Felix Nwaneri and Wale Elegbede report on the verdict of some eminent personalities on Nigeria’s 60 years of self-rule
Nigeria has made progress despite challenges – Sani Anthony Sani is the immediate past Secretary General of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF)
I see the 60th independence anniversary as an opportunity for the nation to take stock of its journey of nation building and assess progress against plans with a view to note the progress made so far, identify where we had shortcomings and chart the way forward. The 60th anniversary is worth celebrating in the sense that independence gave us freedom to determine how we governed ourselves in the last 60 years.
We tried the confederate structure of three regions that became four with a weak centre under a parliamentary system of government. This was abolished and replaced by the unitary system with a strong centre under the watch of military dictatorship.
The unitary system did not last long and was supplanted by the federal structure of 12, 19, 21, 30 and now 36 states as federating units. This is a compromise between the confederation and the unitary system.
The federalism is where the Federal Government is balanced by appropriate state level power. By way of form of government, the federalism has been under the military regimes and also presidential system. Taking a look at the trend of socioeconomic development, Nigeria did not have more than five universities, among which was only one state university at Ife. Today we have about 174 universities that include state and private universities.
The same with polytechnics and Federal Government colleges now called unity schools. At independence, none was more than five. But now they are found in all the states of the federation. All these are testament to the fact that the nation has progressed politically and socio-economically, however slow, compared to its peers. So, we should count our blessings and name them one by one, but resolve to work harder with courage and in hope.
Therefore, my message to the political class is for them to realise their roles as the light and the salt of the political system, which exist to serve the people by providing direction on the best way to provide order, justice, liberty, common decency and prosperity for all. They should note that while wealth is preferred over poverty, to be rich in a clime where majority are poor does not fulfill the common vision of good life.
Nigeria got it wrong from 1914 amalgamation – Uwazurike Chief Goddy Uwazurike, a lawyer, is a former President of Aka Ikenga
Nigeria is a 60-year- old toddler! It is also better described as a pediatric adult! To be described as such means that at 60, Nigeria is still crawling when her age mates are already grandparents! The biggest weakness of Nigeria is poverty of thought! Nigeria, through her leaders, still reasons like a toddler! This is why myopia is her regular thinking mechanism. A toddler has peculiar needs – food, sleep, cuddling and playing. Anything beyond these is a burden. Kids hate burdens. Nigeria got it wrong from 1914, during the amalgamation. The only reason Lord Lugard had for the amalgamation was for the economic wealth of the South to sustain the North.
The succeeding British administrators sustained this imbalance and imposed a horrendous political system that is hemorrhaging us. The quality of the leadership in this country is so hollow that the good people are considered stupid. So, most good people have learnt to join the bad people since they cannot beat them. All aspirations of the people should be for a level playing field. It is only a level playing field that will enable good people to triumph over bad people during elections.
But, first, a far sighted leader must emerge. It is only a leader with a statesmanship quality, who will think of making the country workable for generations yet unborn, including his grandchildren! Vision is a sine qua non for Nigeria to understand the importance of the new normal. Recently, the Nigerian government approved a humongous contract of $1.9 billion to build a railway line in the desert and into Niger Republic.
Now compare this to any contract that will uplift the economy of Nigeria! Enugu-Onitsha express way? Enugu-Port Harcourt express way, Lagos-Badagry express way, East- West road, Ibadan-Ilorin road, Lokoja- Abuja road, Owerri-Umuahia raod, Aba-Uyo road and Calabar- Zaki Ibiam road? In the new normal, we are spending heavily on non-economic areas! Nigeria in the next 10 to 30 years will be stumbling on the downward slope of big cliff !
Why? Because we are executing a white elephant project known as AKK. Here we are spending billions laying gas pipelines from the oil producing areas to the far north and unto the desert countries and finally to the Mediterranean countries. How do you fund the project; the security of the pipelines? The answer is that myopism of the leadership will definitely derail this country!
Freedom remains elusive despite independence – Aborisade Femi Aborisade is a lawyer and human rights activist
The imposition of avoidable pains and pangs by the Federal Government on the economically overburdened downtrodden people in terms of hike in fuel price and electricity tariff reflects the true state of life Nigeria – a country over endowed with resource and wealth but whose people wallow in abject poverty in the midst of plenty. A country whose rulers kneel on the necks of its peoples, preventing them from breathing; a country where politicians seize power with sweet promises only to assume power and begin to wage war against the people with punitive economic policies and setting the coercive apparatus of the state to repress, oppress, intimidate and hold the masses down in subjugation. So, there is nothing worth celebrating in Nigeria at 60.
The huge promises of a better life for the masses have remained illusory. Governmental goal in the post-independence era was the dream of securing the maximum attainable common good, welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen. Today, the goal of public policies appears to be the opposite – to dispossess the masses and hold them in subjugation.
There is no doubt about the steady degeneration in all aspects of life in Nigeria. Nothing speaks to the fact that Nigeria is sinking than the acknowledged fact that in spite of the oil wealth, Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world, hosting the highest proportion of people living in chronic poverty. Income inequality is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.
The paradox of a rich country but poor people finds full expression in fulfillment in Nigeria. Nowhere else in the world is like Nigeria, where extremes of poverty and wealth co-exist without equally strong mass resistance movements. The hard-won civil rule of 1999, which marked the end of monstrous military dictatorship, has not translated into significant democracy. Indeed, what is unfolding is a process of de-democratisation, a process which diminishes the democratic contents of democracy.
The fundamental question to pose is: Why the paradox? Why does poverty continue to capture more and more people and dragging them down the abyss, to the extent of turning the country into the poverty capital of the world? It is perceived that there could be a relationship between privatisation and the poverty level. Privatisation of public assets has been the key element of the two sides of the same coin called ruling political parties in Nigeria – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC).
Momoh: We’ve made progress and retrogressed at the same time Prince Tony Momoh is a former Minister of Information
We have made progress and retrogressed at the same time. This is because when you move from one point to the other, there are challenges on the way. The way you attend to the challenges is what you see as either progress or retrogression. Experiences that human beings encounter in their living are what make them grow. We have had lots of challenges. Imagine that we started at the same time with South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Brazil; we were all at the same level.
We had industries and assembly plants like Mercedes Benz, Peugeot, and Volkswagen like all these countries I mentioned. Brazil now produces luxurious buses and vehicles whereas Nigeria’s own packed up. We were exporting a lot of things including petroleum products, now we import everything. Until recently, we were even spending most of our money on buying the food that we eat, instead of growing the food that we eat and eating the food that we grow. We have had lots of challenges as a nation. Prof. Wole Soyinka referred to those periods as wasted generation and I think he was correct in saying so. Also,when you consider the amount of resources that came our way and what we were able to achieve, it is also fitting to describe them as a wasteful generation. Since 1999, we have been practicing democracy in Nigeria. Democracy is a way you chose to grow the polity and it has to do with freedom. In our traditional society, freedom is earned; not donated. Even in developed countries, freedom is given as a function of growth. In other words, democracy, which is freedom, is the luxury of development. When you are developed, you enjoy. We have two chapters of the constitution. Chapter 4, which documents our rights as citizens and Chapter 2 anchors our duties. But here, we ignore chapter 2 and pursue chapter 4. Everybody is talking of rights but running away from their duties. So, in walking the highway from independence till now, we have really degenerated and retrogressed but we cannot say we have also not progressed as a nation.
Our greatness resides in our unity – Akinlude Chief Willy Akinlude is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State.
Firstly, we must thank God that Nigeria is still standing as one Nigeria. Yes, the challenges are quite much but we still have a country that we can call our own after 60 years. We must accept that we are not where we are supposed to be and that progress that we should have made is not there yet. Just like we have some good people toiling day and night to ensure that we progress as a nation, we also have some bad people that are slowing down our movement. One of the banes of this country is that many of those in leadership are there to grab whatever they can grab for themselves and their families. We need to start cultivating the mindset of selflessness; it is an important trait that will make this country great. Going forward, the leaders should ensure their possible best to see that we are united as a nation. Our greatness resides in our unity. I don’t support all these calls for separation or secession. Things may not be going well but we must learn from each other. I think we must allow democracy to grow and we will see the dividends with time. The youths must also imbibe the spirit of hard work and they must keep their focus. I believe that our country will still be great and we can only be hopeful.
1999 Constitution bane of Nigeria’s development – Okorie
Chief Chekwas Okorie is a chieftain of Ohanaeze Ndigbo It has been a chequered history for Nigeria in the last 60 years and it is not something any sincere person would be proud of. In the First Republic, the various component units developed at their own pace and it was with that period that the Eastern Region was reported as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. For young people in Eastern Region, going to work in the federal civil service in Lagos at that time didn’t hold much attraction because the region’s economy was very strong. Unfortunately for Nigeria, that growth was halted by the military. The civil war also came and the whole of that area became devastated. Besides these, the worst thing that happened to us as a nation and I must say it with every sense of responsibility; is the General Abdulsalami Abubakar government. I had expected that by now, he would be going round apologizing to Nigerians for the 1999 Constitution which his regime gave to us. What was given as a constitution did not have what Nigerians agreed on at the Constitutional Conference. Even what General Abacha was going to give had the six geopolitical structure proposed by former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and was approved by the conference delegates. So, it was the Abubakar regime that put Nigeria in this quagmire that we have not been able to recover from. It was his action that is responsible for Nigeria’s slide and any attempt to change the constitution has been resisted by those that the 1999 Constitution was designed to favour. Unfortunately, the man who headed that regime that shortchanged Nigerians is still alive and going about heading peace committees. So, I will urge political leaders to participate actively in the ongoing constitutional amendment exercise by the Ninth National Assembly. It may not meet the requirements needed for restructuring unlike a sovereign national conference or constitutional conference but it is obvious that the present administration is not disposed to convoking such conferences. Against this backdrop, I will call for collaboration, especially among the socio- cultural groups. They should extend the synergy they have shown as regards to collaboration and in the spirit of give and take, agree on constitutional provisions that will make Nigeria a better place and where every section of the country will have a sense of belonging.
Nigeria can be greater than what it is – Oladejo Hon Seye Oladejo is the Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC)
We are still together at 60 and we should be grateful for that. The challenges are enormous but can we do better? The answer is yes. Have we being able to fulfill our dreams at independence? The answer is no. I think all of us could be held responsible for this. Everyone has a part to play in making this country great at different levels. We should ask ourselves whether we have done our parts to make this country great. Or better still, we should ask ourselves what we can do at our levels to make Nigeria fulfill her promises and potentials at independence. If we are all able to do that, I believe Nigeria will be better for us all. I know Nigeria can be greater than what we have today. I don’t think Nigeria can break up but there are germane issues that we need to address. If we are having agitations for a breakup, it means that those issues are now at boiling points and they need to be addressed. I don’t really foresee a break-up.