Nigeria at 57 is not a super tale. It is a sorry tale of failed dreams and aspirations. It is a story of abundant riches, squandermania, bad politics, military coups, corruption, war, ethnic tensions and prodigal sons and daughters. It is a story of wealth, abundance, poverty and want. I say all this simply because we are not where we ought to have been. We have, indeed, mismanaged our human and material resources.
One remarkable achievement so far is the widely held claim that despite all odds, we still remain one country but highly divided and fractured along ethnic, political and religious lines. Ours is not exemplary in Africa. We have failed the black people all over the world. Regrettably, our 57 years of self-rule is not enough to make us a great nation.
We have drifted and drifted unnecessarily. Apart from the modest achievements made in the First Republic before the military struck in 1966, we have not made appreciable impact in the comity of nations in spite of the oil boom or doom.
The dreams of our founding fathers are stillborn. They should be sighing wherever they are now over our avoidable failures. Because we have failed, the annual rites of celebration of independence should have been deferred to another date. Instead of celebration of independence, we should use the occasion to reflect deeply on our 57 years of existence and put forward an enduring agenda for the future. By now we should be thinking where Nigeria will be at 70 or 80. We should be futuristic in planning.
Instead of that, the leaders are busy telling the rest of us that the unity of the nation is not negotiable. They say that everything about Nigeria is settled that we should continue to be moving forward whether we are fumbling or wobbling.
To them, the way Nigeria is constituted today is perfect and nobody should ask questions or say something about it except, however, through the National Assembly where the North has overwhelming majority. With that majority, they can kill any objections/grievances that go to the National Assembly instead of addressing them.
If you say that you want the country to be different from what it is now, you become a traitor or an angry election loser or one desirous to truncate the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. If you are unlucky, you will be accused of hate speech. If you happen to belong to Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that is agitating for Biafra’s independence through a referendum, you are likely to be branded a terrorist, even when you are non-violent.
In the last 57 years of existence, Nigeria has passed through many phases, some palatable and some sour. The worst experience the country has passed through is the 30 months fratricidal civil war in which over three million people died from both sides of the conflict. But it appears that we have not learnt sufficient lessons from the cruel war. The issues that led to the war have not been fully addressed, 47 years after.
That is why the country is always having avoidable hiccups and tremors. History repeats itself simply because those involved never learnt from the eternal lessons of history. How many Nigerians born in 1970 and after know the history of Nigerian civil war? How many of them know about Nigerian history and how we become one country?
This is where those in charge of our history and culture should come in and exert their influence. There is a great disconnect between the nation and her citizens. There is also a great disconnect between the leaders and the led. The alienation is a source of trouble in the land. That is why the nation is always at the crossroads of ethnic violence and confusion.
Irrespective of what our leaders say about our existence, Nigerians should productively dialogue with one another and iron out our differences with a view to reaching the desired consensus on most issues troubling our fatherland. It is true that restructuring has assumed the centre stage of our national discourse.
It is not for joke that restructuring has occupied that eminent position and hugged the headlines. Politicians are talking about it. Ethnic leaders are not left out. Hate it or love it, restructuring is what Nigeria needs now to move forward healthily. There is no point confusing restructuring with dismemberment of the country. The two concepts are, indeed, poles apart.
Call it restructuring, devolution of powers, fiscal federalism, configuration or whatever, they mean the same thing. All of them are in agreement that the status quo ante bellum is not working to our taste. Some state governments are unable to pay workers’ salaries and pensions to retired workers.
We have a powerful central government and weak federating states and non-existent local government areas. Under the present unitary federalism, local governments have become centres for the sharing of federal allocation that the governors allowed to reach them.
If the truth be told, Nigeria at 57 is a great disappointment. This is the time to, not only lament our past misdeeds, but chart a new course for future progress. Our unity must be negotiated to ensure justice and fairness. Our extant unity is devoid of justice and fairness to all the ethnic groups in the country. It is quite evident in the 36 state structure and that of the 774 local government areas.
It is evident in the recruitment of our security officers, federal civil servants and admission into unity schools. I can go on and on. Nigeria is far from being a perfect creation of God Almighty. We should continue to amend the nation’s edifice, especially if the roofs are leaking and the paints are peeling. Attitudinal restructuring, as championed by some people, may not be a bad idea but structural restructuring, which is major, will have serious effect on the attitude, too.
The present federal government should be patient enough to listen to grievances from all parts of Nigeria, whether adjudged genuine or not.
The APC government must be tolerant of the opposition. That is the way of all democracies. Ours must not be different. Nigeria at 57 should strive to do better. We should be able to feed ourselves and stop medical tourism.
Our schools and hospitals should be among the best in the world. Potable water should be available to all Nigerians whether in urban or rural areas. Let our leaders provide jobs for unemployed Nigerians. This alone, will reduce the ongoing youth restiveness and agitations. We should build a Nigeria where all citizens are treated fairly and equally.