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Re: Nigeria @ 52

By Helen Ovbiagele

It’s sad to note that at 52, we’re still at the crawling stage of life.  It wasn’t those who wrote in here to react to my piece on the matter who feel this way, but pieces published in other Nigerian  newspapers and magazines reflected this too.

I wondered if these people witnessed life before we got our independence, and compared it with the present time.  Anyone who wasn’t  at least five years old at independence cannot judge accurately, even where they are echoing what their parents told them.

If they think that 52 is a great number of years, and we should have been catapulted to the rank of the highly developed by now, then they don’t know much about the history of the developed countries, and their pace of growth.  Some of the articles I read talked about ‘retarded growth’ ‘still crawling at snail’s speed’, etc.

Well, that’s to be expected because Nigeria has this peculiar problem of being made up of  groups with very different views of  life and development.  So, development can never be even throughout the nation.

I’m still convinced that we’ve made progress on various fronts, and if we collectively make a total commitment to discard our cheating, greedy, dishonest and shameless nature, and become a people of integrity who put the nation first before self-interest, we will certainly make giant strides in development and peace, because we have the potential to be great.

Coming out every October 1st to condemn the nation with a long list of  its woes, when we’re very much part of the entire problem is dishonest and unserious.  The young who are our future will not learn anything from this attitude. Instead, they will continue in these rotten shoes, and things will get worse. It’s time to effect a radical change for the better.

Some of those who wrote in, however, don’t share my view.

“Mrs. Ovbiagele, I’m not happy about what you wrote on Sept. 30th.  The man on the street, whatever his/her character is not on the seat of government and is not involved in making the wrong policy and defrauding the nation.  Instead, he/she is bearing the full brunt of the ineptitude of our rulers.  I don’t think we’ve arrived at the point where we would raise glasses to toast a functioning Nigeria.  Period! – Chike,  Umuahia.”

“Madam, I agree a bit with you that the attitude to life of the average Nigerian, which involves a desire to get rich quickly by any means, is bringing down this nation, but that’s not why we’re still crawling at 52.  A nation develop through sound policies.  Even where there’s a sound policy, the implementation is shoddy, and at the end of the day, nothing is achieved.  Our rulers over the years are mostly to blame. –  Owu, Delta State.”

“Our rulers love only themselves, so, they can’t be bothered about doing things to improve the system.

The State money is there for them and members of their families to seek medical care in any foreign country of their choice. Why should they be bothered about improving healthcare here?  Their children are in schools abroad.  Why should they be concerned about the very low quality of education they make available here?

They use our money to jet off to other countries to enjoy a system which works. Why should they be overly worried about our bad roads, epileptic power supply, poor transport system, etc.?   They surround themselves day and night with security personnel.

Why should they bother about the terrible lack of security of lives and property in the country?  I’ve just read that students in Adamawa were called out by their names and then slaughtered!  I’m sure no person in power or decision-making position lost anyone there!  We haven’t made any progress in 52 years.  That’s the truth. –   Ese, Lagos. ”

“Helen, I agree with you that we shouldn’t blame only our leaders for our failure to record appreciable development. We point accusing fingers at them because they are in the decision-making positions.  However, we should remember that, first and foremost, they are from among us.

They are Nigerians, so, they have our character in them – to do less, and acquire money to last several generations of their descendants.  When the current ones leave, they will be replaced by people with similar intentions.  So, where do we go from here?  A total overhaul of our character is needed for a healthier Nigeria. –  Ade,  Ife.”

“Ma, I wasn’t born at independence, so, I’m not in a position to say whether we’ve improved under self -rule.  However, I know that things were better in the country during my childhood than they are now. In the early nineties, graduates could still serve in any part of the federation safely.

The main fear of parents then was that they were always travelling up and down, and could have accidents.  These days students are being killed anyhow in their posts in the north, while the northerners who serve down south, do so without coming to any harm.  This is very distressing.

Young people with promise and the future ahead of them, get killed in cold blood because of ethnic/religious differences which is not of their own doing.  The government still insists on posting southerners to the north!  Who will help develop the country if young people are killed in their prime?

This is part of the reason Nigeria isn’t working, ma. Also, in my childhood, criminal activities involving the young were not this many.  The increase is due to high rate of employment. What is the government doing about this?  One graduates and there’s no job for several years, unless you’re well-connected.

In that case a job would be waiting for you before you graduate.  This isn’t fair on the poor!  Some young people feel it’s best to go suffer  abroad, than remain here and be a burden to one’s parents who have slaved hard to educate one.  Thanks ma. –   Terry.”

“Madam, only God can rescue this country from the clutches of  those who are out to bring us to our knees through fraudulent activities.  How can it be alleged that several thousands of  electricity transformers bought with public money be hidden away, when cases abound where PHCN officials tell consumers that they have to supply money to replace the burnt transformer in their area, because they have none in their store?

I haven’t heard of this sort of  thing happening elsewhere on the globe.   Incredible!  When I was told this yesterday, I couldn’t believe my ears. Let’s see what explanation would be given for this.   There’s no electricity supply in my area right now, and no-one knows the cause.  We’re too stressed out to do anything, so, we use torches as there’s fuel shortage. ”

We thank all those who wrote in.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.