BusinessDay

NIGERIA at 62, so far so good?

As we celebrate the 62nd independence of Nigeria, Associate Editor, KEMI AJUMOBI spoke with women in various fields on their view on Nigeria at 62, their expectations, advice and projections. Excerpts.

Nigeria has lived indeed!

Mories Atoki

CEO at African Business Coalition for Health (ABCHealth)

The steer of its amalgamation, independence, discoveries, growth, identity and purpose. Surviving internal unrest including a civil war, a number of coups, incompetent leadership, serious maladministration and fluctuations to mention a few…yet, she remains one of the most intriguing countries on earth.

Possessing one of Africa’s largest economies, Nigeria’s population of over two hundred million people, and one of the most diverse with rich performance of self-sufficiency and marked determination to succeed and prosper, even in the face of all the challenges the country is currently facing despite it’s lack of preparedness, Nigeria is a wonder indeed!

Being part of a generation that experienced the liberation of a country from its colonial masters, there is an undeniable sense of gloom in the recognition of the lost opportunities – Nigeria was a country on the verge of greatness in the middle-turn of the century; a greatness that was denied her because of an underdeveloped sense of nationhood which still lingers.

At sixty-two, Nigeria may seem like a tottering, middle aged individual but with great potential for redirection, repurpose and rebirth.

This potential is found in the generations of patriots – from the Generation X to Millennials to Generation Z and the upcoming Generation Alpha – who believe that Nigeria and Nigerians undoubtedly have a lot to offer the world, and are exploring the opportunities being offered even in far-flung countries because in truth, a rose is a rose regardless of where it grows.

If I were to make a wish list, it is to see a Nigeria with a repurposed leadership, a cadre of selfless nationalists intent on building a united, safe, healthy and prosperous nation; a country where its citizens would be proud to be from, to be associated with, to live in; a country labeled as ‘developed’, a place where you would hear the innocent thoughts of a child and not bow your head to the shame of what it has imbibed by negligence or deliberate misguidance as we have it….indeed, a Nigeria worthy to live in and die for as patriots!

GREEN-ROSE-COLOURED GLASSES AT 62

Loretta Oduware Ogboro-Okor

Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

PhD Law and Criminology (ongoing)

Over three decades ago, as part of a national essay competition with the title ‘what is good about Nigeria?’ which I had to write, I spent days reflecting prior to putting pen to paper. It was difficult for my young teenage mind at the time, to overcome the inertia imposed by my mind as I perused the topic. The challenge was that, each time I saw the topic, the first thing that came to my mind was the diametric opposite of the topic – that there was nothing good about Nigeria. I secretly wished that a miracle would happen and the organisers would change the title before the deadline. So, for weeks, I struggled with the title and my immediate voice of reason because every other country appeared better than Nigeria to me. However, as the deadline approached, the essay title did not change and of course, I needed the prize money like a vampire needs blood so my brain went on a reboot.

Suffice it to say, that I began to see all the good things about Nigeria. I penned that essay and won the prize. Since then, it was as though my brain found the nut it was missing – the only thing I started seeing was what is good about Nigeria. Even at times when it seems to wane, something comes along to wax it. Like the man I ended up marrying – whose ‘green-rose-coloured glasses’ only sees how to work in our own ways and as teams to better Nigeria. When one is married to a man who qualified as a Neurosurgeon in the United Kingdom, Fellow of the oldest Surgical Royal College in the world, who took his super-specialised skills and actualised ‘Brain Gain’ by coming back home to Nigeria to be the change he wants to see in the Nigerian healthcare eco-system, then surely, Nigeria can and must matter to us.

As Nigeria turns 62 years this october, and another presidential election looms, let each of us Nigerians, at home and abroad, rewire our minds, pick up our ‘green-rose-coloured glasses’ and begin to see what is good about Nigeria. Furthermore, let us think about the tiniest thing we can do to be the difference we seek- how do we positively disrupt this 62-year-old table? It may just be by collecting our Personalised Voters Cards, or by doing the next random act of kindness. Remember this quote as we celebrate another October 1st, “A tree does make a forest, but one tree can start a Forest”.

62 years of making this ‘soup’

Igazeuma Okoroba

Chief Sustainability Officer, Dangote Cement

It’s been 62 years of making this soup. With over two hundred and fifty vegetables cultivated in her gardens, she tries to create a homogenous mixture, blending in ingredients to make them indistinguishable.

It’s been 62 years stirring this melting pot and expecting each to lose their previous identity to become a new entity. A country with different racial, ethnic and religious divides, each one committing to their ancestral heritage, yet she wants them to become a homogenous mixture of flawed federalism.

Perhaps her goal should have been to achieve cultural cohesion of this merger, rather than this confederation of ‘sovereign states’ they called the amalgamation of the Northern and the Southern Protectorate.

We are sundered apart by divisive factors of ethnicity and religion. This albatross to national integration which fuels hate among the Igala, Ibo, Fyam and Fulani. . . every tribe right in their own eyes!

If the minorities’ agitations for equity and the consequences of the administrative fiat by colonialists have torn us more apart than bring us together, should we not forge our path to national rebirth?

The truth is, this socio-political marriage is not working.

On the 62nd Independence, I pray that we rekindle the love for a Nigeria soup. A prosperous nation with leaders who understand that Nigeria is not tomato soup. She is a beautiful, tasty vegetable soup.

On the 62nd Independence year, I pray we burn these mourning robes with a resolve to wake up the ‘sleeping giant’ by electing good leaders. When the righteous lead, the people rejoice, but if the wicked rule, the people mourn.

It is the people. If people realise it’s not our differences that divide us, but the inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences, until they recognize that Nigeria is vegetable soup, we will endlessly wish for homogeneity.

On the 62nd Independence, I pray for us and our children’s children to build a Nigeria which savours every vegetable in the soup. It begins today, with me and you. So help us God.

My Hope for Nigeria at 62

Adaeze Odili Oreh

Country Director of Planning, Research and Statistics at National Blood Service Commission, Nigeria

On the 1st of October 1960, Jaja Nwachukwu, Nigeria’s first indigenous Speaker of the House of Representatives received Nigeria’s Instrument of Independence, also known as the Freedom Charter from Princess Alexandra of Kent, late Queen Elizabeth II’s representative at the Nigerian independence ceremonies. With this symbolic fete, the federation of Nigeria was granted full independence.

Jubilant, triumphant crowds of people – students, workers, cultural dancers, acrobats, and masquerades representing our various ethnicities thronged the streets, Tafawa Balewa Square, and regional cities to celebrate this triumph of self-actualisation in colourful and vibrant display. As the national anthem was sung, and the Nigerian flag replaced the British Union Jack, the poignant symbolism signified to Nigerians the potent hope and the vivid dream of the Nigeria that we would become with our fate now in our own hands.

Sixty-two years after our full independence from colonial rule, in many ways, this “Giant of Africa” seems comatose, or deeply asleep at best. With over 200 million people, forecasted to exceed 400 million by 2050, and an average population age of 18.5 years, our life expectancy is just 61 years, meaning that each adult anticipates only 43 years of adulthood.

Sadly, the daily reality for most Nigerians is unrelenting and widespread poverty, a large number of unemployed youth, ongoing religious and ethnic violence that also threaten food security and have displaced millions from their homes, frequent deaths in pregnancy and childbirth, and deaths of infants and children before their fifth birthday from myriad diseases. Furthermore, a lack of access to basic healthcare, other social services and economic opportunities are driving hordes of skilled Nigerians outwards to seek asylum, career opportunities, and higher education in an incessant ‘brain drain’.

At 62 years of independence, let us reflect on that independence celebration over six decades ago, the joy of our people, and the fire of hope it lit in our communities. For the sake of all Nigerians regardless of tongue, creed, or residence, at the heart of our policies must be a focus on how best the Nigerian people and communities are to be served, and not simply on abstract theoretical principles. A nation that prioritises health for our people through access to quality basic healthcare, education for our children, food on our tables, water, clean environments, and innovation and investment to drive self-sustenance and sustainability. A country where no parent has to choose between a meal and the health of their child is the Nigeria that I hope for.

Only then would the sleeping Giant of Africa in the continent’s heart awaken from the dormancy and caricature it has become. This independent, self-governing nation can and must do better for her people, to create a nation where we can survive and thrive to achieve our best potential. For our nation’s symbols such as our flag, and our green passport to be brandished with dignity and pride. Only by investing in the health and development of our people can we as a nation attain our fullest potential, our power, and indeed our greatness.

Nigeria at 62, a home of great potentials, abundant resources and opportunities

Harb Cynthia Ige

CEO/Director, Internet Solutions Nigeria Limited

Happy 62nd Independent Anniversary to our nation, a home of great potentials, abundance of resources, and opportunities.

Being independent was not an easy feat to achieve and we all owe a debt of gratitude to those who fought tirelessly to build this nation: The National Heroes!

They have bequeathed a legacy; therefore, we should all endeavor to do our part by upholding our civic obligations as proud Nigerians and residents.

It is part of our civic obligations to maintain and protect our infrastructures, yes, we expect more from the government, but can we shy away from our responsibilities as well? Our streets are flooded, is this just because the government has not provided good drainage systems or our people dumping refuse in any available drainage? It’s time to look around and start acting in our capacity to protect the environment and future of our dear nation.

We can only create a strong and prosperous country by being lawful citizens/residents and being united. Today, as we celebrate our 62nd independence anniversary, let’s all try to recall a time when we did something to improve the welfare of the people around us, try to imagine what we might be able to do in the future. It is a time for deep reflection on our contribution to the growth of the country.

It is time for us to demonstrate to the World that we are Great People from a Great Nation.

Wishing Nigeria a truly independent, united and a self-sustaining nation.

Nigeria @ 62 – Is our Land truly green?

Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes

Founding Partner/ CEO, Aruwa Capital Management

Being a Nigerian goes beyond ethnicity or tribe, it’s deeply rooted in our character and being, and no matter how far we go, it will always be home.

62 years ago, Nigeria became an independent nation, bringing an end to colonial rule. There is much to celebrate, we are blessed as a country with natural resources, there is beauty in our diversity, our cultural heritage and our people.

However, it is also important that we Nigerians use this opportunity to take a step back and look at our impact as a nation on the African continent and the world at large. What opportunities exist for us to export as a nation? But more importantly, what opportunities are we creating for ourselves and the generations to come here at home? 62 years is enough time to get our act together, it’s enough time as citizens to know what we want to be known for as a nation.

I pray that one day, Nigeria would live up to its full potential, as the largest African country with the largest youth population. However, I strongly believe that until women are equally represented in senior leadership positions across finance, politics, in corporate board rooms and as investors, we will continue to struggle to fulfil that potential. I pray for a Nigeria where women are still not subject to so many discriminatory laws, women aren’t afraid to bet on themselves and have equal access to opportunities and capital. A land where the youth do not only clamour for change but become it. A Nigeria where things work together for the good of her people and dreams come alive. A land that is truly green. God bless Nigeria!

Nigeria my love

Pearl Uzokwe

Director, Sahara Foundation Sahara

Nigeria my love

My wish for you at 62 is to add great wisdom and courage to your years

To seek deep introspection and gain clarity

To release the shackles of inauthenticity

To seek the truth and shout it loudly from the mountain tops

To begin the deep work of healing and asking forgiveness as wounded we all are

To wipe the slate clean and say enough is enough, the glory days must not remain in the past

To present a fresh mindset that breaths life into those who had all but lost hope

Because truly when one wakes up is their morning!

Nigeria’s evolution through my eyes

Iroghama Ogbeifun

Managing Director/CEO at Starzs Investments Company Limited

Being born in 1985 and seeing the evolution of Nigeria over the last 37 years, I reflect on that time with mixed emotions. I feel privileged to be born into a generation that has witnessed many firsts, such as 8 female bank managing directors, Nigerian tech start-ups attracting seed funding of millions of dollars, young Nigerian prodigies dominating global stages, increase in the participation of women in politics and business, domination of multiple Nigerian musicians on a global level, participation of Nigerian actors in the oscars and many more feats.

In the midst of this privilege is the heart break that comes with seeing the potential of Nigeria to lead the African continent, disintegrate into ashes. This can be attributed to various factors with selfish leadership at the fore.

As Nigeria turns another page, as she enters her 62nd season, I wish her rescue. I wish her youth the boldness to step up and secure her future for their generation and generations to come. I wish her visionary leadership that will place her on the path to fulfilling her destiny as the Giant of Africa. This new season brings with it an opportunity for a fresh beginning, I wish her the strength to seize it.

Happy independence day my dear nation Nigeria!

Nigeria @62 – So mature in many respects yet so immature in others

Olatowun Candide-Johnson
CEO & Founder, GAIA AFRICA

I look forward to a Nigeria where the rights of both genders are equally acknowledged and respected, where education is a must for all and our history is widely taught. A country where there are no barriers to entry into the political ecosystem, and where women are seen in every facet of leadership in the country.

When we create a level playing field in everything we do, when the institutions we have are strong, when governance rules and corruption takes a back seat, this is when we will see the needle begin to move, and Nigeria will re-take its place as the giant that it really is.

Nigeria is a nation that is blessed with natural resources in abundance; Human Resources (with a youthful population), brain power, staying power, tenacity, resilience and determination. We have all that it takes to make Nigeria a first world nation, and so I’m shouting out to everyone, we must all participate. Come 2023, get out there and vote, it is your civic duty and it is your right.

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