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Nigeria @ 49 – Slipping out of global frame

By Ikeddy Isiguzo, Chairman, Editorial Board
THERE is a ring of mockery to suggestions that Nigeria will ever be great. There are even suggestions that such consoling predictions are made to keep Nigerians hopeful as their country slips out of global reckoning – gleefully, blissfully.

Nigerians delight in debates. Some say leadership stalled the progress of the country, which in real terms is worse today, in most growth indices, than it was 49 years ago. Others say Nigerians are blasé followers who allowed their leaders to get away with murder, whether the leaders were military dictators or the elected version that has seen the country slip into further despondency in the past 10 years of civil rule.

If Nigerians are bad followers, it is because there are no better examples than leaders who delight in looking after themselves, in the process unleashing untold suffering on the people. Nigeria since 1960 has experienced poorer leadership at each change of government. The fleeting hopes that come with changes flicker to death within moments.

Politicians are the problem, especially those who seek the safety of party leadership to envelop themselves away from the few prying eyes occasionally see how Nigeria is ruined. They interfere as they please, intercept opportunities that are meant for all Nigerians, corner everything for themselves and their cronies, without any matching responsibilities for their actions.

Nigeria has grown only in leaps of potentials. In the past few decades, the potentials have been also in inglorious areas, with most Nigerians now seen as criminals wherever they are found. This debilitating image challenge, coupled with a worsening leadership crisis, would see the country mark this anniversary with the wrong sobriety.

When some of our leaders are asked their achievements in 49 years of Nigeria’s nationhood, they point to the country not disintegrating, as if this has served more useful purpose than bolstering the egos of those who look at Nigeria as their private estate, except that nobody plunders his estate the way they do.

Health, security, education, employment, justice, housing – mere drinking water – are either unavailable or unaffordable for ordinary Nigerians. The collapse of infrastructure is legendary. Journeys that took hours, a few years ago, now take days, exposing travellers to criminals who attack them, safe in the knowledge that security agents would not intervene. Electricity supply is megawatts of monumental misery.

On the eve of this anniversary, two remarkable incidents may add to the global human development indices that place Nigeria at the lowest rungs, behind countries struck by war and drought. The universities have been on strike for three months. Government only drivels about constitutionality (and lying about it).

The President, the Vice-President and the Minister of Education, ironically were university teachers.
To underscore his love for university education, the President told Nigerians he would open a new university in Saudi Arabia during his visit that was ended last Saturday.

Global attention is trained on New York, where the 64th UN General Assembly holds. Heads of government would take far-reaching decisions. Our President is absent as was the case last year.

With (mis)advisers who see only a bright future, pegged on the oil wells churning out the billions of Dollars that oil their corrupt intentions, all national efforts at semblance of development have been rail-roaded into sustaining the status quo to serve the interests of a few. They dread thoughts of Nigeria running better, for it would erode the privileges they have erected for themselves.

Hope still abounds, it is one thing prayerful Nigerians have in abundance. If life commences at 40 for some, nothing stops life starting for Nigeria next year when it turns 50, and could have confirmed its steep descent out of the global picture.

Typically, the celebrations of Nigeria at 50 would becloud any hints that this country has wasted its chances of being great, meaningfully great.

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