By Magnus Eze, Vincent Kalu, Noah Ebije and Oluseye Ojo
Leaders of various ethnic groups that make up the Nigerian state have expressed disappointment at the slow progress of the country since independence, adding that there is nothing cheerful to celebrate as it turns 62 today.
Some have, however, said there was some cause for joy, noting that democracy was gradually taking root in the country.
Those that spoke include presidents and officials of Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF), Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF).
Dr. Bitrus Pogu, President of the Middle Belt Forum who claimed to have witnessed political developments at Nigeria’s independence, regretted the nation’s retrogressive movement from true federalism to quasi-unitary government being touted today as federalism.
He said: “At that time, it was a parliamentary democracy; today, the country has copied the American presidential system. At that time, there was true federalism, now the nation claims to operate the American system. However, there is no true federalism as many aspects of true federalism are not there.”
He insisted that the country was still run as a unitary government even with the states, adding that it had remained so as power is concentrated at the centre.
He mentioned insecurity, dwindling economy characterised by mounting foreign debts and depression, oil theft, which he noted could only be achieved by government agencies, as among the sure red signs of Nigeria’s bad shape. He noted: “The military, instead of staying in the barracks waiting to defend the territorial integrity of the country is doing police job, mounting checkpoints here and there. The country is in a mess.
Like Pogu, Senator Emmanuel Ibok, president of PANDEF saw nothing to celebrate.
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, noted that there is no way progress can be made when those at the helm of affairs feel that the only way that progress can be achieved is by punishing a particular section of the country. “Our hope is in the 2023 elections. Nigerians must open their eyes this time and vote wisely,” he said.
In its assessment, the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) saw Nigeria at 62 as a failed state. Describing the country’s story as “extremely regrettable,” acting National Secretary of the Foundation, Abia Onyike noted that the older generation had failed Nigeria. He therefore called for a total takeover by the younger generation.
President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, however, added that Nigerians should thank God for at least keeping the various ethnic nationalities together as an entity. Like others, he expressed optimism that “the 2023 election is an opportunity for Nigerians to save the country by electing a new set of leaders that will empathise with Nigerians and listen to their yearnings.”
Spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Hakeem Baba-Ahmed told Saturday Sun that Nigeria has good reasons to celebrate for surviving the worst threat from terrorism in its 120 years of corporate existence. The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) also expressed joy that democracy is getting rooted in the country. In an interview, the Secretary-General of the council, Dr Kunle Olajide also expressed the hope that the forthcoming general elections, will usher in more prosperous era. But he warned against turning politics into a do-or-die affair.