• Monday, May 27, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Political development: So far, how well?

Nigeria

Nigeria gained independence in 1960 from Great Britain after years of struggle and agitations by the founding fathers.

Nigeria was among the 16 African countries which were liberalised and had their independence that same year.
Blessed with abundant human and natural resources, the country had so much promise at independence.

At that time there was optimism among the founding fathers and among Nigerians that the country would soon fulfil its potential.

The post-independence government was a coalition between the Nigerian People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Council for Nigeria Citizens (NCNC) with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the prime Minister and Nnamdi Azikiwe as the head of state.

This was outcome of 1959 general election in which the NPC captured 134 out of the 312 federal parliament seats.The NCNC won 89 seats, while the Action Group (AG) had 73 seats.

However, the gradual progress that was being made was cut-short by the nation’s first military coup of January 15, 1966.

Mutinous Nigerian soldiers led by Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna killed 22 people including the Prime Minister of Nigeria, many senior politicians, and many senior army officers.

The coup plotters also attacked the cities of Kaduna, Ibadan, and Lagos while also blockading River Niger and River Benue.

Subsequently in 1966 there was a counter-coup, or the so-called ‘July rematch’, which was the second of many military coups in Nigeria.

The coups snowballed into Nigerian civil war which was fought between 1966 and 1970.This subsequently led to the emergence of Yakubu Gowon who chose to lead the country in 1966.

Gowon subsequently moved quickly to initiate the creation of twelve new states to replace the four regions. Six of these states contained minority groups that had demanded state creation since the 1950s.

However, Gowon regime was preceded by subsequent military regimes of Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo which heralded the Second Republic in 1979 led by Shehu Shagari. However, another 19 years of military interregnum, culminated in the birth of the Fourth Republic and democratic rule in 1999.

Since then, the country has had four different administrations, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua/; Goodluck Jonathan and the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari.

While it is worthy of commendation that despite these challenges the country has managed to stay together as one for 60 years, observers are however, of the view that after 60 years of independence Nigeria has not fulfilled the enormous potentials it had in 1960.

There is the perception in some quarters that the country has stagnated, becomes more divided over the years, while there was little to celebrate.

“At the period of independence there was a lot of hope; we had been through almost ten years of development especially in the Western region.

“Similar situations exist in the Eastern region; the North had started slower than the other regions under the leadership of Ahmadu Bello but is coming up gradually.

“Generally, Nigerians were happy with a decade of independence in the 50’s, the country had hope and promise; of course, the events after that are well documented for all to see,” Banjo Akintoye, professor of history and Second Republic senator, said.

Akintoye further said that Nigeria at its current state was a different country and was more divided than it was in 1960, while suggesting that ethnic nationalities must urgently renegotiate the future of the country.

“It seems Nigeria is no longer one country today, or the same country we knew then; there was a great deal of hope in 1960, we love ourselves, there was no fear that one part of the country was invaded, like killing across the middle belt and rest of the South now. “Personally, I am of the view that what we need now is serious-minded negotiation among the people who own the territories called Nigeria and among the different nationalities.

“They should sit down and negotiate; can we continue like this? If the answer is yes, but I am sure most people would say no. “Some people think we should break into smaller countries; let the nationalities go and break into smaller countries. I am suggesting that, with all sense of responsibility,” Akintoye added.

The agitations for restructuring of Nigeria as a solution to the numerous challenges bedevilling the country by political leaders have intensified in recent years, though largely unpopular in the North and among their political leaders.

However, observers are of the view that perhaps President Muhammadu Buhari needs to give the suggestion a second thought to be among the several solutions aimed at salvaging the country.

Ayodupe Odugbo, a political analyst, thinks that despite the challenges, the country should celebrate its unity since 1960, stressing that the current challenges have been there since its formation without being resolved by successive leaders.

According to him, “We need to celebrate our unity. Whatever threat of disunity we have today is the same we had during the formation of our nationalism which we failed to tackle back then, problems like Biafra are just ideologies we need to clip.

“May be, we need to restructure, but Nigerians need to put Nigeria first in everything and not ethnic groups, if this ideology is promoted the country would move forward.”

“The only solution is redefining the constitution. The cost of running the nation should be cut down, it’s time to cut down the salaries of government officials, let every Nigerian join in the fight against corruption. Nigerians should invest more in the economy of the country instead of boosting foreign economy,” Odugbo said.