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Nigeria at 61

Lending their voices to the celebration of Nigeria’s 61st independence today, speaking with KEMI AJUMOBI, some women have expressed their opinion on our achievements, challenges and the way forward. Here is what they have to say. Excerpts.

Hansatu Adegbite
Executive Director, Women In Management, Business & Public Service (WIMBIZ)

In the words of Mmanti Umoh, “A nation is not defined by its borders or the boundaries of its land mass. Rather, a nation is defined by adverse people who have been unified by a cause and a value system, and who are committed to a vision for the type of society they wish to live in and give to the future generations to come.”

This is the reality that all Nigerians should have to come to terms with early, ‘the collective responsibility to unite with a common purpose to lead and be led by a vision for a healthier and wealthier Nigeria in all ramifications. A vision that seems to have eluded the citizens of the nation in diverse ways for so many years now.

I look back to my days as a young girl, watching with glee the realities of developed nations and being hopeful that both Nigerian leaders and citizens, were pumped with an excess desire for excellence, order, dignity, will power and the rule of law, needed to build on the foundation of the sweat and blood of our forefathers.

I had a strong desire for all Nigerians to put their hands and heart to plough the soil of true nation building without fear of failure or regret. To also ensure that the Nigerian story would be one of true greatness and triumph without poverty, hunger, unemployment, illiteracy, poor healthcare, confusion, deaths, deceit, sycophancy, tribalism, communal wars and incessant security challenges.

At 61, the true reality of the state of the nation is a far cry for me, as I look through the lens of my youthful years. The developed Nigeria I so desired was already a looming reality, in comparison to the ravaging journey that the nation has had to endure thus far. Our nation has been robbed, raped, radicalised, rejected, reviled, and ripped of its true glory.

Though we have had trickles of successes and advancements in diverse areas, the need to grow up and not just grow old cannot be overemphasised. Filling the existing gaps needs to be a priority for the safety, well-being and prosperity of all Nigerians.

At 61, my true wish for Nigeria is the prosperity of Switzerland, the leadership strength of the G7 nations, the technological prowess of Japan, the superior healthcare of South Korea, the economic power of USA, the safety of Iceland, the tourism of UAE, the wealth of Luxemburg, the educational excellence of the United Kingdom, the gender balance of Rwanda and the manufacturing / export capacity of China, to mention a few.

I wish Nigeria true restoration to its rightful throne of dignity, honour and strength, to be the pride of Africa!

Ini Abimbola
Management Consultant,
Sustainability, Strategy & Governance Expert,
Lecturer, FernFH MBA Program in Inter’l CSR Mgt,
Univ. Of Applied Sciences, Austria,
Founder/Former CEO, ThistlePraxis Consulting Ltd.

I had the privilege of living and working outside Nigeria for over 15 years at some point in my life.

In the same vein, I have travelled across at least 43 out of the 56 nation-states of the African Union, and it gave me a good perspective of what most of Africa looks and feels like. I have always been one person who has flown the flag of Nigeria for a very long time because of the sheer grit, hard work, and undaunting resilience and brilliance of Nigerians.

We are indeed a great nation with great people, but we have also suffered significant setbacks with leadership. As someone once noted, our current political leadership scene is dominated by instrumental leaders rather than societal leaders. Instrumental leaders use power and influence to pursue their own private goals, and this, unfortunately, breeds nepotism, tribal divides, and everything wrong we are experiencing at 61. We need societal leaders who are faithful public servants, focused on building a country that works and break the cycle of inefficiency in leadership.

It is profoundly depressing to any well-meaning Nigerian to listen to the kinds of conversations we are having at 61. Our daily conversations range from talking about cattle, to unknown gunmen, to bandits, to Boko Haram insurgencies. Never have we been so ethnically divided, with reports of armed violence here and there, high levels of inflation, inadequate and in most cases non-existent infrastructural development, high rates of unemployment, very high cost of living, and an unending increase in the number of children out of school. We’ve seen a considerable number of people migrating out of the country for better opportunities and living conditions—a very sad replay of the mid-80s. At 61, this isn’t very reassuring.

Thankfully, we have also seen some bright lights emerging from the tech space, with Nigeria at the forefront of winning considerable investments in that space. Hopefully, regulatory policies would also allow that space to thrive.

Read Also: Nigeria at 61

Am I hopeful about Nigeria? I’ll say yes and no. Yes, because it is simply healthy to be hopeful. Our single most outstanding achievement has been our transition to democratic rule since 1999, how we have fared since that achievement is another discussion. I’ll also say No because hope or faith without the vital work being done is useless. We urgently need to quell the tide of decline as it is now. Ghana is doing better in terms of security, education, and quality of life than we are, so it becomes imperative to roll our sleeves and place leadership that brings value to the nation.

Raliat Oyetunde
Head, SME Banking & Ag. Regional Manager, Lagos/West,

SunTrust Bank Nigeria Ltd

Just before the stroke of midnight, October 1st, 1960, they switched off the lights at the now Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), and lowered the British Union Jack’, then at midnight, the lights were switched back on and the green-white-green stood majestically for all to see’… this was indeed the beginning of our independence.

A new nation, Nigeria was born, born beautiful, born majestically and its citizens very hopeful of better lives to come.

On my observations of Nigeria at 61 years, the truth is that, we are still a nation of hopefuls and very resilient people, a beautiful nation but scarred by the aftereffects of the 1967 war, still groping in the dark with democracy after 29years of military leadership. A nation still on the brink of divide if our leaders do not wake up. A nation still dreaming when the world is moving on. Nigeria at 61! Still, it is worth celebrating, 61 years of absolute Independence, 61 years of trial and errors with leaders and policies. 61 years of our rural areas still living in abject poverty, 61years of lack of basic infrastructures; 61years of decline in the fabrics that hold our nation together! I could go on and on.

It is not all about the woes of our nation at 61 years of independence, we have had great achievements and still striving to place our nation strategically in the global space. The new generation of Nigerians have taken their future into their hands. They are competing globally in the digital space. Nigeria is currently the 6th out of 100 Countries with internet users in the world. We have the highest numbers of thriving internet businesses and biggest creators in Africa. Tiktok and YouTube respect Nigerians.

Our youths have decided to use the internet to provide financial services (financial inclusion), provide online medical access (doctors app), medicine apps, educational apps and even market apps.

All the above are changes I expect and seeing happening already. I foresee a nation ready to hand over the reigns of power to the not-too-young-to-run, a nation ready to position itself as the biggest Agricultural producer in Africa, a nation ready to replace the oil business with fresh agricultural produce such as cassava, maize, sorghum, ginger, yams, sesame seeds, palm oil and so on. A nation with excellent human talents and ready to export same.

Finally, I see a Nigeria where everyone would have equal opportunity irrespective of your religion or tribe. I see an equitable nation about to rebirth itself.
Happy Independence Day NIGERIA!

ASMAU BENZIES-LEO
Gender, Peace and Social Safeguard Expert, Diplomatic Ambassador

Nigeria is a country blessed with rich diversity, our beauty as a people is in our differences; of cultures, religion and ethnicity. We are blessed with both human and natural resources such as oil and gas, minerals; precious stones and an amazing rich biodiversity that makes us the envy of many nations.

We are extremely blessed with abundantly diverse agro–ecologies that have the capacity to feed the entire continent of Africa. Indeed, Nigeria is a blessed nation. These natural endowments have the potential to make Nigeria one of the key destinations for global investment and the best economy in Africa. With our huge agricultural potential, by now we should have become the undisputed giant of Africa both economically, politically and technologically. These endowments should have made Nigeria one of the key destinations for global relevance.

For Nigeria to survive and thrive, the country needs patriotic and nationalistic leaders. Leaders with vision and commitments to implement a sustainable economic growth and development plan for the benefit of all Nigerians.

Leadership and governance have been recognised as imperative for the attainment of the political, economic and social objective of any nation or institutions. The significance of leadership to governance is seen in the fact that good leadership sets the tone and standard of governance. In Nigeria for instance, since independence, there had always been a leadership gap between the followers and the leaders in terms of vision and direction for our country. What makes other developed countries thick is not merely their wealth or technological advancement but the qualities of leaders they have who lead the people with focus and selfless service.

In Nigeria, we have a leadership problem, why? Because we often wish for good leaders to fall from above and do the needful, why can’t every Nigerian become the good leader we all desire? In order for us to be credible leaders or followers, we all must be open to change by influencing others positively so as create that great nation that we all desire. It requires not only good management but credible and effective leadership.

For positive change to manifest, we must have a Vision for the nation, be willing to follow due processes, establish set of guiding values and ethical principles to guide our conduct, government to formulate, implement and monitor strategies to empower, influence, motivate and even inspire people to strive towards achieving the “Nigerian Dream” which is “Unity in Diversity”. No more wars, conflict, insecurity, poverty and diseases but peace and development.

Even as Nigeria clocks 61 years of Independence, my prayer is that we experience a Positive change all round, in our character, systemic changes in our commitment to work, governance, our religious institutions, schools, corporate organisations and even amongst the civil society organisations, collectively as Nigerians. Change begins with each of us, and we must all play our part to see that we build a greater and a better Nigeria, leaving no one behind for the sake of our future Generations.

The future of Nigeria depends on what it does today with its dynamic youth population. This demographic advantage must be turned into a first rate and well-trained work force, for Nigeria, for the region and for the world. But 38.5 per cent of Nigeria’s youth are unemployed. Lacking skills, economic opportunities, they are discouraged, angry and restless, as they look at a future that does not give them hope.

We should prioritise investments in the youth: In up skilling them for the jobs of the future, not the jobs of the past; by moving away from so called youth empowerment to youth investment; to opening up the social and political space to the youth to air their views and become a positive force for national development; and for ensuring that we create youth-based wealth. Nigeria should put in place incentives to harness the knowledge, skills, and resources of Nigerians in the diaspora, and invest massively in building Nigeria’s health care infrastructure and systems. We must re-build trust, equity, and social justice, to propel strong cohesiveness as a nation.

Bisi Akin-Alabi (PhD)
CEO: Schoolrun.com.ng

Turning 61, calls for rolling out the drums. First and foremost for the grace and favour of the Almighty that is still keeping the country together, and for the help we received last year regarding the COVID 19 pandemic, that Africa was not wiped out in the crisis, where even developed nations struggled to keep their citizens safe and alive. If not for the mercy of the Lord, as we have limited facilities, it would have been worse however, our national day calls for a need to be realistic about what we need to focus on, to assist us improve our development index as a nation. I will talk for the education sector. We need to reimagine education. In a world facing a learning crisis, digital learning should be an essential service. We need to move quickly to ensure that technology takes a central place in teaching and learning.

We lack adequately trained teachers, learning materials, makeshift classes and poor sanitation facilities, which makes learning difficult for many children in our schools. Not to talk of those children being ravaged by poverty that come to school too hungry, sick or exhausted from work or household tasks to benefit from the lessons they attend. This learning crisis is the greatest challenge facing our nation today, because we are laying a foundation for another type of slavery, whereby all our key positions would be taken by foreigners if we fail to develop home grown skilled labour.

Abimbola Onakomaiya
Managing Director, Peakthrust Insurance Brokers Ltd
VP, Professional Insurance Ladies Association

Independence is defined as a condition in which a nation exercises self -government and sovereignty over its territory. That country is supposed to be free of outside political control; there should be freedom and a huge potential for growth.

Consequently, my short missive would lay emphasis on an introspection that should be taking place in the minds of any Nigerian.

We may claim to be free and indeed we are, we are operating in a geographical space called Nigeria, and we have tried all manner of permutations to allow us to live in PEACE.

To a large extent, I would say that we have achieved this peaceful co-existence, barring the horrendous and gruesome war we had under the regime of the then Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, General Yakubu Gowon.

But sixty-one years after independence, can we really say that this peace is not being threatened on all fronts? There have been recent outcries for sectional governments from the Ibos, then the Yorubas, pockets of resistance to the concept of one Nigeria, terrorism and political brouhaha, and all to what end? So that their “so-called” God-given resources geographically located within their regions can be utilised by them. There is an outcry that the concept of federalism has failed us.

Is this really true, or is it that regardless of geographical location, state of origin, tribe, religious affiliation, age, sex, educational prowess and ambition, our real “god” has been greed and corruption?

As an Independence child myself ( a child born in 1960), I indeed look back with a lot of nostalgia. Having been brought up in a military home with my father among the top military brass, and a member of the Supreme Military Council under the administration of the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, I assess the values which we were brought up with, and wonder: where did it all go wrong??

The so-called God-given assets, the major one which is the Black Gold, Oil and Gas is more than enough to prosper a nation. When did Qatar get their independence? Who knew of the United Arab Emirates before?

Is it not the same “Black Gold” that they have utilised to the extent that they are now the cynosure of all nations? My expectations would have been that these assets, including agriculture and solid minerals would have spurred us on to greater heights in the fields of:
Technology, infrastructure, education, financial services and ultimately have the overall effect of putting us on a pedestal towards greater “Peace and Unity” all around. That is not the case now, but there is still hope.

Even in the financial world, entrepreneurs have risen up in the sixties. Nations have learnt from their mistakes and made a turn around. Some in a very costly manner, like Rwanda, and some without necessarily going through death and massacre.

For Nigeria, I believe there is still hope. There is hope for us to get it right politically. We have all come to realise that it is not the political party that matters, but the values of those that man those parties.

The world is still at our feet, technology and IT infrastructure begs to be harnessed. Our financial services, most especially banking and insurance ( and other ancillary services that are customer- centric) have serious growth potential that can catapult us out of the doldrums.

There is absolutely no reason why, of the estimated 200million people in Nigeria, at least a third of us should not have one form of insurance or the other.

If they could afford the phones, (whether smart phones or ordinary handsets) they can afford insurance that would cater to all their needs and life’s incidences.

Apart from God our Creator, insurance is the next service that takes care of a person from the cradle to the grave.

Yes, we need the grace of God, but Nigeria, we already have His grace in abundance, the population, the human capital, the depth of enlightenment, a people that can be ‘maneuvered’ to be easily contented with having the few necessities of life met, a people that intrinsically love peace once they are assured that they are not being cheated and thumbed in the nose at the same time, Nigeria, there is hope!

Have a happy sixty-first birthday! Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Charlotte Essiet
Director, Government Relations at AOS Orwell Limited

Today, 1st of October, we are celebrating our country’s 61st Independence anniversary, and we join our voices with other citizens to wish our dearly beloved country, a happy Independence Day celebration. While we celebrate this auspicious day in our country, we will be focusing on the oil and gas industry.

My industry, my pride, oil was discovered in Nigeria in 1956 at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta after half a century of exploration. The discovery was made by Shell-BP, at the time the sole concessionaire. Nigeria joined the ranks of oil producers in 1958, when its first oil field came on stream producing 5,100 bpd.

We have revolved with regards to our daily oil production, many more discoveries, the marginal field rounds and recently the PIB, an interesting turnaround of events.

In the not too distant past, the National Assembly passed the much anticipated Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). This bill as we know, has been in the pipeline for the last twenty years and for the Buhari administration, signing this bill has been hailed by the industry as timely.

Apart from the PIB, the following are some of the observations and changes we hope for in the oil and gas sector of the Nigerian economy:

1. Diversity and inclusion: We should have a better representation of females in the industry especially at Board levels.

2. Synergy between the oil and gas industry and the power sector: Using the natural gas resources for power generation. An example is curbing excess gas flaring by re-routing the gas for power generation. This is already being practiced in developed countries such as the United States of America.

3. Adopting Big Data (Technology): Data analysis plays a major role in the oil and gas industry. There are multiple databases used to track everything from crude oil extraction, to refining the crude into petroleum products and other hydrocarbons, to determining the pump prices ex depot and retail levels, and so on. All these data helps track where gas and oil is extracted from and where it is going (final destination). Managing such data however, has been of major concern among oil and gas companies.

There are six aspects that would be focusing on data management; they are – Volume, Variety, Velocity, Veracity, Value, and Complexity.

o Volume refers to the quantity of data or information
o Variety refers to the various types of data which are generated, stored, and analysed.
o Velocity refers to the speed of data transmission and processing.
o Veracity refers to the quality and usefulness of the available data for the purpose of analysis and decision making.
o Value is a very significant characteristic of the data. The returned value of investments for Big Data infrastructures is of a great importance.

o Complexity of the problem for which the data gathering is conducted

There are still challenges mainly due to lack of business support and awareness about the Big Data within the industry; to this end, the following are proposed:

1, Data enlightening campaign to highlight the significance and benefits of data to the industry.
2, Understanding quality and complexity of data itself.

3, Understanding the problems and its complexity and how to use data to resolve them.

4. Research and Development: In order to grow our capabilities and manage our resources, we need to start to adopt R&D fully. A deliberate attempt to harness manufacturing is to first conquer research and development.

5. Cost Reduction: Producing crude oil and refined products at lower cost to stay competitive on the market is one of the industry’s major challenges. Optimising production systems and environmental utilities on currently operating sites should therefore become a priority for the oil industry. This maximizes production efficiency, reduces extraction costs and refining, thereby offsetting the overall exploration costs, etc.

6. Energy Transition: An approach to foster support and assistance as this topic is a working document. We need to have a playbook ready as we are part of the 197 countries who have signed the Paris agreement.

7. Take action for the Sustainable Development Goals: The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.

Finally, adopting some of the above listed changes we want to see by industry leaders with the support of the government, will be commendable and beneficial to all in the long run.

Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli
Founder, LEAP Africa
Co-Founder, Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition

This is a sombre 61st Independence day for Nigerians given the unprecedented social, political and economic crises facing the nation, fostering rising levels of unemployment and insecurity. However, rooted in my faith in God, I remain hopeful about our future for two key reasons:

First, I have an unwavering belief in the promise of the Nigerian food ecosystem and the ability of this sector to not only ensure that we can feed ourselves and the rest of Africa, but also create jobs, ensure gender equity and create wealth.

Second, I believe that our future firmly belongs to Nigeria’s most precious asset – our young people who are dynamic, creative and energetic!

During the recently concluded United Nation’s Food Systems Summit, Nigeria joined other nations to commit to bold actions to ensure #Zerohunger and food self-sufficiency. We pledged to foster the availability, affordability and accessibility of nutritious food for all people, especially the most vulnerable, while protecting the planet. In order to achieve this critical vision, we need collective and urgent collaborative action between the public, private, non-profit and development sector to increase our farmers’ productivity, embrace climate smart agriculture, reduce the high rates of post-harvest losses, enhance value addition and local processing and ensure market linkages. We must also foster gender equity in the food and agriculture landscape, and invest in infrastructure, technology, data, innovation and catalytic financing to leapfrog and ensure climate resilience.

There is also an urgent need to galvanise our young people! Our youth hold the largest stake and strongest influence in shaping a fair, sustainable, resilient and equitable food systems for the future. By creating an enabling environment for young entrepreneurs to emerge and thrive, providing the formal and informal training they require, and ensuring affordable and patient financing to enable them to grow, we can collectively create many more thriving businesses. This will, in turn, foster job and wealth creation, and may indeed prove to be the catalytic force for the transformation that we urgently need in Nigeria!

Nonny Ugboma
Executive Director, Nondunna Limited
PhD Researcher at the University College London.

As I contemplate the fact that our beloved Nigeria is celebrating 61 years of existence as an independent country, I reflect on the importance of our context and history and recall the introduction to the song “Another Story” by Nigerian Afro fusion musician, Burna Boy, spoken by the investment banker turned political filmmaker, Jide Olanrewaju, which simply states- “To understand Nigeria, you need to appreciate where it came from”.

It is important to understand how far we have come as a nation. Since independence, Nigeria has experienced four republics, military regimes, war and insurgencies, health and social crises, mismanagement of resources, brain drain, and continuous devaluation of the Naira- just to name a few.

Despite these challenges, we have also witnessed a rise in SMEs and MSMEs, emergence of young professionals that have risen to become captains of industries-spear-heading innovations in various professions and areas; Nigerians making remarkable and record-breaking impacts all over the world, not only in the country. With these achievements in mind, I would argue that Nigeria is a resilient nation and that it is able to attain greater heights as a country if we work collaboratively towards solving our societal problems.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for us to rethink our policies to focus on outcomes and value creation, social, economic, and environmental value, rather than on activities and transactions. It is also important for us to employ a challenge-led innovation approach, by focusing on solving the problems articulated by the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to navigate our development.

Two opportunities come to mind for consideration. The first is the challenge of youth development. This is an important societal problem to solve, with 60% of Nigeria’s working-age population being under 34 and unemployment for people aged 15 to 24 at 53.4% as at March 2021, according to a Bloomberg report.

One recommendation is a bottom-up approach that actively involves young people in defining the problems that they face, and in co-designing and implementing solutions that they consider relevant, viable and sustainable in the twenty first century. This contrasts with imposing top-down solutions that may not be relevant or impactful in the long-run.

The second problem to solve, is that of degenerative linear economy model that has become unsustainable. It is imperative that we adopt the alternative and viable circular economy model. This is a regenerative, distributive, and inclusive model. One major resource that we haven’t fully utilised is our waste. Waste can be used to produce renewable energy, fertilizers for our crops and recycled for other products. I would argue that paying attention to waste and moving away from linearity would lead to ripple effects and great outcomes such as improved employment statistics and environmental resilience for the country.

In closing, I wish Nigeria a happy independence and pray that we endeavour to collaboratively construct a sustainable country for future generations!

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