It is true that there is no country in the world without its peculiar problems. Even among the politically stable states like USA and Great Britain, there are problems of how to maintain a high standard of living and to remain prosperous. In the United States for example, unemployment rate at 8% has surpassed a tolerable rate of 3%, while in Britain, the cost of living has risen with the introduction of harsh economic measures.
The Nigerian example is unique in that after almost 100 years of living together, it is yet to involve as a nation. In spite of several attempts to forge a Nation out of various communities within the mass of land called Nigeria, the predominant thinking is based on the concept of individualism and ethnicity.
The problem of the country seems structural and fundamental. Some analysts agree that the structure of the country with its many unviable states and local governments is deficient. Others seem to agree that the lumping together of different nationalities with various cultures, would not make for harmonious relationship.
There is no doubt that the deficient structure and the fundamental differences would impact negatively on economic transformation and stability. These factors would not but affect the quality of leadership and the search for one. It may be difficult for a national leader to emerge in an atmosphere where political unity is absent and where economic development is uncertain.
Even where a strong Leader emerges, the presence of factors of disintegration could affect his overall performance. The idea which seems practicable, but often rejected, is a return to the base and re-examine the purpose of our co-operative existence as a nation. There is certainly no alternative to a meaningful Discourse on how we should exist as a country.
In the last 100 years, Nigeria had witnessed a devastating civil war, political unrests, religious and ethnic clashes in several states resulting in the loss of life and properties and also, the insurgency of a sect that has become murderous. The present situation is pervaded by atmosphere of political instability and economic uncertainties which tend to resuscitate the evils of religious and ethnic differences. Plateau State today, is a typical example of civil unrest.
Many do believe, though erroneously, that creation of wealth would solve the economic and political problems of the country which they feel, are based on poverty. Perhaps as a valuable addition to the process of reforming a stubborn economy, it may be necessary to review the current development strategies.
For example, the Import Substitution policy should be strongly supported for the country to produce those common household commodities which are now being imported, especially from China. There must also be policies of industrial restructuring and economic diversification.
At present, Nigeria relies mainly on export of crude oil and importation of refined oil products which make the country look funny and poorer. To ensure rapid growth, it is necessary to design workable micro-economic policies that would promote stability based on low inflation, positive real interest rate, sound fiscal management and limited relative price distortions.
One of my hobbies is reading of war stories. And this habit led me to read some books on the Nigerian Civil War published in the 1980s. A passage that fascinated me about 20 years ago was in Alexander A. Madiebo‘s “THE NIGERIAN REVOLUTION AND THE BIAFRAN WAR”.
The episode described vividly the costly efforts of Nigerian forces to reach Onitsha from Abagana. It reads, “When the convoy approached our troops around Ifite-Ukpo junction, Major Uchendu very wisely allowed the advance party of armored vehicles to pass. He then attacked the main convoy from the front, middle and rear.
The leading lorry was knocked out and blocked the road, and was quickly set on fire. None of the vehicles thereafter could move forward, and being very bulky, could not turn about on the narrow road. The armored vehicles in front could not make their way back; neither could those behind move up, for the whole road became completely jammed up with vehicles.
Our troops then completely surrounded the 96 vehicles loaded mainly with ammunition and stores, and prevented the troops in them from dismounting. The enemy was helpless and in less than one hour, all the enemy soldiers were either killed or had escaped, leaving us with all the vehicles and their stores”. In spite of that success, Biafra lost the war and its forces surrendered in 1970 to the Nigerian forces. That was the tragedy of the unnecessary civil war.
Before the civil war in 1967, I wrote an article in the Daily Times titled, CAN WE AFFORD TO FALL APART? In that article, I examined the political and economic implications of a break-up of Nigeria.
The military and civil leaders at that time were so blind and involved that they could not imagine the consequences of a civil war. Recent writings have tended to resurrect the ghost of war mongering in those who were either not born before the civil war or too young to appreciate the consequences of it.
In my reading recently, I came across a re-assuring passage from a book NO PLACE TO HIDE (CRISIS AND CONFLICTS INSIDE BIAFRA) by Bernard Odogwu that, “If Nigeria could be so magnanimous in victory, to show mercy to her erstwhile `enemy`, then that was a good sign that the lesson of the war had gone down well. On the other hand, if the `Biafrans` were able to forgive and forget, and to reciprocate Nigeria`s gesture of goodwill, then the signs are there of a `brighter future for this nation`.
“In today`s Nigeria, we have those that I personally call `new Nigerians`, that are less inhibited by tribal considerations, and who see Nigeria first before tribe. If those signs are there, then it is my hope that Nigeria is heading in the right direction of becoming a united and virile nation within the comity of nations”.
That was the mood in the 1980s after I wrote in the Daily Times in 1970 an article titled ‘NOW THAT THE GUNS ARE SILENT’. In that article, I called for reconciliation and reconstruction of devastated infrastructures in the East. I think this is the time for the country to re-discover its sense of unity and drive towards the path of freedom, peace and prosperity.