When Japan started its journey to modernization and development in the late 19th century following its contact with the United States America, they had a concrete workable plan which they largely followed to catch up with development. For instance they invested much in literacy development and acquisition of technological capacity to prepare the country for an effective industrial take-off. In not more than 50 years Japan was no more that group of islands country distant from modernity. The country was a rising power in all ramifications. For Nigeria, the story is shamefully different.
Over 53 years after taking control of our political destiny from erstwhile British colonial master, the country has at best been drifting from pillar to post. Development pursuit has been done haphazardly without a well thought out strategy. Governments, ministers, public officers all come and pursue programmes according to their whims and caprices. Largely, there has been no continuity or synergy across jurisdictions or sectors to pursue an overriding development agenda. Government agencies operate as if their pursuits are contradictory. Organs of governments- Executive and Legislature especially continue to play a cat and mouse game. The struggle is never over how best to achieve the public good but always in defence of parochial and pecuniary interests.
What is most disturbing is that the people who are ideally the targets and beneficiaries of governance or a development strategy have remained divorced just as colonial subjects. Thus, many Nigerians have even questioned the value of Independence voicing that their lot may have been better without it? This view is reinforced by the set-back in many areas. For instance, in the year of independence there were only 2 universities in the country; now University of Ibadan and the University of Nigeria. But today we may have lost count of their number. But rather than an improvement in the quality of their graduates what we have seen are largely graduates who are not much better than the secondary school leavers of the 1960s.
The decay in the infrastructure left over by the colonial master is another area that worries many. For instance, the orderly and visionary railway system, which has hardly been improved but instead, has suffered decay. If Nigeria since independence had pursued a realistic plan to develop an effective rail system and modernizing according to new trends and technology, the present congestion on our roads and the undue weight on these roads that cause constant disrepair will not subsist.
The entry of democratic governance in 1999 was greeted with a ‘watch and see’ attitude on the part of Nigerians. However, over 14 years after the onset of this new political turn, Nigeria’s destiny remains unsure. The manufacturing sector is still managing to remain afloat. Food imports are still very high. Education sector has gone comatose, becoming a major hindrance to economic growth and development. Skills gap continue to widen across the economy, general unemployment hovering around 23% while youth unemployment is estimated to be 50%, and poverty deepening. Nigeria has surprisingly become a haven of terrorism; lives are frittered away daily, while the ruling and political class appear to remain in a self-gratifying political durbar to the detriment of the public good.
It is glaring that hopes have continued to dwindle over the future of Nigeria principally because of an inept and corrupt leadership and political class, misplaced priorities and absence of a development vision.
Nigeria should not be struggling. With a huge population and market that can jumpstart and sustain a strong industrial economy, bountiful natural resources especially the availability of crude oil and natural gas, the country should be among the leading countries in the world in all ramifications.
However, the shameful rent seeking conduct of the political class remains a major barrier to Nigeria’s prosperity. How long will this wanton rape of Nigeria continue?