By Wilfred Eya, Sunday Ani and Chukwudi Nweje
Mixed reactions bordering on anger, frustration and outright despondency, today trail Nigeria’s 61st Independence anniversary with a resonating conclusion among many prominent Nigerians that the country has substantially failed to meet the aspiration of its founding fathers.
Those interviewed told Daily Sun that rather than celebrate today, it should be a time for sober reflections on the journey so far. They also believe that only such deep reflections would produce the needed panacea for the myriads of maladies bedeviling the country at present.
Nigerians should mourn 61 years of backwardness –Ezeife
Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife believes that Nigeria has not made any progress in its 61-year chequered history as an independent nation. To him, Nigerians should be mourning 61 years of backward growth and not celebrate failure. “It has been 61 years of non-achievement; everything is comprehensively going negative. “We have been saying the same thing for many years without any result. So, it is quite unfortunate and saddening that instead of growing forward, we have been growing backward,” he said.
Military cause of our woes –Yakasai
Elder statesman and Second Republic Presidential Adviser, Tanko Yakasai has blamed military involvement in politics for Nigeria’s economic and political misfortunes.
He said the dreams of Nigeria’s founding fathers could have been substantially realised if civilians were allowed to remain in the leadership of the country..
Alhaji Yakasai affirmed that Nigeria has not been able to exploit its full potentials and stressed that military intervention in politics had stalled the pace of rapid growth and development that heralded Independence.
“So far, we have not achieved what we had hoped to achieve. What brought about this? There is no doubt that it was the military’s intervention into the politics of Nigeria.
“If political parties had been allowed to flourish uninterrupted, perhaps we would have been closer to our dreams. I have said this before that what we are operating is a military constitution and not a civilian one. And that the set of real civilians that came to power since 1999 to date are few. A lot of them came to power through the instrumentality of the good offices of the military.
“From 1999 to date , we have had four Presidents – Obasanjo , Buhari, Jonathan and Yar’Adua, that is two from the North and two from the South. The question is why is it that these people were not able to make progress? The answer is that these political parties were not the creation of the people of Nigeria. They were the creation of military fiat.
“I was a member of one of the two political parties at the time of their creation and I know how the two political parties came to be through the intervention of the military.
“And you should note that the richest people in Nigeria are either the military or the people who are close to the military. So, until we create a situation whereby we have political parties who are the creation of the people, we may not be there.
“The trouble is that the military had tasted power and they do not want to leave the stage or to do without it.”
Speaking on the growing agitation for secession and break up of Nigeria by different groups in the country years after independence, Yakasai admitted that there were calls for seperation but added that, “The people who are making this call for separation are the minority, not ethnic minority, but numerical minority when compared to those who are not opposed to the oneness of the country”.
He added: “Younger people who got university education and hoped to get jobs, but the system has not provided jobs for them. The opportunities are not there, a reason they resort to this call for separation”.
“The matured people like Edwin Clerk and Adebanjo and all those who are in the vanguard for the restructuring of Nigeria, I have been asking them to produce a road map of what they meant by restructuring, to provide us with a blue print for a restructured Nigeria.
“You cannot just go about calling for a restructured Nigeria without telling the people exactly what you mean by restructuring and how the country should be recreated and this is the result of the restructuring. I still have hope in Nigeria as a united country, I have hope in Nigeria because nobody has been able to produce an alternative to the Nigeria project”
Nigeria has not been fair to ordinary man –Ambassador Yahaya Kwande
Former Ambassador to Switzerland, said he was not happy and that the nation has been unfair to the ordinary Nigerians.
He said: “When we took over the government from the colonial masters in the 60s compared with the development that we have now, we should have been placed better than where we are today. This is because we haven’t added much; but people will see that there is much in the sense of the numbers of schools. There used to be only one secondary school in the whole of Northern Nigeria, today we have millions, not thousands but the quality of people produced in that millions schools you cannot compare it with what it used to be.
“We have been very careless, we misunderstand what is a government, we seem not to understand what is a government. Government is to look after the welfare of the people it is governing; see about their health, see about their security, see about the education of their children so that we can progress. But is it what we are doing. How can you have somebody who is coming from secondary school that cannot spell right and cannot make correct sentence or whatever language he is learning?
There are no teachers; we just park children into dilapidated schools under trees. To school under trees would have been 50 or 100 years back now. We should be ashamed about our education and the environment we teach, we are going backward and backward.”
It’s morally wrong to celebrate; Nigeria has retrogressed – Shettima
For the president of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, it is morally wrong to celebrate because there is no reason for that. He said Nigerians could only pray to God for at least holding the various ethnic nationalities together as an entity for the past 61 years.
He said what Nigerians need to do instead is to reflect soberly and change the governance pattern of this country. He said: “All hands must be on deck because actually there is nothing to blow trumpet for. This is the moment of silence, sober reflection and prayer to remain together as a country, because the signs of divisions are so clear that even the blind can see.”
It should be a period of lamentations –Middle Belt Forum
President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, also believes that there is nothing to celebrate except to observe that the country has added one year to its age. He noted that instead of celebration, it calls for lamentation.
“Yes, when we say we have added one year, why not, we can celebrate. But, the indices on ground do not call for celebration; rather it calls for reflections and even lamentations because instead of addressing our problems and moving forward, we are adding to our problems; creating divisions rather than cohesion among ourselves,” he said.
Nigeria is moving anti-clockwise
For the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Ogbonnia, there is nothing to celebrate because the country is on the reverse gear; a sign that portends negative tendencies in the land
“Evidently, there is no way Nigeria can cope with what is happening. Nigeria is moving anti-clockwise because the leadership doesn’t have direction. The leaders don’t want to do the right thing. They think that governance is orchestrated by punishing a section of the people in this country but that is not the way because things are actually going bad,” he said.
Chief Goddy Uwazurike, lawyer, former President of Aka Ikenga
For Uwazuruike, “Nigeria is suffering from arrested development. At 61, this country ought to have moved smoothly from the colonial motherhood to the stage of a grandfather. The refusal to develop has resulted in a leap from pediatric adulthood to retrogressive degeneration.”
The journey has been tough –Debo Adeniran, activist, anti corruption crusader
Adeniran said the journey has been tough and rough, but argued that it is not peculiar to Nigeria.
He however said: “Our problem of development is due to the way our independence was secured. The colonialists handpicked those they wanted to succeed them and empowered them economically and politically to the detriment of the people. This empowerment is what they have used to perpetuate themselves in power. Those that tried to change the parameters on which the colonial masters want Nigeria to be run on were not allowed to win election; those of them that managed to win election were not allowed to rule. That was why MKO Abiola was not allowed to rule because they saw him as a game changer who will likely betray what they think is the interest of the ruling elite.
“The changes that could have happened were truncated by political animosity, that is the reason we are still having it rough after 61 years.
“Nigerians have not really decided how they want their lives to be administered and that is why there is little or no sense of belonging in the leadership process which has made it difficult for the people to repose adequate trust on the leaders; there is mutual suspicion between the leadership and the followership. I believe that the present administration means well, but they are overwhelmed by those who do not mean well for the country. Every effort made towards getting things right has been sabotaged by those who do not mean well for the country. That is where we are as a country, it is a dangerous precipice.”
Our diversity still remains our greatest strength –Musa Rafsanjani
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director Cvil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre( CISLAC) / Chairman Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)
Nigeria as a nation has come a long way growing in leaps and bounds. 61 years since independence and we are still together, a nation of diverse ethnic groups and cultures and religions. Our diversity still remains our greatest strength. The Minister of Finance , Budget and National Planning recently stated that excruciating poverty in Nigeria was responsible for widespread insecurity. In the North, we have banditry, herdsmen and farmer clashes and Boko Haram; in the South West, we have kidnappings and ritual killings; in the South South, we have militancy and kidnappings while in the South East, we have the IPOB threatening violent cessation, kidnapping and robbery.
“All these have greatly affected the fundamental human rights of citizens and instilled fear. A lot of families feed below a dollar per day; the rate of unemployment keeps growing. The standard of education in the country has crashed drastically; the health sector is far below average with our government schools and hospitals in very terrible states while university lecturers and health workers are constantly on strike because government has failed to take care of their welfare.”