Congratulations to all Nigerians on the occasion of our 61st Independence anniversary. Despite all our challenges, we are still struggling to stay together as one nation.
For me, staying together may be an achievement after more than six decades of turbulence. Shortly after Independence in 1960, Nigeria enjoyed about five years of relative peace under the administration of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, before the political crisis in the Western Region snowballed into the first coup on January 15, 1966.
The consequences of that poorly-executed coup are still with us till today. The middle-rank army officers, led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, claimed they toppled the Balewa government because of corruption, mainly. These and other reasons advanced for the coup, like nepotism, profiteering, etcetera. have gotten worse and continue to blight our polity.
Although, compared with 1960, Nigeria is a lot more developed, richer, economically, stronger and much more sophisticated, we are still not there yet. Our global standing is greater, though, while we are acknowledged as a regional leader in sub-Saharan Africa by virtue of our rising economic power and political influence in Africa. Our economy is the second strongest on the continent, despite declining oil revenue and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the palpable pessimism, internal divisions and the deep-rooted governance crises, Nigeria would have done far better with the enormous resources at our disposal if our leaders had performed as well as some of our peer nations, like Singapore, India, Malaysia, South Africa, China, Brazil, and others who have transformed from underdeveloped, to newly industrialized nations.
We used to be at par with these nations in the 1960s in virtually all the indices of development, until the early 1970s when decay set in and our nation began a gradual backward slide to the abyss. The nation literally fell into a ditch after the Second Republic and we are yet to pull out of it. To underscore the great misfortune that has befallen Nigeria after the First Republic, our narrative is no longer about development, infrastructure, agricultural production of local crops for export and consumption, and education, etc.
Today, our national discourse revolves around terrorism, street crimes, robberies, banditry, cybercrime, narcotics, Fulani herdsmen, fraud, endemic and institutionalized corruption and general incompetence of our leaders. These leaders have used ethnicity, religion, federal character, nepotism, malice, hatred, discrimination and other evils to divide the country, so much so that it has become fashionable for several aggrieved groups to buy into the secessionist agitations to vent their spleen as a protest against a badly run federation.
Nigeria ought to measure its progress since 1960 with its technological advancement, development of social infrastructure, agriculture, security, education, health and the general development of its economy; but that’s not the case. Despite its efforts at dealing with these issues, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is struggling to keep a deeply divided nation together. He has had to divert scarce oil revenue to fighting insecurity, high debt servicing costs, local debt payment, and rising cost of governance.
Buhari came to power fully determined to be a game changer and relaunch Nigeria onto the path of development, but, six years in power, he is still battling with insurgency, kidnapping for ransom, banditry and other crimes, apart from strikes, and serious economic crises, against a background of shrinking revenues.
The President has managed to perform relatively well in the development of roads, rail and education infrastructure, but he has not been able to halt the advance of Boko Haram, and is currently dealing with the Bandits with renewed military assault on these criminals. Kidnapping on the highways have been checkmated considerably, and it is obvious that even the Boko Haram terrorists, no longer roam free like before, having come under relentless pounding by the Nigerian armed forces.
While all his efforts are commendable, the President should use the occasion of this anniversary to rejig the structure of his government. He needs national cohesion to combat the violent herdsmen if he is to unite and stabilize our nation.
If all Buhari is able to leave is a legacy of peace, he would be applauded by posterity. Without peace and national security, no progress could take place in the country. All the strides he is making now won’t be appreciated unless he’s able to reunite the nation and effectively downgrade Boko Haram, end Fulani herdsmen criminality and defeat the bandits.
The President needs to urgently engage all the stakeholders across the political spectrum to seek ways of resolving contentious issues around restructuring, secessionist agitations and other governance issues to engender peace and national stability. He has only one year to do that because by 2022, the next General election would begin to generate its own heat and create serious distractions of their own. Therefore, the time for the President to act is now.
Weekend Spice: Waste is wealth in disguise, if you know how to utilize it.
Okay, folks, thanks for reading. COVID-19 is still here. Stay safe. Stay motivated!
•Ayodeji, author, pastor and life coach, can be reached on 09059243004 (SMS, WhatsApp and email only)