Nigeria cannot efficiently move its goods and services.
• Nigeria is unable to protect the lives and properties of its citizens within and outside the shores of this country. The Nigeria Police is practically a protection squad for the rich and the criminals who can afford the protection fee demanded from them by the police that are funded by taxpayers. And when our citizens, our youths, peacefully protested the murderous and extortionist practices of sections of the police force, the military who emasculated the police force were sent to gun down the protesters. In other words, the police are not your friend, you are on your own, security-wise. That is anarchy.
• Nigeria is unable to defend its borders and patrol its seas. Terrorists from other nations run rampant in Nigeria, killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping our citizens at will. And the military looks on, unashamedly. In other words, we have no patriots.
• Nigeria, as of August 2020, has about 13.9 million youths unemployed. Thanks to the just-concluded ASUU strike of 2020, those students who graduated from secondary school and high school in spite of COVID-19 school closures in 2020 have also joined the pool of the unemployed, being unable to gain admissions to universities whose entrance doors are securely shut to further admissions. So, a nation that cannot gainfully employ its youths cannot be making any progress, can it?
My dear countrymen and women, I believe that, for our own sanity, we need to admit that Nigeria has already failed and that is being sincere with ourselves for a change.
How did a country, which at Independence in 1960 was seen to be ready to govern itself, deteriorate so precipitously in less than 60 years? Pre- and post-Independence, Nigerians were in every part of the world seeking higher education, knowledge and experience at places of employment in so much numbers. This was not at all surprising because, for one, we were thirsty for knowledge, looking forward to participate in the development of the country and, two, Nigeria was a populous country so much so that out of every five black persons in the world, one was definitely a Nigerian.
We were willing to travel far and wide in search of knowledge. We were in every major and well-established university in the world, like Cambridge, Oxford, Yale and Harvard, even our very own University of Ibadan, Yaba School and Zaria School. But it was soon to be realised that those Nigerians were too few for our potential labour force at that time, and so many more needed to be educated. This led to the creation of many more universities, colleges and polytechnics.
The birth of the new nation saw the trio of Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Obafemi Awolowo astride the nation’s three regions and their struggles in human resource development and governance at the same time. Ahmadu Bello and Obafemi Awolowo became the two foremost champions of free education at some and all levels for different reasons. They pioneered the bottom-up programme that would give Nigerians some education and learning at the primary and secondary levels.
In the eastern part of the country, education was driven by the communities who contributed to send deserving students to school on community scholarships. Much sooner than later, free education for all became the favourite go-to political slogan truly implemented in the North and the West.
The advent of the military in governance in Nigeria’s political system was to sanitise the rot that the politicians had led the nation into. Though in the long run they did not fare better than the thieving politicians, it was Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s administration that first clearly appreciated the connection between education of the youths and future economic development of the country.
Gowon sent Nigerian undergraduates to any school anywhere in the world where they could acquire the knowledge needed to run the industries and businesses that the country was developing under its five, 10, 20 years developing, rolling plans.
Successive governments could neither keep up nor maintain Gowon’s vision; they ran the projects to the ground and the businesses into bankruptcy. For the first time, in 1978, Nigerian graduates left school without having employment to report to. That was the beginning of the long-suffering journey for Nigerian youths that, in a few short years, the Muhammadu Buhari/Tunde Idiagbon administration in 1984 were appealing to the quintessential Andrew not to check out of Nigeria following the exodus of Nigerian graduates to greener pastures abroad. Such migration of intellectuals and professionals has not abated, if anything it has expanded to include unskilled Nigerians who are largely untrained and unqualified to do anything else other than manual labour. How did we get here?
In addition to killing industries and stifling job creations the military also managed to ruin our education processes. Like everything our politicians and their military stooges touched and killed, we were ushered into the era of education without requisite learning, a painted sepulchre. In places where there was free education, there was neither the accompanying infrastructure nor the right curriculum to support it. And in most parts of the country, teachers were quick to join the band of those statutory workers who would toil for months without being paid any salaries. Politicians were purportedly in a hurry to actualize the dreams of our founding fathers without first counting the cost, as the good book says. They never really understood nor took into cognisance the full extent of the responsibilities they so forcefully grabbed. Sadly, this is true even up till this present day.