Nigeria at 61: time for introspection

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By Ikechukwu Amaechi

On Friday October 1, Nigeria will be 61 years old. Whether in the life of an individual or a nation, the Diamond Jubilee is a milestone. Adding an extra year is even bigger and ideally the drums should be deployed. But it will be misguided. Why? Because there is nothing to celebrate right now.

Okay, some would argue that the fact that Nigeria still remains united even after a brutal 30-month fratricidal war is reason enough to push the boat. But when a country is united by force of arms and not by the assent of the federating units, the feeling of unity becomes illusory.

Others use the incredible achievements of Nigerians – men and women – in the arts, sciences, sports, technology and commerce – as a totem pole to raise the country’s greatness. But while it is true that individual Nigerians excel on a global scale, they are achieving these extraordinary feats despite, not because of, the opportunities offered by the country.

The truth is that Nigeria, 61 years after independence, has become a graveyard of creativity and innovation. Rather than promoting excellence, the country rewards indolence and stifles ingenuity. Nigeria is a killjoy, which is why most professionals – doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, journalists, etc. – flee en masse abroad.

But it has not always been so. There was a time when the country was a beacon of hope for the rest of Africa, but also for the black race. Today, the countries with which we were at the same level or even better at independence have all left us behind. At 61, countries that are not as endowed in terms of human and material resources are now far ahead.

Something has tragically gone wrong. The prudish militarization of the country’s fault lines by selfish leaders is to blame. The problem did not start with President Muhammadu Buhari, but his lack of capacity to deal with the country’s diversities made it worse.

So even if the government is inclined to party, the majority of citizens are not in the mood. Faced with an existential crisis, an average Nigerian would rather think about how to survive than celebrate a country that has offered nothing but tears, blood and grief for the past six years.

Nigeria is not working. The country is more fractured today than it has ever been in the past half century with all of the primordial fault lines that define our interactions as a people of diverse ethnicities and religious inclinations in full swing. parade. We laugh at ourselves when we pretend that Nigeria is still the giant of Africa. This was the case. Not anymore. At 61, Nigeria today is nothing short of great.

A country where the leadership of the national integration agency, the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, advises young people in service to their homeland to always let their people keep money aside for ransom payments to kidnappers in the event that they are abducted while on their way to places of their primary assignment is a failed state.

A country that is the poverty capital of the world is not big. In October 2019, the World Poverty Clock declared that Nigeria, with an estimated population of around 205 million, had overtaken India with a population of 1.366 billion as the country with the most people living in extreme poverty, that is, on less than $ 1.90 or less. per day.

In 2020, data provided by the same group showed that instead of lifting people up, more Nigerians had been plunged into extreme poverty, with their number rising to over 105 million, representing 51% of the population. .

Nigeria’s case is pathetic as poverty is actually on the decline globally, as statistics indicate that since 1990 a quarter of the world has passed extreme poverty with global poverty estimates hovering around 8.6 percent. hundred. In fact, India’s extremely poor population, which numbered 84 million people in 2019, is shrinking. The reverse is the case here. And it can only get worse because as economists say, poverty is a cyclical trap. In order for people to rise above, they need education, proper health care, access to clean water and employment opportunities.

Nigeria is deficient in all of this. Currently, the country has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world and one of the lowest life expectancy rates due to insufficient health care. Nigeria, at 61, plunges into the depths of misery and destitution because none of the main indicators of the human development index, HDI, – life expectancy, expected years of schooling, gross national income per capita for the level of life – is currently in the green zone.

When Nigerian leaders insist, as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did on Sunday, that although the country currently faces security, economic, religious and ethnic challenges, the collective vision of a united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria remains undefeated 61 years after independence, they play the role of ostrich.

There is no collective vision as adopted by Osinbajo at this time. There were, but it was blocked for a long time.

Building a united, prosperous and peaceful country takes more than absurd clichés. While the Vice President’s exhortation that “our present trials cannot close the curtains on our history … because this country is greater than the sum of its parts and the sum of its mistakes” is good music for the ears, it is empty rhetoric. His bombast may have impressed his audience – the political and religious elite – but it made no difference in the streets, where it matters most.

The streets are bubbling. Students can no longer go to school in some parts of the country. Many are still held captive in various evil forests of the Northwest. Traveling on Nigerian roads has become suicidal. Dr Chike Akunyili, widower of Professor Dora Akunyili, former Minister of Information, was horribly murdered in Anambra on Tuesday. He traveled to Onitsha to present an article and receive an award at the commemorative conference organized by some civil society organizations in honor of his late wife. He never came back alive.

The bloody stories are many. And no one is paying for these heinous crimes. Some people rationalize this anarchy by saying that many more people are being killed on the streets of New York, the United States and Johannesburg, South Africa, than in Nigeria. Assuming, without admitting that this is true, the difference is that it is likely that such heinous crimes will not go unpunished in these countries no matter how long it takes. In Nigeria there is no justice for the dead.

At 61, Nigeria remains a country torn by religious and ethnic strife, bloody insurgencies and banditry and numbing economic challenges – a country in darkness. Sixty-one years after independence, Nigeria is on the brink. Some people think saying it is like de-marketing the country. May be!

The flip side is that to not admit that Nigeria is facing an existential crisis is to put your head in the sand believing that no one sees us. It is a tricky game to play under the circumstances.

Those who yell at the agents of secession without acknowledging the reasons for such unrest are not sincere. Why would a man of the rank of Professor Banji Akintoye suddenly become a follower of Yoruba self-determination? Why did disintegration become an option for 51 many years after such a quest for Ndigbo was collectively suppressed?

There is no doubt that untold damage has been inflicted on the national psyche. Nigerians should take the occasion of the 61st anniversary of independence to do some soul-searching. Where did the rain start to beat this once promising country? Now should be the time to take inventory.

What are the prospects for bringing the country out of the abyss? Can Nigeria rediscover itself? These are the questions which should concentrate all minds.

The national response to Presidency Buhari and the demons it has unleashed upon the country could be the last chance to get it right. But it won’t be wishful thinking. As 2023 dawns, there must be a conscious effort to move away from Buhari’s tunnel vision and nepotism.

A conscious effort must be made by all to build a nation around a vision that promotes the common good. Equity, equity and justice must be the linchpin around which any program to save Nigeria revolves, for the sustenance of the Nigerian Federation requires a union of equals.

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