By Fr Livinus Onogwu …
The significance of Independence Day celebration is that it looks at a nation’s journey towards full self realisation away from colonialism. Characteristically, Nigerians across the world will gather to celebrate today.
In Kenya they will gather en masse at Marist International University College Karen, Nairobi, on 1st October to celebrate Nigeria’s 57th independence anniversary. There are however much to worry about and less to celebrate especially given lingering insecurity, secessionist agitations, labour unrests and harsh impact of economic recession among a litany of other crises. There is need to critically look at Nigeria’s delinquent journey towards a healthy nationhood and the path she must toe into the years ahead if she is to reclaim her enviable position in the comity of nations.
Nigeria is a very interesting country. She is jealously blessed with both human and natural resources. She is known the world over as the most populous black nation and celebrated for many good things such as career professionals, footballers, musicians and movies as well as many bad things such as drug peddling, scam, corruption, international prostitution and militancy. Simultaneously, her blessings are the bane of her constant headaches. It would take the best brains in mathematics to balance the equation between her negatives and her positives.
I intentionally used the term “constant headaches” as opposed to “curses” to highlight the fact that the headaches can actually be cured – and indeed by Nigerians themselves. If it was a colonial curse or demonic hostage, the many spiritual generals in the country would have delivered her from such stubborn spirits. Nigerians are growing increasingly impatient with their “suffering and smiling” (Fela Kuti) outlook. Expressions of frustration will certainly heighten in the coming years if concrete steps are not taken to save the situation by critically engaging with the ongoing quest for national renaissance that would birth a new, secure, peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Nigeria.
Nigeria, a microcosm of Africa, is a country of many ethnic nationalities. The beauty of this conglomeration is her rich cultural diversity, huge human population and a variety of natural resources. This combination beautifully enriches life in the country. The ugly side of the multicultural diversity shines forth when firstly it comes to administration, secondly meeting the needs and aspirations of the teeming population and thirdly resource exploration, allocation and management. The story is about the same in most other African countries.
Firstly, in the area of administration, we consider elements such as leadership, government appointments, access to power, inclusivity and service delivery. Do all ethnic groups have a sense of belonging in the country? The Ibo people for instance feel badly marginalised and omitted from the national picture and hence the ongoing Biafran agitation. To forge ahead as a united nation therefore it is imperative for Nigerians to uphold their sense of nationhood and commit to it wholeheartedly. The government should foster a deepening sense of cohesion and integration by strictly following the principles of federal character as enshrined in the constitution in the conduct of all government businesses.
Secondly, the huge population is a blessing in terms of work force and consumer market for goods and services. This also naturally translates into a huge need to create employment opportunities and provide massive social amenities such as electricity, schools, hospitals and roads. When the needs of these millions are not met, crime and lawlessness cannot come as a surprise to anyone. Boko Haram for instance is a fruit of dirty politics, illiteracy and joblessness shrouded in the veil of religious piety. As the next point would posit, if properly harnessed and repositioned, the county’s natural resources are more than sufficient to cater for the needs of Nigerians.
Thirdly, the natural resources of the country are unevenly distributed. While some parts have resources that contribute substantially to national income but do not enjoy the benefits, other parts do not have anything to contribute but enjoy much benefits. How are national resources distributed such that those who have as well as those who do not have both enjoy the benefits? Militancy in the oil rich Niger Delta for instance is a fight for economic justice. And of Nigeria’s many diverse resources, only a few have been explored as oil continues to remain its mainstay. A fiscal federal structure that would allow regional control of resources is the best way forward to awaken those who are lazying around and waiting for Abuja to share oil revenue.
There is need to not only diversify the economy away from the vagaries of oil production and prices but also to encourage public and private partnership in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Growth comes from the added value of processing raw materials through to finished products for domestic consumption and export. An investment friendly environment as well as a massive infrastructural development are key to attracting the much needed revival of the non oil sectors.
Those three aspects, in my view, are at the root of Nigeria’s headache. It is simply a call to properly develop and judiciously use the natural resources to meet the needs of all Nigerians. And this is possible and achievable. How? Our searchlight now turns on the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and his efforts to chart a sure path to making Nigeria great again. President Buhari has been criticised for making life difficult for Nigerians and it is indeed true that there are no longer free mints flying all over in the air. It is no longer dirty business as usual. The hardship is the result of efforts to redeem the economy from the many ailments that have over the years sapped out its blood, leaving it anaemic. The temporary pains will give way to permanent gains for the greater and common good of Nigerians.
Some key areas of appreciable success in the current administration include the sustained war against Boko Haram insurgents, the fearless crackdown on corruption, streamlining government institutions for efficiency, checks and controls of all government businesses, securing the economy from being a dumping ground, empowering local manufacturers and attracting foreign direct investment among many others. These steps are in the right direction. There is much more to be done and the government have shown its willingness to work. The work is however hampered by the sickness of the system as manifested by the sickness of the president himself. His seeming recovery is a sign of hope that fallen Nigeria will rise again.
Secessionist agitations, calls for restructuring, inter-ethnic clashes, smuggling and deliberate economic sabotage, marginalisation, poverty, unemployment, unfair resource distribution, systemic corruption, unredressed historical injustices, ethno-political dominance, killer nomadic Fulani herdsmen, maladministration and sectional favouristism among others are the germs, bacteria and viruses sickening the Nigerian system. Although we are aware of these teething elements that threaten our national cohesion and stability, the will to address them is either paralysed or nonexistent. National Conferences and submissions from different aggrieved quarters have shed great light on what the solutions are. If we chose to sweep these perennial problems and other emerging concerns under the carpet, they would generate deadly dusts that no one would love to inhale – and we are already seeing this in the south east, north east and north central.
Visionary leadership is needed to help fix Nigeria. Experts are needed to help leaders formulate efficient and effective policy combinations for smooth and sustained economic development. As Nigeria moves into electioneering period in the coming year, it is imperative for Nigerians to learn from recent elections across the continent and use the process to entrench good leadership and democratic principles. Every Nigerian has a moral duty to act in the spirit of our national anthem to realise the big dreams of our founding fathers. We are the answers to our prayers!
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