Yesterday, Nigeria marked her Diamond Jubilee as an independent nation. Exactly 60 years yesterday, the British Union Jack was lowered and replaced by the nation’s Green-white-green flag. While the green in the flag represents Nigeria’s agricultural lands, the white depicted the people’s commitment to peace and togetherness.
Following that historic event, especially among those who were old enough at the time of independence, there was a feeling of nostalgia because on that day in 1960, Nigerians took over the reigns of leadership from the British colony. There was pomp and pageantry among the citizens irrespective of tribe or religion to herald the dawn of a brand new nation full of potential for greatness. It was symbolic because with the independence, a new constitution establishing a federal system with an elected prime minister and a ceremonial Head of state was established.
So, to mark 60 years, the Federal Government lined up activities that would last 365 days, ending September 30th, 2021. The theme of the anniversary celebration; “Together Shall We Be” had been chosen to forge a more united and cohesive Nigeria.
But beyond the euphoria, Nigeria’s independence is a basket full of hopes, dreams, wasted opportunities, leading to widespread feeling of despondency in the country.
Many arguments are put forward as the cause of the state of affairs in the country. One is that military interventions in the political governance of Nigeria, since the first coup d’état in January 1966, laid the foundation for the endemic leadership problems of the country.
The contention is that the military eroded the nation’s federal structure with over-concentration of power at the centre, a phenomenon that has retarded economic growth and development till date.
The lack of consistency and the greed of politicians are among the problems perceived to have literally crippled the nation’s economy. Every administration, which comes on board, sets up a new policy initiative instead of working on the previous one. As a result, Nigeria is bedeviled with a series of inefficient and poorly executed policies and programmes, hence, it is the structural distortion of the polity that has in the last three decades provoked strident calls for the restructuring of the country and return to true federalism.
But for the optimists, despite the challenges that Nigeria has contended with, including three years of internecine Nigerian/Biafran war, there is so much to celebrate.
To them, that the country is still standing despite the monumental and despicable looting of its resources by the so-called leaders of successive administrations since independence is enough cheering news.
But it does not detract from the perception of the greater majority that though Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources, she has literally failed in all indices of human and material development. The recent global ranking by World Poverty Clock placing the country as the poverty headquarters of the world is enough proof of how low the nation has fallen in the comity of nations.
This is in spite of the fact that the country is endowed with enough potential to place it among the first 20 developed countries of the world. And as Africa’s largest producer of oil and the sixth largest oil producing country in the world with a population of about 200 million people; and Africa’s most populous country with its largest economy, Nigeria has all it takes to be a major player in world politics.
Regrettably, despite her huge resource endowment, a far greater percentage of her population still wallows in abject poverty with a concomitant increase in unemployment and insecurity to lives and property of the people. The situation is increasingly getting worse following the uncertainty and downward spiral in the global crude oil market.
Critical observers however argue that largely, Nigeria’s fundamental problem as a nation since independence, is the failure of the leadership in forging national unity as a precursor to economic development.
The challenge of national unity particularly has remained intractable since independence; though the problem existed in colonial Nigeria, it has been festering afterwards till date.
The crisis of ethnicity shaped the Nigerian state, such that beginning from the First Republic, most political parties in Nigeria were founded on ethno-regional configurations.
Even at 60, there are as ever before, discordant voices from the various ethnic regions. For instance, while the South West is agitating for Restructuring, the South South, South East demand Resource Control and outright confederation respectively.
For the North East, and West, the predominant desire of the people is the sustenance of the Nigerian structure the way it is and the implementation of the Sharia law in their area. Their position is unlike the North Central which also favours restructuring of the country to true federalism.
Some argue that it is perhaps for lack of cohesion among the ethnic nationalities that at 60, Nigeria is still grappling with security challenges potent enough to dismember the country. From Boko Haram insurgents, kidnappers, killer herdsmen and communal strife, terror has become a daily occurrence.
It is based on all of this that as Nigeria attains this ripe Diamond age and coinciding with the beginning of a new decade, it is critical at this point to consciously, through well focused leadership inspire a new generation of citizens that are challenged enough to believe in their country and aspire to reposition her as a major player in the 21st century comity of nations. The dominant argument is that to achieve that, Nigeria must restructure to create competition among the geo-political zones just like what obtained in the First Republic.