Stories by Chioma Gabriel, Taye Obateru, Luka Biniyat, John Bulus, John Bosco Agbakwuru, Ayo Onikoyi
The morning of 29th May, 1999 was like the first day in a new recreated Nigeria after 29 years military tyranny.
Drumming, singing, dancing and jubilation filled the Eagle Square, Abuja as Nigerians awaited the handover of power from a military regime to a new legitimately elected democratic government under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo that morning.
It was same in all the 36 federating states of Africa’s most populous country – celebrating a future full of hopes for improved wellbeing of everyone.
The inaugural speech of President Obasanjo even re-enforced this faith the more, as Nigerians at the Eagles Square and millions more who werewatching live on TV or listening over the radio allowed tears of joy to drip freely when they thought of the past and what the new “messiah” was promising.
“Nigeria is wonderfully endowed by the Almighty with human and other resources” Obasanjo reminded all.
“ It does no credit either to us or the entire black race if we fail in managing our resources for quick improvement in the quality of life of our people.
“Instead of progress and development, which we are entitled to expect from those who governed us, we experienced in the last decade and a half, particularly in the last regime but one, persistent deterioration in the quality of our governance, leading to instability and the weakening of all public institutions ”, he said
“Good men were shunned and kept away from government while those who should be kept away were drawn near. Relations between men and women who had been friends for many decades, and between communities that had lived together in peace for many generations became very bitter because of the actions or inactions of government.
“The citizens developed distrust in government, and because promises made for the improvement of the conditions of the people were not kept, all statements by government were met with cynicism”, he pointed out.
“Government officials became progressively indifferent to propriety of conduct and showed little commitment to promoting the general welfare of the people and the public good.
“ Government and all its agencies became thoroughly corrupt and reckless. Members of the public had to bribe their way through in ministries and parastatals to get attention and one government agency had to bribe another government agency to obtain the release of their statutory allocation of funds.
“The impact of official corruption is so rampant and has earned Nigeria a very bad image at home and abroad. Besides, it has distorted and retrogressed development”.
Of course, he promised to reverse all, in a rare oration that pulled down the wary stand of pessimists.
Looking back these 13 years of democracy, those past leaders that Obasanjo so disparaged, would be completely right if they asked for an unreserved apology from Obasanjo, who left Nigerians arguably, worse than he met them .Virtually everything Obasanjo said has remained the same, and has even gone worse in some instances.
The tragedy of 13 years of Nigerian democracy is even more vexing when looked through Nigeria’s earning for this duration.
According to analysts, the country has grossed in far more income between 1999 and 2010 than the prior 35 years before 1999. It has been estimated that Nigeria’s GDP had jumped from $90 billion in 1998 to about $350 billion in 2009 alone, about 300% and on an absolute value.
Yet on Human Development Index, Nigeria remains among the most impoverished nations on earth, with an estimated 79 million of its 150 million populace living below the poverty level.
The North Western part of Nigeria, according to recent UNESCO rating, has the lowest literary level in the world.
Nigeria spent not less that $16 billion (N2.5 trillion) to improve on the 3,500 Mw of power that civil rule inherited from autocratic military rule. It is doubtful if Nigeria produces Imw above that figure today.
Yes, some roads, boreholes, hospitals and some schools may have been built, but on the aggregate that falls extremely far from expectation.
The story of Nigeria in the past 13 years is the story of corruption finding a cosy, ripe breeding ground. Never in the history of Nigeria had civil servants, politicians and even men and women in uniform stolen so brazenly.
With a judicial system that is a caricature of itself, all the billions spent on creating laws and institutions that should fight corruption, lay waste.
Since the Nigerian civil war, Nigeria has never been on the brink of collapse and disintegration like now.
After all these earnings, we have won fewer laurels in sports than for the same period under military rule.
Our image abroad has gotten worse as Nigerians make the bulk of thieves and drug criminals in foreign prisons.
There is hardly anything to cheer in the past 13 years of our democracy.
It has been the story of looted hopes by Nigerian leaders at all tiers of government, as Nigeria totters on the brink of disintegration.
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