BY: BISI DOSUMU
A 54-year old, in many cases, is already a grand-parent. In other words, a mature person old enough to take decision, offer advice to younger generation, lead others in the right path and completely independent!
What more could be said of Nigeria at 54, politically, economically and socially, are we there yet?
Independence, according to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, is state of not being subjected to control by others; competence. And with regard to my in propria persona, it is a true state of freedom, not only from colonial rule but, ability to live in a clearly defined atmosphere of political, economic, social, religious and judicial liberty.
The hope and aspirations of the citizens is to live in a truly independent nation, able to cascade every area without fear. Living in this kind of environment therefore, largely depends on the trust that the people have in their government to provide security for lives and properties as well as able to defend them in the face of injustice.
This year’s independence celebration is remarkable as it coincides with the centenary celebration of Nigeria’s amalgamation in 1914. The marriage of the north and south protectorates that made Nigeria the most populous black nation in the world with an estimated population of over 170 million people accounting for 1/5 of the entire African population.
Democratically, Nigeria has been able to, for the first time since independence, maintain over fifteen years of continuous democracy without military intervention. This means power has been vested in the people without being forced by the junta of the uniform men which was dominant of our rulership in the past 54 years.
The years of democracy have been marred with several challenges such as corruption, epileptic power supply, deplorable roads, communal clashes, armed robbery, assassination, insurgency, injustice etc. This menace has traumatic effects on Nigerians. Over 13,000 lives have been lost to the insurgency of the dreaded Boko Haram, yet the government was unable to contain it until most recently. The states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa were almost lost to Boko Haram until the military suddenly rose to the occasion about four weeks ago.
While speaking with the Streetjournal, a 91-year old elder statesman, Pa Chukwuma expressed sadness at the space with which the Boko Haram had killed innocent souls in the name of religion. He said, “when we were growing up happenings like these were completely alien to Nigeria, we used to hear in the news but, never in our country. Even the biafra war was not like this because we had a justifiable course we were fighting for”.
Communication wise, the Obasanjo administration in 1999 was able to allow mobile phones into the country and Nigeria has since grown to be one of the world’s largest users of mobile phones. This has allowed access to a wide range of information via the internet. Journalism as well has enjoyed much freedom.
Economically, so much is yet in place. Lately, the Nigeria’s economy was rebased and many indices were used in re-measuring and re-calculating the economic activities which eventually revealed our economy as the largest economy in the entire African continent surpassing South Africa, and the 26th in the world peering the likes of Argentina, 25th and Austria, 27th while South Africa is now 28th.
Per capita GDP results however, given our large population, Nigeria’s GDP per capita (i.e. GDP divided by total population) still remains low. After rebasing, the GDP per capita increased from US$1555 to US$2,688. On this per capita basis, Nigeria is now ranked as 121st in the world, rising from a previous 135th position. By comparison, South Africa has a higher per capita GDP of US$7507, and is ranked 69th in the world for per capita incomes.
The above analysis gives an ironic situation of the country. Nigeria could now boast a large economy, but an impoverished population. What then is the benefit of a large economy without correspondent effects on the lives of the people? Over 80% Nigerians live in abject poverty in a nation that has verse majority of the world’s mineral resources; 6th largest producers of crude oil and generating billions of US dollars daily.
What is wrong with Nigeria? What is the joy of celebrating independence? Are we truly an independent nation? Where did we get it all wrong? Where else should we go? How long are we going to wait? More importantly, what is our individual’s role in building our dream nation?