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CRAWLING TO NATIONHOOD: The Nigerian example

By Adisa Adeleye
AS many Nigerians believe and hope, 1st of October every year should be a day of joy and this year‘s occasion should be marked in a special way – it is a day of celebration of Nigeria‘s fifty years of freedom from British imperialism.  Some would however, observe that the country has exchanged liberal British imperialism for local despotism.

I think there is a lot to celebrate in our fifty years of operation as a free country.  When one seats comfortably in a cozy living room, or in the toilet, and holds that magical box called handset and speaks to anybody anywhere in the world, it is a sign that Nigeria has arrived in the world of global communication.

It may not be necessary or appropriate here to state that technology of improved communication is foreign and that we are mere users, at high cost, of other developed nation‘s technological development.

The approach of October 1, 2010 and the heavy budget of about N6 billion for its celebration would certainly gladden the minds of those who aspire that Nigeria is still one nation since amalgamation in 1914 and inspite of turbulence that characterized the years after Independence in 1960.

Of all the politically contrived nations of the world in the 20th century, Nigeria remains the only country having its unity, howbeit fragile, in reality.  The Soviet Republics had disintegrated; Yugoslavia had dissolved into smaller independent states while Czechoslovakia broke into two independent states,
Nigeria of today is still one country of 36 states with a powerful and overbearing Federal Government.

All states are represented in the Federal Executive Council and at the moment, the Armed Forces service chiefs reflect the Federal Character with emphasis on neglected major tribes.  The political environment is dominated by a powerful ruling party and weak and disjointed opposition parties.

The Federal and States‘ elections are fixed for January 2011 under a new INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega who has promised a credible election.

The new Electoral Law has made no provision for an Independent Candidate or proportional voting.  Some believe that the 2011 elections, even if free may not be fair because voting is restricted only to parties which is inadequate for choosing representatives.

It would be unfair if the adulation of 50 years of Independence would prevent a proper analysis of the present situation in the country.  Many Nigerians have expressed disappointments about the sad situation of a country adequately provided with human and mineral resources by nature.

Nigeria is one of the 20 less developed economies in Africa, a poor country with vast underdeveloped infrastructures.  Majority of the citizens eke a miserable living out of a dollar a day.

Alhaji Bashir Tofa, a former Presidential candidate under the old NRC was reported to have said, ‘the period between 2000 and now had witnessed unprecedented stealing and siphoning of the nations‘ treasury by those at the helms of affairs.

Instead of the positive democratic dividends the Nigerian people sought for, highway robbery, destitution and family break_ups have taken the centre stage‘.

Recently, Mr. M. T. Mbu, the youngest Cabinet Minister in the 1950s stated in an interview that, ‘ we did our best with management of resources.  But what do we have now?

Why are we short of electricity?  Why are our roads so bad?  Why are things so bad with all the money we have? These are intriguing questions that baffle the minds of patriots.

Perhaps the answer lies in the lack of probity in our leaders and also, the absence of accountability by public officers.  According to M.T. Mbu, ‘probity, is meant for public office holders, not immunity‘.  And if one may add, unaudited security votes of Governors and Local Government Chairmen.

According to Professor Jerry Gana, ‘we are people who have lost our values; we have plenty of religious people, but no righteousness, plenty of piety but no holiness, plenty of leadership but no vision‘.  It looks as if Nigeria at 50 years is a toddler who is to be perpetually fed; a crawler in the midst of vast developing nations.

At the age of 50 years if Nigeria is still crawling, it means something is definitely wrong with our value system.  Some analysts point to the obvious dearth of positive leadership.

Many others are of the opinion that the whole edifice is structurally deficient and should be pulled down.  Professor Nwabueze, the Constitutional expert has called for a bloody revolution which would sweep away the irredeemable corrupt system.

Other sober minds frown at a bloody revolution which might lead to the growth of dictatorship.  Some would plead for the planting of leadership and watering it to the full growth stage.

It is often forgotten that the emergence of visionary leadership (except by a coup) needs a fertile democratic ground devoid of ethnic, religious and group excesses.

This growth must be nurtured by a sound economic programme based on a sound democratic practice.

The problem is that many of the past leaders have been fed on false economic principles and have drunk deeply the lotion of ethnicity and religious separatism that any new thing is viewed negatively.

Why are we rushing through elections in 2011 when the prevailing political and economic situations are still cloudy?  We are driving INEC crazy to produce a credible election, when within our minds; we know that we are not yet ready.

The ruling party which would want to remain in power is in complete disarray in many areas, the opposition is yet to understand the concept of give and take concept in politics.  Each leader wants to be a Presidential candidate of his party.

Even if Professor Jega is lucky to have a fair election, the post election issues will be too much for the winners.

There are more issues to be resolved before rushing into elections which might create more problems for the winners.  Many Nigerians might not prefer a non_performing ruling party to win in face of its ability to win because of its superior organizing ability aided by copious wealth through tinkering with national treasuries.

If we fold our arms and close our eyes and pretend as if all is well within the polity, we may have ourselves to blame because we are deaf and blind.

The most important issue to some sound minds is the marriage of sound monetary and fiscal policies to promise a healthy economy without inflation.

A rapidly growing economy would reduce unemployment and would encourage political understanding and stability. We may try the idea of a genuine National Government for a start.
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