“Nigeria at 54: Forward, backward or stalling?” – Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje [Article]

Nigeria-Flag“Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje, a public affairs analyst, writes that Nigeria’s 54th independence anniversary offers the nation opportunity for sober reflections on the impediments to national unity and development and thus evolve enduring solutions… 

Every 1st October, Nigeria and her peoples celebrates independence anniversary to mark its cherished history of freedom from the British with much pain and agony. But as the drum of celebration reaches the air this year

Nigerians continues to lament on the failure of leadership to actualize the independence dreams of our forebear and the manifest hope for a better future is still far from reality. Therefore, there is an urgent need to do reality checks to recapture the dreams of the golden independence era and a new beginning of true nationalism beckons on us – the followership to correct the inherent contradictions of the mundane and rent seeking leaders that have taken us for granted for too long and this year celebration should offer us deep reflections and insights to forge ahead in the midst of despair and hopelessness it brings to our collective consciousness as a people in need of change and change is inevitable.

The period after independence also witnessed massive institutional and economic transformation from the regional governments but again the dreams of improving the life of Nigerians became more generally degenerated into a nightmare. The treacherous military regimes far from fulfilling the positive aspirations and expectations of a new Nigeria have paradoxically become a source of agony, despair, poverty and internal conflict.

Admittedly, the lofty dreams of our legendary leaders who captured the imagination of majority of Nigerians with a clear purpose and vision at independence and the full potential of integrating the various federating units into a blissful nation was also wished away by self seeking leaders and regional politics of divide and rule which were manifestation of the British. The independence era was characterised by a new set of constitutional proposals designed to promote unity to secure greater Nigerian participation in governance. But today we are more divided along religious and ethnic fault lines than united.

Sadly, since independence the Nigerian federation has been enmeshed in what has become the national question which is linked to national unity, local government autonomy, self determination, and equitable distribution of revenue and sharing of political power which the just concluded national conference failed to address in the light of true national identity and aspiration.

What does it means to celebrate 54 years of flag freedom? Nigeria received its political freedom in the age of national liberation and revolution across Africa. Indeed, it was a period of great intellectual and ideological ferment. The country had young activists and thinkers with arsenal of articulated ideas that prepared the country of an uncommon path to existential freedom and greatness, but regrettably blatant corruption, election rigging and thuggery of 1960 – 1966 years, and the eventual coup by military changed the course of parliamentary nation building efforts and for a long time these unfortunate and avoidable events had continued to challenge our peaceful corporate existence. Indeed, Nigerian emergent and opportunistic leaders have collectively failed to address the lingering root causes of our socio- economic challenges with little or no focus on human security and inclusive political participation. Legislative over sight functions within the arrangement of separation of powers and checks and balances enshrined in the constitution to guarantee accountability and credibility in governance has also failed in safeguarding public funds through pre and post appropriation control mechanism.

Interestingly, the challenges of separatism and secession were also dominant issues that characterised the post – independence era particularly the unification decree 34 of 1966, which sought the centralization of the military government and the creation of more states with the attendant civil war (Biafra War) posed t he most severe challenge to the territorial integrity of the emergent nation and the civil war represents one of the most frightening separatist conflicts witnessed in Africa. The relationship and agitations that punctuated Nigerian nationalism at time were essentially intolerance arising from conflicting interest of the political actors and their collaborators. Meanwhile, mutual suspicions from the civil war and other political aberrations are still haunting us as a nation. Against this backdrop, societal diversity must be seen as an asset if the mutual strengths of each other can be recognised and harnessed to complement each other and this can be achieved when there is genuine willingness reconcile perceived wrongs and we must therefore as a people believe in a authentic reconciliation to heal the wounds of the past to achieve real freedom for our people. Political leaders must recognise that people are critical to development and they must respect the people by delivering their promises!

Also, the forced seizure of family and communal land by the military regime in 1978 ( Land Use Act Decree) in favour of international companies involved in the exploitation of the vast mineral resources particularly oil and gas has resulted in intense competition among communities and the rent- seeking political elites in the various states has manipulated it against the masses. In my view, this represents a major setback in our national development journey and it has been a major instigator of ethnic conflicts and violence in Nigeria.

Indeed, events of recent time in Nigeria point us to the direction that our nation is not firmly rooted in true federalism and the rule of law is yet to take its pride of place in our collective efforts to build a genuine nation. Therefore, our leaders should as matter of urgency look to its future by looking back to its past to working with its present in order to negotiate those critical milestones toward building formidable base and frame works in order to respond to the negative factors impinging on our common drive that would foster uncommon unity and vision that we are in dire need at this time of national rebirth.

When the chibok girls are still held captive, internal democracy for the emergence of credible candidates for the 2015 general elections is suspect and above all, the gross disregard for human and people’s rights particularly the invasion of court proceedings by thugs are pointer to the fragility of state institutions in Nigeria. The questions still remain on how to get the right kind of service driven and competent leaders which are empathetic to the greater Nigeria dream. From an institutional perspective, Nigerians needs a space in a more coherent and comprehensive way to engage in genuine dialogue beyond the existing political stereotypes and prejudices and establish a common understanding on issues of governance and performance by all stakeholders and the 2015 general elections should provide the uncommon platform for the actualisation of our collective freedom and evading political participation will be painful mistake at this time in our history.

Also at 54, the country is experiencing diminishing identities of Nigerianess resulting in mass poverty and deep social and political inequalities. Even as the gap widened between the democratic aspirations of the average Nigerian citizens and the maneuvers of incumbent political leaders of the APC and the PDP in the various states and at the centre to preserve their power and the recurrent abuse of the democratization process by a few in favour of the highest bidder calls for vigilance. In my view, the political landscape over the years particularly in this political dispensation has not passed the credibility and responsibility test because of the failure of the electoral process to throw up credible men and women for transformational leadership and the absence competitive primaries and elections which are gateways to the marketplace of alternative ideas, programme and policies for good governance and social mobilisation for sustainable democracy.

Furthermore, a balanced score card of Nigeria at 54 in my view also shows that it is one country too divided against itself and everyone for themselves. The responsibility to protect which is a fundamental obligation of the Nigerian state under international law has become increasingly worrisome because of its inability to contain the activities of criminal gangs and terrorists. It is indeed a statement of fact that Nigeria had witnessed in recent times the most heinous and horrendous crime against humanity emanating from the Boko Haram insurgency. Boko haram continues to threaten peace and the general elections in 2015. The sect has also undermined the democratic gains in the last 15 years. Worse still, the Boko Haram insurgency has generated unprecedented internally displaced persons whose living conditions are unbearable and undefined.

While the leadership question and broken promises of governance has remained a major impediment to our national development agenda, it seems that all hope is not lost, if we evolve a culture of vibrant followership. We need at this point in time to challenge our paranoid notions of nation- building mechanism and a clear resolve to re- tool our vision of  a collective leadership accountability template through a logical and critical thinking of our attitude to the Nigerian situation which have come in full negative circle. Indeed, our unshaken salvation resides fully in attitudinal change to accept our current and self – inflicted limitations and adopt the fix it mindset.

Lastly, our political leaders and jobbers must eschew self- respect and self- pride which are attributes of great people and great nation. Therefore at 54, we should collectively aspire to enthrone and have uncommon respect for our great Nation and let us believe in upholding democracy ideals, liberty, rule of law, social justice and good governance which are critical milestone to peace and prosperity. We salute our great country at 54.”

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