By Helen Ovbiagele
Tonight at midnight, Nigeria will clock 52! How time flies! A person of fifty-two is almost considered an elder in the society, not only because of the number of years he/she has clocked, but because of the presumed wisdom and experience he/she must have acquired to live a worthwhile life according to the person’s ability. When he/she speaks, both the older and younger people around listen, because he/she is worth listening to. Some are mentors to guide younger people into a well-adjusted adult life.
There are of course many nations in the world that are very much older than Nigeria in self-rule, some of which we look up to for guidance in development and good and workable governance, still, at 52, our country should be on the verge of being regarded a developed country.
It may have taken some developed countries centuries to get to the level they are now, but that was a time when the pace of development was slow. We are living in a fast moving world these days, so, Nigeria should get on board and move forward with the progressives, and not forever be mired in retarded growth.
At 52, should we roll out the drums and celebrate the success of that number of years of self-rule, or, do we mourn a once great and highly-respected nation with great potential, which is now sliding into the abyss of continuous non-performance?
Personally, I always feel sorry for those at the helm of affairs when our national day comes round. This is because they are usually in for more flak than praise. We hold up the slate listing all their failures and are hardly sympathetic enough to be fair and accord them praise where they deserve it.
I think it would be fair when we compare pre and post independence life in this country, to admit that not every government since independence has been a total failure, and there has been some progress in the lives of our citizens, though we lost out in some areas, such as good morals and discipline.
When we were under colonial rule, there was much poverty in the land, but people were not as greedy and discontented with life as they are today, so, the level of heinous crimes was low. Family ties were strong, and there was discipline that ensured that family members didn’t bring disgrace to their respective families.
Education and delivery of healthcare were more qualitative in pre-independence than now, even though we have more educational institutions and hospitals now than then. Children (and older people) were eager to learn then, and teachers took their job of imparting knowledge seriously, and teaching methods, though Spartan and laborious, were more effective than they are these days. The home and the school joined hands to raise worthy and disciplined citizens.
In the health sector, there was much discipline in the profession, and medical personnel were devoted to their calling, and faced squarely the challenges of the numerous diseases prevailing in the country. There were no fake drugs.
The quality of imported goods and those produced in the country was high, and compared well with those sold in Europe. Our environment was cleaner, as our rulers then appointed Sanitary Inspectors who went round to ensure that premises and public places were clean, and there was proper disposal of refuse. Sanitation all over the country is so incredibly poor now that it’s no surprise that there are outbreaks of one disease or the other at any given time.
However, there have been strides of progress since we assumed self-rule. Women are able to get as much education as they are capable of, and they can be found in most professions. We have more female lawyers, judges, and magistrates than many countries in the western world. Women occupy high positions both in the private sector and in civil service and government, by merit, and are proving their mettle.
We have embraced developed modern technology, and communication, internal and external is that much easier, to the relief of all. Our young people are becoming more enlightened as they can travel all over the world for business, education, etc.
Though our roads and transport system are bad, almost every family in the urban areas has access to a vehicle. We still import petroleum products and our refineries have problems almost all the time, but the country has not been brought to its knees yet. Security of lives and property is a very big problem which we have not been able to resolve, and this is proving a nightmare for citizens.
Now, Nigeria is not an easy country to rule, at any given time, so, let no-one think that he/she has the solutions to our myriad problems, and that if only he/she can get into the seat of governance, things would be fixed the right way. This is not possible. People who have believed this, found when they got to power, that they’re helpless in the face of our problems.
You may be an honest, capable person of integrity, who sincerely wants to turn this country around, and has the right ideas, but you can’t succeed without the help and cooperation of , not only your aides, but of every citizen of this country.
No-one can solve our problems solo, because it’s our attitude to life that is bringing this country to its knees. How? Our lust for power, our greed, selfishness and insatiable quest to be outrageously wealthy, are largely responsible. If you offer/ask for bribe for contracts or provision of services, you’re guilty. If you inflate contracts and overcharge the government, you’re guilty.
If you collect full payment for very shoddy government job done, you’re guilty. If you’re involved in any shady deal and criminal activity, you’re guilty. If you go to work late, and are never on seat to carry out well your assigned duty, you’re guilty. If you put the wrong people in power, you’re guilty. If you deliberately do things to hinder the performance of those in power, you’re guilty. Collectively, all these things contribute to the non-performance of any government in power, and retard the progress of the country.
The Bible and Christian leaders tell us that ‘Righteousness exalts a nation’. It isn’t the righteousness of only those in power, but the collective efforts of all of us, that can bring peace and progress to our nation. This is the only country most of us can call our own. If we want things to work, irrespective of the political party in power, we have to, abandon greed and self-interests and unite for peace and progress.
Yes, we can lift our glasses and celebrate our 52nd year of self-rule in a modest way, and pray for more patriotic and honest Nigerians, leaders, and better and peaceful times ahead. Things may be rough, but let’s do our bit from our corner, to ensure that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Cheers!