On 1st October 2019 Nigeria clocked 59 years of independence. Fifty nine years of mixed grill in the life of the country were gone forever. The years were dominated largely by sadness, pains and disappointment. Consequently, there has been much despondency in the air caused by the disappointing performance of successive Nigerian elite over time. Generally, the dividends of development efforts had been poor and unsatisfactory. This might explain why some citizens had decided not to celebrate the country’s last birthday or argue that it was not worth celebrating. For them Nigeria failed in nearly all fronts. It is a pity.
The failure was not due to lack of trying but to inability, incompetence and reluctance of the political elite to do the needful for success. Nigeria has experimented nearly all systems– from imperial administration to independence. There had been confederal, decentralized, federal , unitary, democratic, military systems. She started off with the Westminster parliamentary system and now runs presidential system. There had also been 3 or 4 regional -structure as opposed to the present 36 -state structure. All ended in failure: some led to the near disintegration of the country, others left the country in deep crisis of confidence, frustration, disunity and underdevelopment, poverty and long period of hardship. It is indeed a great cause for serious concern.
But we must not give up. The purpose of this essay is to suggest what should be done today to a better country in sixty years time. We have cried enough, disparaged the country enough. But such exercises in self-pity would not lead to the desired change unless backed by positive actions by the political elite. Bearing in mind that what we do today will make or mar Nigeria tomorrow we need to be careful about our thoughts, actions and vision of the country for the next sixty years. In particular, we must redefine the path to follow to national unity, development and greatness, how would national aspirations be best achieved ? Here we must embrace altruism, patriotism, nationalism, justice and shun regional values and vision and related concepts such as tribalism, ethnicity, religiosity, nepotism, cronyism corruption etc which frustrated nation building efforts in the last 59 or 60 years. We must change our waywardness as a people including negative attitude to national unity and development.
Precisely, the question is: what can we do now to make the country a better one tomorrow? Sixty years may look a very long distance from now but as every travelers knows , a journey of many miles starts with a first step in the right direction. So, we must start early, make the right move and strategic sacrifice to avoid a repetition of the woes of the past in future. In short, the task ahead is arduous. It calls for deep and creative thinking, strategic planning, selfless services and persistent culture of honesty, altruism and hard work on consistent basis. In a word, moving the country forward for the next fifty nine or sixty years will not be easy and it would among others require self rediscovery, freedom from mental slavery and self correction of past mistakes.
There is therefore every need today to wear our thinking and creative cap to work out a fruitful path to the next sixty years. For instance, we need to think deeply about our future and make positive moves to correct things and lay a more solid foundation a better life than we had had in the past since independence. Here, we have 59 years of history to draw useful lessons from to safeguard our actions. Where do we want Nigeria to be say in sixty years’ time? How will she get there? What will be the fate of the country say within the next five or so years? Towards this end, we must emphasize leadership, management, and governance- the human tools that are used to produce wealth and better society. With such emphasis better vision would be set, resources will be better utilized, and programs would be better supervised and implemented and promote inclusiveness for the good of all, rather than for a few select Nigerians as was the case in the past sixty years.
As it were we have wasted a greater part of the past 59 years plundering the economy and making few people rich happy, leaving the economy in near state of ruins. Wailing over spilled milk will not help. Nothing gets done without due action. Here only positive action in the right direction can save the day.The next sixty years should be made to produce a different scenario to grow the economy, create wealth for the good and happiness of all citizens in all parts of the country. This will require the deliberate act of men – leaders, managers, artisans and indeed all citizens working in concert for national unity and development. It would require planning, mobilizing all resources and the deployment of relevant skills and knowledge of leadership, management and governance and the recruitment and deployment of the best hands for nation building. To harvest plenty of yams tomorrow, we must plant yams in the right manner today. This is in accordance with the law of nature that tells man that he reaps what he has sowed.
Unless the right foundation was laid now for a better society tomorrow, informed by useful lessons from our national history, things might just remain the same old way indefinitely. Behold, the country might just walk through into the next sixty years with same old disappointments of the previous 59 years. We need the sincere and positive actions of men and women to transform the country from poverty to wealth, from disunited and under- developed entity to a highly united and prosperous nation- state, in short to move her from the back seat to the front seat among the nations of the world.
There are grounds to believe that the country failed so woefully because she failed to do certain things well. One of them has been her inability to provide able leadership, effective management and good governance under any system for most part of the years under review. For instance leadership was unable to rise above narrow primordial values of regionalism, tribalism, religiosity, nepotism and human weakness of corruption. The elite projected profane values such as corruption. A good or healthy culture of leadership, management and governance will ensure the right vision, manage resources and ensure proper implementation of policies and abhor corruption in the national interest.
Another obstacle was the absence of a clear and strong ideological path. The country wobbled, wavered and showed timidity and unwisdom in finally toeing a barren, harsh and inappropriate ideological path. The present variety of the market based ideology is inappropriate and unsuitable for many reasons especially for failing to wear human face and excluding the state from economic activities and selling off public enterprises. A related problem was acute low citizenry participation in the development process.
For instance, the god- fathers in politics and the wanton rigging of elections made voting useless as people’s means of choosing their leaders in democracy. Yet, another inhibiting factor was the absence or lack of effective consequence management system in the country. This could be seen in the prevalence of insincere and weak enforcement of laws, inability to catch no punish law breakers, disregard for the rule of law, justice, fairness and high moral sense. It is needless to say that a nation that cannot make good laws and enforce them is doomed.
While these should form the areas of focus in the years ahead, let me say that in spite of all the problems, disappointments etc Nigeria deserves to be celebrated. She survived a civil war and all the other many man -made obstacles in her way since independence. Besides, love attracts love,hatred attracts hate- actions, gloom attracts depression and warm celebration has its positive value especially in promoting happiness and lifting the spirits of a people and motivating them to do much better. It has positive effect on the psyche of community and ennoble the soul to higher level. No matter how badly deformed a child is, parents have the duty to love and to take care of the the child for healthy growth and development. Similarly, no matter its difficult circumstances , Nigeria deserves to be loved, cared for and celebrated by its children not only for her surviving till date but also as the only authentic portion of the earth today they could legally call their own ancestral home.
As could seen with monkeys, dogs, lizards even animals like to be appreciated. For instance you pet dogs to be them friendlier. The lizard nods its held in self praise any time it makes a long jump down from a tall position.In the absence of due appreciation, Nigeria can emulate the proverbial lizard which jumped down from a tall iroko tree but resorted to nodding in self – praise in the absence of appreciation of its great athletic feat by those around. Nigeria could praise herself. It is certainly not easy to survive such a long jump down. It is not easy to live as one nation for59 years. So let’s celebrate ourselves. Let us celebrate our dear country for our good health and to pep up our spirits of patriotism and nationalism.There is no need to be wearing mournful faces or crying over spilled milk.
All hands must therefore be on deck. The last statement is important because nations do not build themselves. People build them with their energy, love and faith, with commitment and determination.Today, the spirit of patriotism and and flames of nationalism are weak and dim in the country. The practice of leadership, management and governance is weak and selfish. These nation- lifting values need to be rekindled through occasional celebration. For example I arrived the country from North America on the eve of her 59th birthday with some refined populist ideas based on deep reflection abroad and enthusiasm to awaken relevant values and ginger efforts in community development only to meet gloomy faces, unpleasant feelings about our dear country and low or unwilling spirits.
Instead of of warm celebration there were harsh talks about nothing to celebrate in Nigeria. It was a very bad situation for progress. I was discouraged and dispirited. Generally, the foul and depressed mood is bad for the creative spirits and inimical to the enthusiastic promotion of the development and unity of the country. People in such condition can only be reluctant participants in the development process.This was my impression as a Nigerian but you can only imagine how negative the impression of foreigners especially the investors would be.Thus, I was deeply sad and disappointed to learn that whatever celebration was officially going to be low keyed. It was a sad and frightening reminder that the right setting for meaningful development was missing and the night marauders and the mongers of insecurity were still in the wings there by missing the opportunity to promote and strengthen the much needed patriotism and nationalism. What ever the poor situation we need to thank God and celebrate our country especially her independence anniversary to serve as incentive to promote our collective bond of responsibility and constantly ignite and heighten our collective sense of patriotism and nationalism and unity.
Much has been said about the ugliness of life in Nigeria for the past 59 years. It is now time for fruitful actions. This is so because neither the refusal to celebrate Nigeria nor the continued crying over past mistakes would make any difference. Only positive actions would change the situation for the better. Truly, a million tears will not change the fortune of the game for the better. Only determined efforts aimed at positive change will do the magic. It would be helpful at this point to realize that Nigeria is not dead but only down. It is certainly not yet a hopeless case. She can be salvaged.So there is no need crying, weeping or mourning. Truly all the wailings over past failures today will serve no useful purpose except the the lessons they offer for positive change. Yes only the positive steps of the citizens well led by the elite in the right direction would yield the desired result of say glorious national unity and development. While this is the immediate motivation of this piece, it should be observed that with sincerity of purpose and diligent commitment to honest hard-work, Nigeria can be pulled out of gloom or from the limbo by taking some necessary steps such as changing some of our bad habits and dirty and unproductive ways.
As already indicated a significant part of the task of this essay is to suggest ways to make Nigeria a very great country henceforth, to make her a better place for us all rather than for a few privileged citizens. Many things could be done, including self- rediscovery especially of the original goal of independence, which includes freedom from colonization, democracy and the modernization of society in all ramifications, freedom from mental slavery caused by Western institutions and the uncritical acceptance of their ideas and strategies of development as given. There would be need for self- correction of mistakes driven by high sense of patriotism and altruism. Among others, this will require creative thinking, careful diagnosis of ailments, critical analysis of national issues, a diligent commitment to justice, fairness, rule of law. Also the development of skills for solving problems and doing able leadership, effective management and good governance will be key to a positive and better future.
To be continued
Orif. Abhuere is the founder of Centre For Child Care and Youth Development, Abuja