Stories by Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
NIGERIA as a Republic has suffered many political crises following several attempts at democracy and interruptions of military rule which dominated 34 out of 50 years of our nationhood.
The first republic was violently cut short by the military following political disagreements between the Prime Minister and the Premier of the Western Region and some other prominent politicians.
Nigeria went from one political problem to another which eventually climaxed to a military coup on January 15, 1966. The coup was led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu and it led to the overthrow of the federal government, killing of Premiers of Northern and Western governments and complete overthrow of government at the centre.
Aguiyi Ironsi became the first military Head of State and suspended the constitution. Military governors were appointed for the regions which the premiers used to control.
Political parties were banned and decree No 34 was promulgated which abolished the federal form of government and introduced a provincial system of government.
Military regimes continued to hold sway until 1979 and several palace coups were initiated intermittently with Generals Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo as Heads of State.
Attempt to promulgate democracy in 1979 produced Alhaji Shehu Shagari as President but that republic was short lived as another palace coup took place in 1983 and ushered in General Buhari who was later overthrown and general Ibrahim Babangida emerged as the first military president as he was addressed then.
He conducted elections and ushered in the third republic, producing governors, federal legislators and other cadres of government.
That republic failed to produce a president as the presidential election which was contested by Chief Moshood Abiola of SDP and Alhaji Bashir Tofa of NRC was annulled. This brought about the June 12 crisis that eventually saw President Babangida stepping aside.
An Interim National Government was put in place with Chief Ernest Shonekan as head of government. But general Sani Abacha sacked him and held sway for years. Abacha’s regime came to an end when he died in office and Abdulkareem Abubakar came aboard after the death of Abacha.
Democracy eventually made a triumphant re-entry on May 29, 1999 . It was ushered in by with Obasanjo as president from 1999-2007. Nigeria is still in a democratic regime. But are we there yet 50 years after independence? Prominent Nigerians speak.
Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, Afenifere chieftain and national chairman of the defunct Alliance for Democracy in this encounter identifies bad leadership as the bane of Nigeria’s development and says 50th anniversary is not worth celebrating.
How would you assess Nigeria’s development so far?
If we look back , we will see that we have not made the necessary progress that our founding founders had expected of Nigeria.
At 50, we are not where we ought to be and we expect that in the next fifty years, we will usher in greater progress that will compensate for the progress we failed to make.
Other countries who had their independence at the same time with us have made greater progress in the area of economy, in the area of industrialisation and in internal development; in the area of employment, uninterrupted power supply and other areas.
These other countries that had their independence at the same time with us have made far greater progress that you cannot compare Nigeria with. As I have said before, Nigeria is a man of fifty years who is still crawling and there is very little to celebrate as we turn 50.
In fact, our fifty years is not worth celebrating at all. We should look forward to the next 50 years rather and work towards compensating for the wasted 50 years. Take India for instance, they make and use their own cars. Look at Korea, they use their own cars. We are all of the same age.
We have not achieved anything at all but we cannot keep quiet. We have to work to achieve in the next 50 years. We may still get there in the next 50 years. We are not happy today but our children should be happy for Nigeria of tomorrow.
To what would you attribute our poor development in the past 50 years?
Bad leadership of course. If leadership is right, followership will be equally right. That is the truth of the matter and it has a lot to do with when we elect credible Nigerians to power, that will be when we have an electoral body that is so patriotic to ensure that credible, patriotic, honest Nigerians are elected into positions of leadership.
Our elections should be rig-free, crisis-free and the best candidate should emerge like in other countries in the world. Take South-Africa, take Ghana, even Liberia. Until we are able to elect credible Nigerians through credible elections, then shall we be proud of our country.
We are heading towards another election. Do you see the possibility of correcting all these anomalies?
The way we have seen things done in the past, all we can do is to hope and pray. The new man at the helm of affairs is a reputable Nigerian. That is Professor Jega. He is highly educated. So, let us hope that the Nigerian factor will not make him behave like his predecessors.
What is the Nigerian factor?
That is the factor that makes an average Nigerian to want to achieve power by all means. That is the factor that makes winning an election in Nigeria a do-or-die affair.
The same factor drives those in government to loot public fund and empty national and state treasuries. It creates room for cheating and doing anything for money and consequently, this causes those in authority to support anything not credible at election.
I always say that the orientation of our political elites is bad. They want to remain in power by all means even when it is obvious they are not serving the people but their pockets. As a matter of fact, the democracy we have today is the government of the rulers, by the rulers and for the rulers. That is the Nigerian factor.
Also, the Nigerian factor has to do with the electorate who collect money from corrupt politicians and vote the wrong people in. It is not just about voting because the votes rarely count. It is using the hungry people to corrupt the electoral process, rigging elections, hijacking ballot boxes and enshrining manipulation in the electoral process whereby those who don’t win the election get sworn in at the helm of affairs.
They offer money to the young desperate Nigerians and these young people are ready to do anything. That also means that those who are credible but have no money don’t win elections in Nigeria. That is the Nigerian factor. And that should be corrected as we approach the next election.
Nothing to cheer about — Isyaku Ibrahim
What are we celebrating? Is it
unemployment? Power outage? Insecurity? Corruption? Poor leadership? What? It’s really very sad that we have not accomplished anything .I witnessed the independence celebration in 1960. I was 22 years. I was a Zikist and I watched the lowering of the Union Jack for our national flag. What do we have to show after 50 years? Do we know the meaning of democracy? Do we understand the meaning of democracy? If we understand the meaning of democracy, we wouldn’t have been in this mess. Our leaders that fought for our independence had great dreams for independent Nigeria and after 50 years, we cannot give ourselves light, we cannot provide jobs for our young people. We cannot boast of genuine democracy.
Every year, chunks of graduates are turned out from the universities but they have nowhere to go and work. Is that what independence is all about? Some of our young graduates have become armed robbers because they have no jobs. Some go back for their Masters hoping things will be better after that.They come out, and there are no jobs. What do we expect them to do? Fold their hands? Those who have no jobs are given jobs by the devil. These young people are living in a society where they will open the papers and read that their leaders have stolen N10 or N20 billion.Do we expect them to cheer at that?
What happened to the industries? All the industries in major cities of Nigeria are shut down and nobody thinks about reviving them. There is general decay of our infrastructure.Are you telling me it’s the kind of country we dreamt of? Is this the country our fore-fathers worked for? Definitely not.
Our biggest problem is leadership — Ribadu
Nigeria is developing. There is no doubt about that. But a lot of work
still needs to be done. And this is the moment for us to open a new chapter. Those who led us in the past have done their own and this is our time. We should move ahead. We still need to do much more than what has been done already.
It is to the glory of God that we have remained together. We are grateful to God for that but we should fast-forward from where we are to greatness. Nigerians should be able to feel safe anywhere.
An Igbo man should feel safe in Sokoto and an Hausa man should feel safe in Ogun State and vice-versa. We should do away with ethnicism, religious bias. Every part of Nigeria should be home for every Nigerian. We should not feel unsafe when we are in any part of Nigeria. We should be Nigerians everywhere we are and that is why I said that change is imminent.
The problem with Nigeria is bad leadership. It is the form of leadership we have at a time that determines follower ship but over the years, bad leadership has held Nigeria to ransom. Nigerians should say no to bad leadership. Nigeria is for everybody. It is not for one. It is up to the people to decide if they want one person to dominate the polity at all times.