• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s 54 independence anniversary: The journey so far

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Before the Caucasoid British imperialists came to Nigeria, the disparate ethnic and cultural entities that occupied the geographical space called Nigeria had their distinct types of political leaderships. The northern Muslims were ruled by Emirs; the Yorubas in the west by Obas; and, the Igbos of the South-East were republican in nature. Lord Frederick Lugard Wielded the Northern and Southern protectorates together, and his wife christened it Nigeria. Perhaps, the name was derived from River Niger.

For years, Nigerian nationalists and freedom fighters, such as Azikiwe, Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Anthony Enahoro and others fought for the political emancipation of Nigeria. Our fight for political freedom was chequered and dogged.

Upon our attainment of Political Sovereignty on October 1, 1960, Nigerians from diverse ethnic cum Social backgrounds heaved a sigh of relief and expected that Nigeria would become a better country as the imperialists had handed the baton of leadership to Nigerian Leaders. Their belief was that the leaders were filled with nationalistic fervor and zeal, and that they would put the country’s interests above their selfish materialistic and ethnic interests.

But, soon after our attainment of political freedom, our disunity that is traceable to ethnicity and religious intolerance became manifest with its devastating implications. Political parties were formed along ethnic and religious lines. In the first republic, AG was to the western region what APC was to the north; and, NCNC was believed to be an Igbo Party. Those parties were not nationalistic in outlook. So, Clannishness and ethnic rivalry eroded the foundation of our country’s unity. Not surprisingly, the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War erupted, which claimed the lives of millions of people, and caused the depredation of the south-east.

Again, the June 12, 1993 presidential election imbroglio nearly caused another civil war in Nigeria. It took the deaths of Sanni Abacha, a maximum military dictator, and Alhaji Mko Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election,for Nigeria to be brought back from the precipice. General Abdusalami Abubakar hurriedly conducted a general election, which brought Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to power, and ushered in the fourth republic.

Nigeria has not become a truly peaceful and united country, although we have enjoyed 15 years of unbroken democratic governance. We still view one another with hatred and ethnic distrust. In order to allay the fears of the minority group about their being dominated, and to erase the feelings of marginalization among them, the ruling PDP introduced the political formula of rotation of power among the six geopolitical zones in the country. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo benefitted from that unwritten political arrangement and initiative. He ruled for eight years, and his third term gambit was scuttled.

His successor, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua, died while in power. The doctrine of necessity was invoked, and it facilitated and paved the way for the emergence of Dr. Good-Luck Jonathan as our president in 2010. In 2011, he contested the presidential election and won; but, a low-intensity war that is being prosecuted by the Boko Haram group has trailed his victory at the polls. Some people with the mindset that the leadership of Nigeria is their birthright perceived him as an interloper in Aso-Rock, the seat of power. So, there is nexus between the Boko Haram insurgency in the north and the occupation of the highest elective post by a man from a Southern minority ethnic group. The north-east is now a theatre of war and river of blood-letting.

The seemingly intractable Boko Haram insurgency has compounded our national woes. The presence of anarchic situation in a country is a disincentive for national development. Terrorism puts growth into abeyance in any country.

In addition to the Boko Haram insurgency caused by ethnic distrust and chauvinism and religious bigotry, inept and corrupt political leadership has beset Nigeria since it became a Sovereign nation-state. The imposition of leaders by political godfathers, which was entrenched in the country by the departing British imperialists, has dealt a severe blow to Nigeria. Consequently, the country has never been led by its first eleven. Alhaji Tafawa Balewa beat his political and intellectual superiors and became our Prime Minister in 1960. A political dark horse, Alhaji Shehu Shagari emerged as our president in 1979. In order to placate the indignant Yorubas over the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was helped to become our President in 1999. But, did these leaders who got into the saddle of political leadership through the imposition of leaders transform Nigeria to a great country? The answer is a categorical no.

President Jonathan inherited most of the problems that are afflicting us, today. But, has he done much to tackle them, effectively and decisively? Nigeria has the potentialities to become an economically and technologically advanced country, but inept and corrupt political leadership stands in our way to development. Our leaders, who are the third eleven, perceive leadership as an opportunity to amass wealth by corrupt means.

So, Nigeria is stagnated. Our educational system is in tatters with millions of unemployable university graduates roaming the streets.  Power supply, which is the Chief driver of industrial development in any country, is erratic, here. Some major Federal roads in the country are so rutted that they bring back memories of dilapidated thorough-fares in war – ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Cambodia and others. Now, well-heeled Nigerians seek medical treatment for minor ailments like headache and malaria in Europe and America.

In order to become the true giant of Africa, Nigeria needs fixing. But, achieving national integration and unity and having a competent and Patriotic political leadership are keys that will unlock our potentialities and take Nigeria to a great height.

CHIEDU UCHE OKOYE