Traditionally, every independence day anniversary,Â presents an opportunity to evaluate the journey so far. Perhaps readers of independence celebration stories, may predict what to read from all theÂ national dailies tomorrow. Your prediction or guess may be as good as mine, as each October 1, brings to fore the tragedy that Nigeria appears to have become.
Even those who are blind patriots, would accept that the nationâ€™s failures would be celebrated tomorrow. Whereas forty nine years is supposed to be a milestone in the life of the nation, it signifies nothing to those, who believe that Nigeria is yet to have a bearing.
That is why some think that, rather than celebrate tomorrow, the government and the governed should rise up for a fresh start. Who knows, it might signal the dawn of a prosperous era, whichÂ would bring about a link between governance and prosperity. Charles Kumolu reports.
WHEN discussing Nigeriaâ€™s quest to nationhood, the only certainty would be the Uncertainties that haveÂ heldÂ the nationâ€™s wheel of progress since 1960.
That the beginning of the fourth decade in the last century, held a promise for the then Thirty Nine million two hundred and thirty thousand population of Nigeria, is natural.
This is based on the conventional idea that the dawn of every new era, usually look promising.
â€œI shall not labour the point but it would be unrealistic not to draw attention first to the awe-inspiring task confronting us at the very start of our nationhood. When this day in October 1960 was chosen for our independence it seemed that we were destined to move with quiet dignity to our place on the world stage. Recent events have changed the scene beyond recognition.
â€œSo that we find ourselves today being tested to the utmost, We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to responsible government are well-founded, and having been accepted as an independent state we must at once play an active part in maintaining the peace of the world and in preserving civilisation. I promise you, we shall not fail for want of determination,â€ Late Prime Minister Abubakar Tafewa Balewa, told the then teething nation.
But those prospects, however,Â have refused to transform into overwhelming prosperity.
That is why reporting Nigeriaâ€™s failure is no longer news, hence absurdities are always certain in every day Nigerian story.
Hardly can any independence celebration pass, without eulogies on what the nation is not, especially from people in government.
Even the flood such praises on the crawling giant that the nation has become, from those quarters cannot defeat the believe that Nigeria has failed.
A United States Independent Research Organisation, Fund for Peace,Â ranked as the 15th most failed nation in the world.Â This disclosure is a product of itsÂ 2009 Failed State Index.
The oil-rich country was ranked 15th out of the total of 177 countries that were surveyed.
With that,Â Nigeria took three steps backward from its 18th and 17th positions in 2008 and 2007 respectively.Â And as it seems the nation is speedily becoming a member the disreputable club of failed states.
However, the implication is that things are gettingÂ from bad to worst.
With a GDP par capita income of two thousand dollars,Â Nigeria can now be regarded as a heroic failure-apologies to Stephen Pile, who wrote the bookÂ Book of Heroic Failures: Official Handbook of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain.
The 1979 book was writtenÂ in celebration of human inadequacy in all its forms.
Given that byÂ October 1, 2010, all roads are expected to lead to Eagle Square for the nationâ€™s golden jubilee, which is supposed to be a landmark, many find the state of the nation worrisome.
That by tomorrow, the nation will be celebratingÂ 49 y years of failure, has continued to unsettle those who believe that has it allegedly lost grip of its institutions.
More frustrating observers argued, is the absence ofÂ basic infrastructureÂ such as power supply, good roads, food security.
These hurting fact, has led to arguments that the nation, boasts of a government that is unable to deliver basic social services.
That verdict, however, does not isolate past governments, that laid the foundation for the developmental lapses in the country.
Therefore as tomorrow beckons,Â even the most patriotic Nigerian would know that there is nothing to celebrate.
Even students who usually troop to various stadia to cheer the nation, may not be involved in this dance of death. Reason: The dysfunctional state of the education sector, appears to have made the State a prime enemy of the leaders of tomorrow.
Consider the sorry story of the education sector: Academic activities in tertiary institutions, have remained paralysed-no thanks to the ongoing face-off between the Federal government and lecturers.
Also, Nigerian universities ranked 68th inÂ in Africa and 7169th position in the world.
Even obviously failed states like Somalia was ranked ahead Nigerian universities.
Sadly,Â the sector is speedily ailing. Despite soaring student population, the number of schools and the volume of infrastructure for education remained stagnant, sometimes shrinking.
InÂ fact, the collapse of the education sector, appears to be among one of the greatest tragedies since 1960.
Speaking to Vanguard Features, VF, a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Annie Okonkwo,Â who was born in the same year as Nigeria, said, â€œWith the grace of God I built a conglomerate in communication from the scratch of a small medium scale enterprise to what it is today, so it is not that I am telling you what is not achievable, our youths are fast learners and if we get them to sit down and learn the nity gritty of running successful business; in partnership with the State providing counterpart funding and monitoring them.â€
Continuing, he said, â€œ By doing this we must have liberated our future from the fangs of poverty thereby preserving our future generation.â€
On Nigeriaâ€™s future as a democratic nation, he said, â€œour democracy is gradually developing but there are still off shoots of the old order. You will agree with meÂ that the success of political contest depends on the players and the umpires; in this era of rule of law, we must allow the tenets of democratic principles to guide us as we match towards a successful democratic nation.â€
Continuing, Okonkwo, who represents Anambra Central Senatorial District, noted that, â€œIf officials sent to conduct processes of selection or elections stick to democratic ideals there wonâ€™t be rancour of any sort, but when officials sent as umpires want to truncate the democratic processes and norms then you have people reacting in various ways.
â€œI have always believed that if you create a level playing ground for people to play politics, if you lose you will congratulate the winner and move on but if the processes are truncated people will react.â€
For Barrister Festus Keyamo, who was born a decade after independence, it is regrettable that at forty nine, no sector of the Nigerian state is viable. He also added that people should acknowledge that nothing is working in Nigeria.
Keyamo, who is also a Human Rights Activist, further lamented that Nigeria is a nation of uncertainties, even as he lampooned the political class for bringing the nation to its knees.
â€œAt forty nine the onlyÂ viable thing is the Nigerian state. Other sectors are comatose. It is unfortunate for a nation that would be fifty by next year. Past and present economic policies have not improved the live of the ordinary man on the street.
Why we are here today can also be linked to over reliance on oil,â€Keyamo, who became a household name during the murder case of late Chief Bola Ige, noted.
Querying why, the nation has Torefused to diversify its economy since the discovery of oil, he argued that unproductive policies and governance have remained the problem of Nigeria.
â€œYou see the refusal to diversify the economy is another source of developmental problem. How can we grow in this kind of situation. When other sectors are good, there will be balance of trade and the nation will prosper. The political terrain is so corrupt that the nation is filled with uncertainties,â€ Keyamo stated.
Continuing, the legal practitioner, who is being touted as the next Gani Fewhinmi , given his robust history of activism, fumed that it’s unfortunate that Nigerians are not being fair to the nation.
â€œIt is unfortunate that Nigeria is like this. People have not been fair to this nation. That is why we can’t celebrate anything and why we can’t have anything to celebrate at fifty. We owe a duty to this nation and not to ourselves,â€ he noted.
Apparently, giving his verdict, Keyamo declared, â€œwe can’t continue like this. We need a sovereign national conference where we can produce a workable document that will usher in prosperity for the generation of today and the ones unborn.â€
Keyamoâ€™s veiw, corroborates with calls for a Soverign National Conference,SNC, where a more acceptable constitution would be produced.
Though the clamour for SNC is more prominent among civil society groups, current efforts at amending the 1999 constitution, appears to reflect general acknowledgement of the need for a better constitution.
â€œThe way forward is that we can’t continue like this. We must change in every approach to nationhood. We need a workable document that can define us as a nation. But if we can’t do it, we may breakÂ up. But we need to do it in order to push ahead,â€ Keyamo submitted.
Barrister Bamidele Aturu, a Human Rights Activists, was quick to declare that Nigeria is a tragedy at forty nine.
Sounding blunt and bitter, he said, â€œIt is a big tragedy. This nation can not inspire us as citizens. In fact, let us not deceive ourselves, Nigeria can not be a role model to any body. Even to those who were born before, on or after 1960,â€ Aturu stated.
Against the backdrop of past and present state of the nation, the Lagos Lawyer, argued that Nigeria is not a good brand that can be recommended for any body.
Aturusâ€™s view justifies the mockery that the on going re-branding of Nigeria commands. Following such apathy towards the project (re-branding), many have continued to ask if it is what the nation needs?
â€œNigeria is like a child in a house that has refused to walk after forty nine years of existence. Can you recommend such child. With the situation the nation cannot be trusted. And with prevailing corruption, the situation is quite devastating,â€ he stated.
He further restated what some call the obvious about Nigeria, saying that those were supposed to drive theÂ nation’s wheel of progressÂ failed to do so.
According to him, â€œThose who are supposed to offer good governance, have failed to do so. And there is no sign that things are getting better. That is why things have degenerated to this level. And there is now obvious lack of direction.â€
Aturu, further reinvoked the spirit of June 12 (when Nigerians took to the streets in protest agianst the annulment of June 12 presidential election), by calling on Nigerians to antagonise any unpopular government and its policies.
â€œActually we need to do more disservice to any government and policy that is not viable. Wether it is through peaceful or non-violence, people should no longer fold their arms while the future of the nation is being wasted. It is unfortunate that corruption is dictating the pace in this country. The only thing we need to do is disservice,â€ Aturu stated.
He also believes that as part of the ways to set Nigeria on the path of greatness, there is need for the society to quit celebrating corruption.
â€œNigerians should stop celebrating corruption and corrupt people. People should move into the streets any time the government is not performing. Except we do that, the future of the nation will remainÂ murky,â€ he stated, stressing that, â€œ it should always be a non violence approach.â€
Continuing, Aturu said, â€œ We cant continue to be complacent. Our people should go to the streets and show that they cant be fooled anymore. It is regrettable that those, who looted the treasury are the ones calling the shots.â€
Still regretting that Nigeria has not make good of the prospects it had in 1960, he submitted: â€œSo my massage is that there is nothing to celebrate. This is an opportunity for the people to rise up.â€