• Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s 63rd independence anniversary: When shall we get it right, politically?

Binzak Azeez

At 63, it is not yet uhuru for Nigeria, a well-endowed heterogeneous nation-state, which is a nation of nations.

The many different kingdoms, which were amalgamated to become Nigeria, had existed for many centuries under pre-colonial governments. And they had orderly succession of governments, thrive in trade, and excelled in arts and crafts. The plundered artefacts of the ancient Benin kingdom, which were taken to Britain, bear testament to the fact that the people of Benin were adepts in the area of arts and crafts, then.

In sixty three years of statehood, Nigeria has not realized her potential. Nigeria, which is called the giant of Africa, is still an underdeveloped nation-state.

However, Nigeria, like other African countries, experienced colonial rule for many years, which hindered the growth of her indigenous arts and crafts and stultified the evolution of her pre-colonial governments. Britain, which was our colonial master, welded disparate ethnic entities together, and christened the geographical space they occupy Nigeria. Britain which ruled Nigeria for many years introduced democracy to us.

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Nigeria became a politically independent country in 1960; however, sixty three years after she had become a sovereign nation-state, she has not realized her potential. For all her immense human and material resources, she still brings up the rear on the global ladder of national development. Although she is called the giant of Africa, she is a giant with the feet of clay.

The stark and indisputable fact is that there is a connection between national development and purposeful political leadership. A national leader who has fealty, probity, political cum economic ideologies, and leadership qualities can envision the type of country he wants; and he will work assiduously for the realization of his goal. Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and India have overtaken Nigeria in diverse areas of national development because they have good political leadership.

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Nigeria, an underdeveloped country, has not got her politics right for diverse reasons. The departing British imperialists, who sowed the seed of the political culture of imposition of leaders on the populace, clandestinely helped Alhaji Tafawa Balewa to become our Prime Minister in 1960. But Alhaji Tafawa Balewa who was not the political better of his political contemporaries like Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo frittered the opportunity given to him to take Nigeria to the acme of economic and technological development.

Under his watch, the western region slipped into political crisis owing to the personality clash that ensued between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Akintola. It snowballed into the January 15, 1966 coup and the July 1966 counter-coup, which led to the 30-month Nigeria-Biafra fratricidal civil war. The civil war raged between 1967 and 1970 and caused the wastage of millions of human lives and the depredation of our economy.

And the military regimes that ruled Nigeria between 1966 and 1978; and between 1983 and 1998 caused the ruination of our economy, the stagnation of our technological development, and the deepening of our national disunity. Those military rulers who ruled Nigeria at different periods of her chequered history smothered the evolutionary trends of our variant of democracy.

Read also: 63 years after Independence, it is still hope deferred

Happily, now, Nigeria has been enjoying democratic rule since 1999, uninterruptedly, with one political party at the centre handing the baton of political leadership to another political party. The change of political leaderships we had in Nigeria since the inception of the fourth republic did not result in political conflicts, although each of the past presidential elections we had since 1999 was a matter of electoral litigation in the courts.

So the orderly and peaceful succession of civilian governments in Nigeria seems to be the only gain we have had from our practice of representative government since 1999. Our democracy is still trapped in the inchoate stage because we have an egregious variant of democratic culture that is characterized by imposition of leaders on the populace.

Consequently, in sixty three years of statehood, Nigeria has not realized her potential. Nigeria, which is called the giant of Africa, is still an underdeveloped nation-state. Our country’s high rate of unemployment, her distressed economy, her infrastructural rot, and her technological backwardness have indexed our country’s underdevelopment.

Now, in Nigeria, millions of university graduates pound the pavement in search of the non-existent white and blue collar jobs. The soles of the shoes of those unfortunate Nigerians have worn thin as they walk the streets of major cities in Nigeria searching for jobs on a daily basis.

Again, millions of multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians live below the breadline. Those poor Nigerians go to bed on empty stomachs because our leaders have failed to diversify our economy in order to create job opportunities for them, thereby lifting them out of the dungeon of poverty.

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In addition to our vexatious and seemingly intractable problems of youth unemployment and the poverty of millions of Nigerians, Nigeria has dearth and rot of infrastructure(s). Most federal roads in the southeast geopolitical zones, which are pockmarked by craters, are death-traps. And while our public schools are in various stages of disrepair, our government-owned hospitals have morphed to theatres of death, as they lack the basic pieces of equipment needed for saving lives of people who are very ill.

There’s no gainsaying the stark fact that in our country’s sixty-three years of existence as a politically independent country she has failed to realize her potential and meet the expectations of billions of people(s) from diverse countries of the world. Given our possession of vast arable land, many waters(lakes, seas, rivers, ponds), immense human and material resources, equable weather conditions, and the near non-occurrence of natural disasters in Nigeria, Nigeria’s low level of national development is a proof that our country is a failed/or a failing state.

So unless and until we get it right, politically, Nigeria will continue to wallow in the wilderness of underdevelopment. Is there not a nexus between a country’s level of technological and economic development and the types of political leaders that lead the country?