As Nigeria marks her 60th anniversary today, Founder and Chancellor of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola, contrasts the indices of development and growth in the country between 1960 and 2020
Aare Afe Babalola
1960: Nil – Per Lord Macaulay, 2nd February, 1835 “I have travelled across the length and breadth of Africa and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Africans think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”. 2020: Poorest country in the world.
Over 50 per cent of Nigerians live in extreme poverty; while over 7 million Nigerians are in urgent need of life-saving assistance (European Union Parliament Resolution, January 2020) Also: “Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world” (World Poverty Clock, June 25, 2018) Available at: https://qz.com/africa/1313380/nigerias- has-the-highest-rate-of-extremepoverty- globally/ Also, “After living in denial, Nigerian Bureau of Statistics confirms Nigeria’s poverty capital status” (May 15, 2020) https://guardian.ng/politics/afterliving- in-denial-nbs-confirms-nigeriaspoverty- capital-status/
1960: Everybody had enough – Per Lord Macaulay and my personal experience
2020: Prevalent particularly among the lower class According to the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises, Nigeria ranks in the list of the world’s 10 hungriest countries.
With a score of 27.9, Nigeria suffers from a level of acute hunger and undernutrition that is categorized as “serious”. Nigeria only ranks better than several conflict and war-torn countries. See European Union, https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/ food-insecurity-and-knock-effects-covid- 19-hungriest-countries (Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti are the world’s 10 hungriest countries in the world)
1960: No unemployment – Per Lord Macaulay above and also from personal experience
2020: According to the Q22020 unemployment report published by Nigeria’s Bureau of Statistics, more than 27% of Nigerians are unemployed. One in every two Nigerians is either unemployed or underemployed. See: “Nigeria’s unemployment rate has more than tripled in the last five years—and it will only get worse” (August 14, 2020) https://qz.com/africa/1892237/ nigerias-unemployment-rate-tripled-infive- years/
1960: Predominantly farming
2020: * Farming abandoned. * The occupation of youths is mostly politics
1960: Mainly by retired Civil Servants and Principal of Secondary Schools. They were contented and ready and willing to serve and reform the country without salary but Sitting Allowance.
- Now a profession.
Do or die politics.
Mostly for jobless people who rely on godfathers
Politics is now the most lucrative enterprise
1960: * Unknown in Nigeria.
- Abominable and detested
- Introduced to Nigeria by European, Lebanese and Indian Contractors, Businessmen
Forbidden by native laws and customs and traditional religion.
- Instant judgement by Sango, god of Iron and Thunder; Amadioha, god of Thunder and Lightning as well as other deities and shrines.
Prevalent According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2019, Nigeria is the 2nd most corrupt country in West Africa, and 34th most corrupt country in the world. “Corruption worse in Nigeria, new Transparency International Report says”
- Unknown in Western and Eastern Regions. Beggars were few in the North
Beggars were stoned by youths in Western Nigeria.
- They were despised and ridiculed in Eastern Nigeria. Begging was unknown in both Western and Eastern regions because there was dignity of labour and so much contentment.
- Common throughout the country.
- Found on the streets, churches, mosques and at parties
Terrorism and kidnapping
1960: It existed in dictionary because governments were responsible and responsive.
2020: Found everywhere.
On the streets, in houses, farms, offices, schools, day and night. According to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria is the 3rd most unsafe and terrorism-prone country in the world, ranking behind only two war- torn countries, Iraq and Afghanistan Also:
• According to the United Nations, “Nigeria is a pressure cooker of internal conflicts and generalised violence that must be addressed urgently” See “Nigeria needs urgent action to end “pressure cooker” of violence claiming thousands of lives, says UN rights expert” (UN, 3 September 2019)
• In January, 2020, the European Union Parliament moved a motion for urgent resolution of Nigeria’s high level of terrorism and insecurity, stating that “the security situation in Nigeria has significantly deteriorated over the last years, posing a serious threat to regional and international security; whereas human rights violations, violence, criminality, and mass killings are widespread and constantly reported, notably in the North- Eastern Region of the country.”
See: “European Parliament resolution on Nigeria, notably the recent terrorist attacks” (Res. 2020/2503(RSP)), January, 2020 Available at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/ doceo/document/B-9-2020-0064_EN.html
• The UK’s recent Foreign Travel Advisory on Nigeria warns that “Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Nigeria” https://www.gov.uk/foreign-traveladvice/ nigeria/terrorism
• Terrorism is a reaction to oppression and dissatisfaction with the system.
• Kidnapping and ransoming are products of greed and quests to make quick big money, like those in government stealing and looting.
1960: * Liberal * West and East mostly Christian * North – Islam
2020: * Cause of armed conflicts in many states and one of the reasons for the emergence of Boko Haram. * These armed conflicts were caused by desperate politicians who sought to appeal to extremist Muslim clerics and their followers (e.g. introduction of sharia). * After these politicians won elections they couldn’t control these groups anymore. * This paved the way for radical Islamic groups to infiltrate the country thereby fueling expansionist agenda to forcefully dominate the Christians South.
1960: Safe (Day and night) Safest in the night 2020: * Night travel is virtually abandoned and if done, it is very risky * Daytime travelling – Fear of kidnapping. * Most roads are in poor state of repairs
Type of government
1960: * Federal Constitution
- Regional * Parliamentary system
Peaceful until 1965 in the West
Fast development in all Regions
A military sponsored constitution described as constitution made by the people was foisted on the country.
The constitution concentrated on the centre compelling federating units to be beggarly and over dependent on the federal government.
This unwittingly created a unitary system of government in the name of a federal constitution.
Weak and undeveloped states
Constitution: Concentrates power in the Centre; cause of poor development
This also breeds politicians of god fatherism and “handoutism” and transactional leadership.
Class of people
1960: Three classes existed:
- First Class – The Oba, the Chiefs and Ministers. Members of House earned only sitting allowance.
Second Class – Teachers and civil servants and some businessmen
Third Class – the ordinary people No rich or wealthy class.
2020: We now have;
Superrich or super wealthy class
The weakened middle class consists of teachers, civil servants and businessmen
Extremely poor people now in majority.
The difference now is that people steal outright from government treasury with impunity and impoverish others. Meanwhile, they are not providing any form of employment; they just stash the money away.
- Highly qualitative and functional
Compared favourably with that of UK
Has dwindled in quality and functionality
Poor funding * Poor infrastructure
Strikes and * Poor accountability in public universities.
Vital parts of the curriculum are removed e.g. history.
1960: Nigerian Naira stronger than Dollar and Pound Sterling in 1960.
2020: $1 = N462 (parallel market) £1 = N600
Debt 1960: $150 mMillion
2020: $40 billion Source: US Central Intelligence Agency, Fact Sheet on Nigeria https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/ resources/the-world-factbook/ fields/246.html#NI
1960: 45 million
2020: Currently 214 million, and is projected to be 392 million by 2050. Source: US Central Intelligence Agency, Fact Sheet on Nigeria.
- What are we celebrating on the 1st of October, 2020?
Certainly our constitutional foundation is in need of restructuring urgently
No amendments to 1999 military constitution can make 1999 Constitution a people’s constitution
In order to avoid imminent collapse of Nigeria, we urgently need a sovereign national conference to produce a true federal constitution similar to 1960/63 Constitution
I believe that a strong United States of Nigeria can emerge from a constitution that produces tranformational leaders as against transactional leaders.