As Nigeria celebrates its 63rd Independence Anniversary this month, it is crucial to take a moment to reflect on our journey as a nation. This milestone provides an opportunity for deep introspection about our past, our current state, and the future we envision for the giant of Africa.
At independence in 1960, the hopes and dreams of Nigerians, both at home and abroad, were high. The promise of a brighter future and better prospects for our nation was palpable. Over the years, various administrations have come and gone, from military to civilian rule, each carrying the hopes of the people for a more prosperous and equitable Nigeria.
The transition to democracy in 1999 ignited a renewed sense of optimism among Nigerians. The end of military rule was seen as a turning point, with the expectation that democracy would bring about real change and tangible benefits for all citizens. However, as we assess the years from President Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure (1999-2007) to President Buhari’s leadership, we find that our collective hopes have often been met with disappointment.
Despite the promises, each administration has faced persistent challenges, including poverty, hunger, illiteracy, youth unemployment, child and maternal mortality, ethnic tensions, and the growing threats of insecurity and inflation. Mismanagement, corruption, and embezzlement of resources have hindered the nation’s progress. This is far from the Nigeria our founding fathers and mothers envisioned.
Nigerians, both in rural and urban areas, across the entire geographical spectrum of our nation, have yearned for a better quality of life. Sadly, these expectations have often been unmet. It is heartbreaking that many of our fellow citizens who held onto hope have passed away without witnessing the Nigeria of their dreams.
The primary role of government is to secure the lives and welfare of its citizens, regardless of their location. Unfortunately, many local government areas (LGAs) have not witnessed the dividends of democracy, having civil criminals as civil servants and rural communities have suffered the most due to poor governance. Simple Road networks cannot be built to required standards. Local Governments lack required scrutiny and are incapable of managing the public pulse yet they remain in offices instead of jail.
Given Nigeria’s abundant natural and human resources, the current state of development is a source of concern. We must heed the words of former Western Region Leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who highlighted that Nigeria should not be a poor nation given its vast resources.
The recent removal of fuel subsidies and the resulting inflation have exacerbated the challenges faced by ordinary Nigerians. The exchange rate of $1 for N1,040 in the parallel market on October 11, 2023, has compounded the issue.
To address these challenges and set Nigeria on a path to sustainable growth, we must focus on infrastructure development across our 774 LGAs and reform the civil servants to make every officer accountable for their actions and omissions.
The transition from a production-oriented economy, as our founders envisioned, to a consumption-based economy in the 1970s has hindered our progress. We must return to a production-oriented path, growing and producing what we need locally and embracing our home-grown products. This approach will reduce the demand for foreign currencies and make our Naira attractive to foreign investors.
Central to this transformation is the need for robust infrastructure development. A Standardised Road and rail network to open up our rural communities for business to enable economic inclusion not exclusion. The deplorable state of infrastructure across the 774 LGAs has hindered progress and economic growth. Basic road infrastructure and modern transport systems are essential to alleviate the challenges faced by our densely populated cities and to attract investment to rural areas.
With improved infrastructure, agricultural products will no longer go to waste due to bad roads. This will attract firms to set up production facilities, boost the economy, and provide employment opportunities.
The focus on LGAs is pivotal as it is at the grassroots level that we can begin the restoration of Nigeria’s glory. We must empower and hold local governments accountable for creating an enabling environment for investors and fostering development.
The restructuring of the civil servants/service at all levels of governance is equally vital. Civil servants play a pivotal role in policy implementation, and their efficiency is paramount to achieving the goals of the new administration.
In conclusion, restoring Nigeria’s glory and rescuing its citizens from hopelessness requires practical steps. It demands more than empty promises. It necessitates the eradication of corruption, a commitment to grassroots governance, investment in infrastructure, and civil service reform. Nigerians deserve a better future, and it is our collective responsibility to build the Nigeria of our dreams. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration should focus on substantial infrastructure development, and It’s time for action.
Adeshina is DG BTSO UK/Diaspora Grassroot for Better Governance in Nigeria