Dr Doyin Okupe, serial presidential adviser (served as spokesman under Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan) shares his perspectives on Nigeria at 60: Nigerian nation is captured in the celebratory mood of her diamond anniversary.
However, it is pretty difficult for the nation to visualize the future without reflecting even briefly on the past.
It is important to emphasize that hopes and aspirations from within and outside of the geographical expression known as Nigeria were very high on October 1, 1960, when the nation got her independence.
It is an undeniable fact that the Nigeria union was pretty fragile and the very foundation was glaringly faulty from independence till date. Although the intentions behind the facade of the new nation were also regrettably far from being noble, it can be badly stated that the authorities that superintended Nigerian independence were culpable of forging a coerced unity on a foundation of dishonesty and masterful grand deception.
This undeniable claim is definitely responsible for the noticeable crack and schism that promptly surfaced in less than a decade after the dubious birth of our new nation.
Nigeria is unarguably a nation that is positioned for greatness by God Himself going by human and natural resources that the nation is massively endowed with. Nonetheless, the southern elites, the political and military class are bound to take responsibility for what the nation eventually became in post-independent Nigeria.
It is necessary to clarify that majority of the southern leaders retreated to their home bases and inadvertently abandoned the central political stage for the northerners having lost control of the central government from the very beginning.
The retreated southerners resorted to pursuing regional and personal agendas by leveraging on the advantages of their beneficial western education and acquired professionalism.
The retreated southern politicians also accepted everything thrown at them with equanimity, but occasionally they reacted with subdued vituperations and grumblings. This manifested through their media outbursts and filibustering.
Noticeably, the southern leadership actually did very little to confront or curtail the flagrant and florid excesses of the northern ruling class due to their congenital timidity.
Meanwhile, a handful of the southerners felt it was better to associate with the northerners contrary to the wide expectation of dissociation.
Sadly, however, a number of daring southerners like my humble self that chose to align politically with the mainstream northern ruling class were regrettably compelled to play the second fiddle since we lacked the requisite political backing from our home bases notwithstanding the political constituencies.
On account of this, we were denied the right to caution or protest internally; even when things were obviously wrongly done to our detriment.
Realistically, the northern elites should as a matter of fact be held accountable for the deplorably prevalent ethnic, political, economic and developmental state in the country. Therefore, the dictum of from whom much is given, much is expected is aptly applicable here.
Also, we are all witnesses to the fact that northern military officers held sway in the governance of this nation for more than three decades. Unfortunately, these were the agonising periods when the very foundations of this country were severely damaged and nearly got completely destroyed.
Since the military left the stage in 1999, we have had two southern Presidents and two northern Presidents. If the truth must be stated therefore, no significant change has been recorded till date. Essentially, if the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Truth is that Nigerian nation and her people are yet to derive the desired significant benefits from democratic rule till date. There still exist in our body polity regrettable absence of an elite national consensus without which a true nation cannot emerge.
In our 60 years of existence, we have not been able to overcome our primordial and primitive features of religious intolerance, tribalism, nepotism, prebendalism, greed, selfishness, disregard for law and order as well as lack of commitment to equity and social justice.
Indisputably, bribery and corruption have now become norms at all levels including private and public sectors. Religious organisations, educational institutions, corporate entities and family circles are not excluded from the scourge of bribery and corruption.
Without doubt, we need to change our perspectives and review our strategies in confronting these societal ills. What had been done in the past have truly not worked and they are still not working. We must all agree that strong leadership, draconian laws and circumstantial legislations have all failed us.
Without mincing words, the only realistic way forward for us as a nation is to come together and reason together publicly, honestly in a non partisan manner to address key issues. Kenya did something very similar a few years back and the result was actually worth the effort.
We need a new constitution that must be truly borne out of honest reappraisal of our journey so far and our collective vision for the future. The present constitution is fraudulent, lopsided and ill-conceived.
Certainly, the opening statement of our constitution is blatantly false and it is therefore not commendable. We must admit the fact that anything that is built on falsehood will definitely not stand the test of time no matter how long it take before it will fail eventually.
Before we attend to the birth of a new constitution, it is necessary to come together on a national forum and settle first the issue of corruption in our society. Meanwhile, the suggested national forum should not an avenue for blame games and scapegoatism.
Efforts should be geared towards promoting willingness to forgive and the readiness to redirect our energies towards national as well as the cleansing of our institutional systems. The suggested institutional cleansing should encompass administrative, law enforcement, justice and acceptable financial practices.
At the heart of the suggested national cleansing should be the need for vigorous address of issues of hate, hurt and pains of past unforgiveness in our polity. We have too many issues that are related to unforgiveness in our land.
The North must forgive the East. In a like manner, the East must forgive the West and the North. We must all be determined to forgive the events before and after the civil war.
The citizenry must be prepared to forgive the rulers as well as the plunderers. Most importantly, individuals that have acquired wealth at the expense of the nation must be given the opportunity to restitute without fear of annihilation or prosecution.
There can be no better time for us to heal this land before our collective anger, frustrations and resentments would kill this glorious land of our birth and collection patrimony.
Happy 60th anniversary to our great Nigerian nation that is full of hope pregnant with a protruding great future.