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Nigeria at 50: A Search for An Alternative Paradigm

To X-ray Nigeria at 50 years while searching for an alternative paradigm, what then is it about Nigeria at 50 years that warrants a search for an alternative paradigm? You certainly do not change a winning formula if you are doing well.  It is only when you are doing otherwise that you run from the hospital to the herbalist, the church, the mosque, the magician and elsewhere for a winning formula or a cure.  So, the questions are: Is Nigeria doing well? Has Nigeria done well? Does Nigeria have a plan to do well?

If I am to leave my listeners in no doubt as to the answer to the above questions, I do have a task to answer the questions in such a graphic manner for all  to clearly see Nigeria’s score card or in the language of the accountant, Nigeria’s balance sheet. We can start by bench marking Nigeria against other parts of the world in terms of quality of its institutions and the results of its governance systems.

The World Development Indicators and World Governance Index reveal that while global life expectancy in 2007 averaged 69 years, in Nigeria it was 47 years; while the average Gross National Income per capital for the whole world was US$7,990, the figure for Nigeria was US$690; Nigeria has a high infant mortality  rate of 95.52 deaths per 1,000 live births; maternal mortality rate of 800 deaths per 1,000; 12million Nigerian children are out of school with one million others dying of preventable diseases annually according to UNICEF; while 70 percent of Nigerians live below $1 per day.  A human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme in Abuja recently, revealed that the number of poor Nigerians doubled in the last 30 years, while Oxfam International estimates that out of about 140million Nigerians, over 53million wake up every morning not knowing where their next meal will come from, yet, between the years 1999 to 2009 alone, Nigeria is reported to have generated US$200 billion fr
om the sales of crude oil.

Since it is often said that international organizations are often biased or given to exaggeration in their reports about Nigeria, it is only appropriate, therefore, that we balance the above reports with snippets of comments and views from Nigeria.  In the words of Levi Objiofor, “Nigeria is certainly an embarrassment to its founding fathers.

No one is willing to take responsibility for the confusion in the land. The tragedy of modern Nigeria is that the leaders are sick; worse still, they are unaware of their ailment and they are unwilling to listen or respond to public requests for basic needs.  Surely, these are not the qualities of a true continental giant”  To Casmir Igbokwe, “Nigeria today is characterized by a systematic decay in almost all the facets of her national life… instead of making progress like other nations, Nigeria is retrogressing.  At 50, what we have to show the world are dilapidated infrastructure, dwindling electric power supply and inability to rule ourselves”

Tunde Fagbenle in a very graphic exposition describes the pathetic situation in Nigeria this way: “Hunger is on the face of the people, The taps, where they exist, have run dry. The electricity supply is at its lowest ebb.  The roads are death traps. Robbers run the fields, day and night with reckless abandon. Parents leave home in search of food for their offspring, unsure where they will find it or if they will be back home.  Home is where is home? Home is the street for many, or under bridges, and for the luckier ones the inch space of a room shared with ten other bodies in a rodent-like existence”. (In this time of want and despair, I cry for Nigeria.

In the words of a distinguished elder statesman who is in a position to know, Chief Eddie Aderinokun, “When Nigeria gained independence from Britain, I was barely 19. We saw a bigger Nigeria in the horizon. Unfortunately, we have failed to see this vision materialize.  There was nothing like crude oil in those days. All we had were pyramids of groundnut in the northern part of the country, cocoa and cotton. Apart from this, tin and coal were both mined in the Middle- Belt and eastern part of the country. Rubber was introduced after the old Western Region.  Even at that time we were better than countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil, in terms of the earnings from our agricultural produce. Today, these countries have left us behind… when I think of the past I see no reason to celebrate Nigeria’s 50th Independence anniversary. What is there to celebrate?

The appropriate thing for us to do as a people is to put on rags and to rub ashes on our faces. This is the time to mourn our failures as a nation, not celebrate”. (No Reason to Celebrate Nigeria at 50 but to Rub Ashes on our Faces.

To a home boy of ANAN in the person of Dr. Samuel Nzekwe, “…the tempo of management in the country and its economy smacked of a trend without any direction… as a result of the gloomy picture of the economy, unemployment and other negative indices had become the order of the day in the country… the unemployment situation has resulted in mayhem, crisis, armed robbery and kidnapping.  With this situation, how do we expect investors to come into the country… No investor would come into a country without functional infrastructure, electricity and an environment devoid of safety and security to life and property”.

Reuben Abati, in a satirical piece titled “Ban the Country, not football teams”, he noted that nothing works in Nigeria.  Thus, rather than just banning the country’s football teams aftermath of the dismal performance of the Super Eagles at the last World Cup in South Africa, the President should have banned the National Assembly, PHCN, the Police and all other institutions.


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