“There is nothing to celebrate about Nigeria’s independence; it’s all lamentations and regrets” – Senator Okurounmu
Onyedika Agbedo, Olakunle Olafioye (Lagos), Noah Ebije (Kaduna), Ben Dunno (Warri), Joe Effiong (Uyo), Sylvanus Viashima (Jalingo), Laide Raheem (Abeokuta), Noah Ebije, Kaduna
The lowering of the British Union Jack and hoisting of the Green-White-Green flag on October 1, 1960, was greeted with widespread ecstasy across Nigeria.
The day marked the end of colonial rule in the country as the nationalists finally won the struggle for independence. Thus Nigeria and her citizens entered into a new beginning by becoming their own masters and ready to build a country of their dream.
Then the expectations were high that the founding fathers of the country, like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Anthony Enahoro and Dr Alvan Ikoku, among others, hoped to forge a country that would be truly one in name and attitude; a country where citizens, irrespective of tribe or religion, would be free to pursue their dreams in any part therein; a country where there would be justice, equity and fairness; a country where the law protects the poor and the rich equally and is regarded as supreme; a country where the citizens would be free to choose their leaders and where leadership is seen as an opportunity to render selfless service to the nation; and a country where the wealth of the nation is used for the development of the nation and not squandered by the privileged few, who have access to the common treasury.
These past heroes of Nigeria, to say the least, did not fail in their assignment. They exhibited utmost commitment, selflessness, dedication and integrity in their service to their fatherland. They used the first post-independence constitution, the 1963 Constitution, to construct a workable structure that would accommodate the interests of more than 250 ethnic groups that formed part of the federation and to make Nigeria “one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.”
They pursued the Nigeria of their dream with “heart and might” to preserve ‘the labour of our heroes past.” However, the 1962 crisis within the Action Group, the dominant political party in defunct Western Region, which snowballed into a national crisis, the bloody coup d’etat of January 15, 1966 and the counter-coup of July 29, 1966; the civil war of July 6, 1967 to January 15, 1970; and prolonged military rule all combined to destroy the foundation laid by the founding fathers of the country.
As the country clocks 58 tomorrow, many believe that it is still groping in darkness. But many still believe that all hope is not lost as the country can still come out of the woods and become the pride of Africa and, indeed, one of the most respected nations of the world.
To gauge the feelings of Nigerians, particularly statesmen and active watchers of happenings in the country, Sunday Sun went to town to evaluate the level of achievement of the dreams, failures and the way forward as the country marks 58 years of independence.
Our politicians have not done well, they only sap the people
–Archbishop Emmanuel Chukwuma, Anglican Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province and Bishop of Enugu Diocese
“A 58, Nigeria ought to have developed more than this. Our forefathers started with a lot of sacrifice, commitment, dedication and selflessness. There was no spirit of corruption. They believed so much in integrity and good governance. They believed that this country must be united, hence somebody like Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe said that he didn’t mind where the presidency went at that time; all he was concerned about was the independence of Nigeria. When he said that he was speaking as a detribalized man who, when he became the first president of Nigeria, was totally detribalized. He was very much concerned about every Nigerian and you could see that in him. Having come from Onitsha, he did not say that the University of Nigeria should be sited at Onitsha or anywhere in Anambra State; it was sited at Nsukka. Ahmadu Bello University was sited at Zaria and you could find that Sir Ahmadu Bello did not hail from Zaria. The University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) was sited at Ife and Ife is not the hometown of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. They did all these things for the good of their various regions and Nigeria. Unfortunately today, if somebody is a governor or president, he takes everything to his own town and to his state. You can imagine that when they were siting federal universities under former President Goodluck Jonathan, he cited one at Otueke, his hometown. You could also see how the wife of this current president is building a hospital in Daura and so on and so forth. Even right now, they have been trying to use resources from the South-south to fund projects in the North while people in the South are suffering. So, you can see that the spirit of our forefathers, which was about selflessness and good for all, has been derailed. What we are facing today is no more good governance; we are now facing a lot of selfishness, corruption and inordinate acquisition of wealth. I once lived in Bauchi and I could not find anything as riches that were accumulated by Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He never accumulated wealth. Today, most of our leaders are so wealth conscious at the expense of the generality of the people. It is a pity that at 58, we are still struggling economically even when God blessed us with oil. Nigeria is blessed with wealth, but it’s poor because of the bad governance, greed and selfishness of our leaders. At 58, people cannot enjoy stable power supply. In those days when we had the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN), when power was sourced from Kainji Dam, power was stable. But today, with all the privatisation that is going on, one is wondering why power supply has remained so epileptic. And if you look at power, it has affected the economy of the nation, especially in the area of industrialisation. Because of the problem, Dunlop and Michelin relocated from Nigeria to Ghana; and so many others have gone. Our existing industries are no longer thriving because of high cost of production occasioned by inadequate power supply. The result is high rate of importation while unemployment has been on the rise. In those days, when you graduate from the university, you get a job. Today, people study up to doctorate degree level and are still unemployed. That has brought frustration to the younger ones such that some of them are now involved in many vices and crimes. Also, inflation has eaten up the minimum wage and many families cannot feed three times in a day, hence there is increase in suicide. In those days, suicide was a taboo; but today, because of bad governance, which has affected the economy, people choose to commit suicide as a way of ending suffering. In the early years of our independence, it was a pride to go on retirement after the statutory years of service to fatherland, but it is no longer so today because retirees are not sure of their gratuities and pension. At 58, Nigeria is suffering from so much insecurity. At independence, you could travel even in the night and there was no armed robbery, Boko Haram or Fulani killer herdsmen. Today, even in the day, people travel in fear due to insecurity. It’s a very unfortunate development. The rule of law is no longer being respected in this present time. At the earlier time of post-independence Nigeria, there was very serious obedience to the law of the land. Today, whoever becomes the president feels he can do whatever he likes and that the rule of law does not have any place in the Nigerian government. That is absolute indiscipline and autocracy, which should not be allowed to reign in Nigeria. The way to come out of these problems is to allow a new spirit to come into Nigeria by making the old politicians give way. Many of them have overstayed in politics and are now stale. We cannot continue to recycle evil, failure and bad governance, which have been perpetrated by some people in this country. If you look at those who are aspiring to rule this country, they are still from the same circle, which we must not allow. These younger ones today who are between 50 and 60 years old should be given the opportunity to give a new lease of life to this country. I am praying for a revolution, the type that happened in Ghana. I am praying for a time when all these people that messed up this country will be wiped away. That will make Nigerians to have fear and also restore sincerity in governance. The people who stole the wealth of this nation are still within the government of the country perpetrating evil. Thus, we have a situation where the rich is becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer. Therefore, even when we pretend to be fighting corruption, we tend to be encouraging corruption. For instance, I see no reason our politicians are paying so much for the nomination forms of their parties in order to stand for election. It is corruption for parties to raise the cost of nomination forms to the high rate it is today and by so doing disallowing the younger ones from buying it. It is also an act of corruption for the president to accept a nomination form that cost N45 million from poor citizens of Nigeria to run for the presidency. It is not encouraging at all as somebody who is fighting corruption. He has encouraged corruption because he didn’t know and ask how those people raised the money, but he accepted it. So, those who raised the money should be questioned. What was their motive? The motive is corruption and he who accepted that is also corrupt and I totally condemn that. Time has come for politicians to be sincere and know that politics is not business; it is service. So, people should be prepared to come and serve the people and not to sap people. There should be fairness and equity in all that we do. Today, Mr President has usurped many posts for the northerners. Look at what has happened at the DSS. Why did he not allow the South-South man who was acting to continue? He removed him and appointed a northerner again. If you talk about the Service Chiefs, you cannot find anybody from the Southeast or South-South there. That’s not right; it does not make Nigeria to be united. And that calls for the renegotiation of the unity of Nigeria. The unity of Nigeria is negotiable because what is going on today does not show equity, justice and fairness in our governance. So, at 58, we are crying to God to come and intervene and make Nigeria to be better. We cannot continue like this till the 60th year of Nigeria’s independence.”
Only mass action can save the country
–Mbazulike Amaechi, foremost nationalist and former Minister of Aviation in the First Republic
“I am one of those that one can describe as one of the founding fathers of this country. As a matter of fact, I doubt that I am the only one that is still alive. I was one of those who took part in the struggle for independence and played a key role in the Zikist Movement, which was a radical wing of the leading nationalist party, the NCNC. We founded a country that we built to be one where democracy will be practiced; a country where unity will be manifest, a country where there will be justice, equity and fairness. The country started on three regions; these regions agreed to federate. And by the 1963 Republican Constitution, they agreed that the resources of the various regions should be managed and controlled by the regions. At that time there was no oil; it was groundnut for the North; palm produce for the East and cocoa for the West. Things were going on well under the constitution. Six years into independence, an unpatriotic military struck and took over the government. And this government of the military remained in control for 38 years and so destroyed democracy. They introduced massive stealing, which they developed into massive looting. By then oil had come and there was so much wealth in the country; there was so much to loot. In 1979, they changed the constitution of the country into an extensive presidential system where the whole wealth of the country is being frittered away by politicians who were elected or appointed into offices. This has continued till today. But about the worst of the situation, which we have now, is that there is no more democracy in the country; there is no more equity in the country. For instance, because a portion of the country was defeated in a civil war, it is still being regarded as a slave of the country. And the incumbent government has refused that people should come together and try to see what is wrong with the constitution of the country, the structure of the country or the allocation of revenue and so forth. He has refused to see it because he is not a democrat. He is a dictator who overthrew a democratic government in 1983 and a few years after changed his khaki uniform to agbada to come and pretend to be a democrat. Now, see what is happening. He wants to convert a portion of the country into Islam. We have mock elections like we had in Ondo, Ekiti and Edo. I feel sorry for the country. As it is, I can only call on Nigerians to rise up like we did in our own time. I call on the youths, women and religious organisations of the country to rise up and fight to restore democracy in their country, to save their country. If they don’t rise up to save the country, it might explode and disintegrate.
“People can as well rise up to save their country. Egyptians overthrew their government without rising up; people sat for almost a month and refused to go to anywhere; they blocked the roads and everything came to a standstill. That kind of thing can be done in Nigeria to force dictators out of the country and let the people of the country come back and renegotiate the basis of their unity. I’m not advocating for a revolution, but I’m advocating a mass action by the people of this country. That is the only thing that can save country.”
Right thinking Nigerians should weep for the nation
“Any right thinking Nigerian who cannot weep about the situation in the country should be quietly lamenting in his heart that this is the kind of country we find ourselves today. This is especially so if the person was old enough to know what Nigeria was when we got independence in 1960 and what the dreams of our founding fathers were. The present state of the country is enough to make one weep. There is nothing to celebrate about Nigeria’s independence; it’s all lamentations and regrets. We have been going further down and deeper into the shithole whereas our contemporaries when we got our independence 58 years ago have bridged the gap between them and the White man. Our contemporaries are now rubbing shoulders with the developed world, whereas we are still way down. All this is because of the treachery of our leaders. So, what can we say, but to lament. We got it wrong because of bad, selfish, thieving leadership; we have mostly rogues as leaders. We have pen-robbers as leaders. The money our leaders have stolen from this country since independence, a former prime minister said if that was to be stolen from Britain, Britain itself would collapse. More than N20 trillion have been stolen by successive leaders since independence. Money that could have been used to develop the country was by stolen successive leaders in the country. This is the problem we have with selfish, visionless and unpatriotic leaders. The only hope I can see as far as this country is concerned is that we have to redirect our minds. Nigerian youths of today are not thinking correctly. Leaders also are not thinking correctly; we are all thinking upside down. This is because everybody is now running after money. We kill people to get money; our politics is monetized, the electoral process is corrupted and monetised. We have a whole lot of corrupt people who are only interested in making money in power. We need to reorient the young ones to think differently. If we continue to think the way we are, Nigeria has no hope. So, our youths must begin to think like human beings not like animals.”
We’re yet to get to where we dreamt of
–Ayo Adebanjo, Afenifere chieftain
“It is obvious that as a nation we are yet to get to where we dreamt of due to bad management and leadership. What is the state of our electricity? What is the state of our education? What is the state of our roads and our health system? What is the state of our unity? Are we united as a nation after 58 years? That is why everybody is struggling for a change of government so that we can restart. The present government is the most woeful government we have ever had and we are praying that we will be able to get rid of it. There is hope for Nigeria if we are able to get rid of Buhari in 2019. But it will be worse for Nigeria if by any act of omission or commission the election is rigged and Buhari comes back. That will be the end of Nigeria. The only hope for Nigeria is for Buhari to be removed from power in 2019. Nothing good can happen under his government. He is fighting corruption and yet surrounds himself with corrupt people. He is ruling as if he is ruling a section of the country. There are so many things that are wrong with the country. The best bet now is to get rid of him. I have been in this game for over 60 years. He started over three years ago, so what has he done since then? What was the situation in 2015 and what is it now? How much was a dollar to naira in 2015, how much is it now? What was the state of electricity in 2015 and what is it now? Was Nigeria not more united then than it is now? So, what has he done to make Nigeria better? It has all been motion without movement.”
We must sacrifice our comfort today for the good of tomorrow
–Sani, ACF scribe
“The expectations at independence might not have been met, but we must still count our blessings one by one. If you compare the number of federating units, the number of schools, higher institutions and universities, infrastructural development by way of roads, at independence with what we have now, then you would not be able to say nothing has been achieved from independence to date, especially when we note that the population has increased from about 55 million to about 180 million. That the pace of development has been a far cry from our aspirations is not to suggest we have not moved. All we need do is for us to move at a faster pace than we have been doing. And this is not at the level of leadership alone, but the citizens as well. I have no regrets. This is because we have the independence and the freedom to elect our leaders and the way we want to be governed. And if there have been any failure of leadership, it is because of the nature of the polity. The First Republic is said to have performed better than the succeeding republics. This is because the First Republic was when Nigeria was not a Trust Fund State, which was financed by oil wealth that is not a result of hard work. During the First Republic Nigeria depended on what the country produced. Nigerians paid taxes that sustained the governments at all levels. As a result, there was civil responsibility among the people and less of corruption. But as soon as oil wealth was discovered, the governments and the leaders abandoned work culture and the taxes among the people. This was because the leaders feared that if people were duly taxed, the citizens would hold the governments and the leaders accountable against corruption and for performance and try to prevent rigging of elections in order to protect public funds that come from taxes. That has been the fate of the republics, which came after the First Republic.”
Present state of Nigeria, betrayal of founding fathers’ dream
–Emmanuel Njiwal, former ambassador
“Before independence, my area was a British Trust territory in Cameroun administered from Nigeria. We held high the Nigerian flag at independence in the territory, and sang triumphant songs for our independence. The general expectation then was that the quality of life would improve more than what was tenable. We had hoped that since our leaders were so vehement in the fight for independence, its attainment would mean a better life for the people. We had hoped that we would be able to reposition our priorities such that it would reflect our own culture and tradition while exploring our potentials to reach a height that was far more than what was on ground. We were expecting that more things would be brought to shape in accordance with the dreams of our founding fathers, especially those who fought so much for our independence. But people started thinking about self, more than the nation and that was the beginning of our problems. The dream was shattered in under a decade and we are suffering the consequences since then. It is now getting from bad to worse and then worst. We have now deteriorated to the level that you could be in your house and someone would simply just walk in with sophisticated weapons and kill you with your entire household and nothing happens. We have deteriorated to the level where you find people going around with sophisticated guns and nobody arrests or even disturbs them. In fact, the authorities are more concerned with collecting the kitchen knives of the ordinary person than the AK 47 of these people. They will go and arrest the person with spear and leave the person with guns that he does not have the license to carry. It is such a systemic failure that it is clear the dreams, our expectations and all are simply gone. Our dreams have not only been betrayed, but they are shattered, our hopes thrown into the garbage bin and our collective resolve at independence terribly violated. And I tell you what, if we don’t go back to the very things that brought us together to fight for independence irrespective of religious and other sectional interests, this country would remain on the reverse gear. What I regret most about Nigeria is that, we never grew to choose our leaders on the bases of principle and their credibility and competence. Nobody thinks about political ideologies any longer. All that matters is a platform on which to run and grab political offices. Unfortunately, the elite often trade on sentiments such as religious, political, sectional and tribal to further divide the people just so that they can achieve their goals. That is why you have people going from party A to party B and C and the entire circle continues. They don’t know what they stand for or the political parties they are jumping across.”
Development in Nigeria is now tribalistic
–Etim Okpoyo, former Akwa Ibom deputy governor and ambassador to Italy, Albania
“If you talk about infrastructure, it looks as though we have been selective. In the 60 and 70, we were not doing that. Up to six months ago, I couldn’t go to Oron, my area; I had to take a longer route to hit the East-West Road before connecting Oron from Uyo. The road from Calabar to Itu Junction to Ikot Ekpene to Aba, which is a federal road no longer exists. But these are the roads we were taking in the past years. Both the state and federal governments must sit up. It is a shame that after earning billions of dollars from crude oil sales, we are still battling with extremely poor electricity supply. Once we solve this problem of electricity, the problem of industrialization will end.”
It’s a shattered dream at 58
–Chief Frank Kokori, former NUPENG president
“I am disappointed that we have not done well at all. The leadership has disappointed so much and today, we are worse off in the whole world. Our country now is so difficult to manage and so much mysteries everywhere. Obviously, some of us are not happy and I put this at the doorstep of leadership. The Peoples Democratic Party government that came in 1999 was a disaster. They gave us too much problems. And the way the All Progressives Congress, even though I am a chieftain of the party, but I must tell you that for three years now, nothing much has changed. It saddens me that the judiciary is too slow in dispensing justice. People buy justice with money; the security agencies are not doing their jobs and, in fact, some of them are corrupt. The majority of the judiciary are corrupt. If we can have a judiciary that is stainless and the Police Force that is stainless, obviously Nigeria will move forward.”
Nigeria overdue for a revolution
“For the former governor of old Kaduna State and Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the nation’s 58th independence anniversary celebration, is non-issue, which he dismissed as an annual ritual.
“But when pressed further, Balarabe Musa simply said: “The independence anniversary is an annual ritual which has been a story of one disappointment to another in the nation’s polity. We need a revolution that will ensure a change from negative tendencies to positiveness, looking at the situation now.”
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