SIR: Nigeria, a country of diverse nationalities, cultures, religions and values has defied all doomsday predictions to remain a united nation. This is enough reason for self-congratulation and hope of a better future. On balance, however, there is little to celebrate about Nigeria at 60. As the depressing indices show in areas such as security of life and property, food production, industrial output, quality of education and healthcare, economic diversification and productivity, there is indeed cause for worry. Not only do Nigerians eat the bread they do not produce, wear clothes they do not weave, and drink wine imported from other countries, they now import almost everything, including toothpicks.
Nigerians today read books, quote facts and figures about their country from foreign sources and parrot models of development designed by outsiders with vested interests. Sixty years after independence, many even blame the present parlous state of the country on British colonialists who left over five decades ago. At 60, Nigeria has much catch-up to do. And let no one be deluded that 60 years is a short time in the life of a country. The Nigerian economy is in dire straits with the potential to get worse if sound political and economic judgment is not brought to bear on the affairs of state.
At independence in 1960, there was a groundswell of euphoria and hope in the Nigerian project. It is sobering that, 60 years later, the anticipated gains of nationhood envisaged by the founding fathers are still being awaited. Not a few have marveled at the exemplary character of Nigeria’s founding fathers: the simplicity of Tafawa Balewa, the selflessness of Ahmadu Bello, the nationalism of Nnamdi Azikiwe and the enduring vision of Obafemi Awolowo, all of which tower above their personal ambitions. Despite the sense of foreboding that the new multi-ethnic nation was unworkable, Nigerians envisioned a great and bountiful country.
Today, Nigeria is so greatly afflicted that some wonder at her prospects. The trouble with Nigeria, noted famed author and intellectual icon, Chinua Achebe, is a failure of leadership. This failure has resulted in shattered hopes, broken promises, missed opportunities, and unfulfilled aspirations. A nation, it has been said, rises or falls on the quality of its leadership. Nigeria is a terrible victim of the poverty of good leadership, but most destructively, political leadership. Good leaders must show strength of conviction and character. What poor leadership in Nigeria has done is to create 175 to 200 million passive citizens who have no voice.
If Nigeria gets its leadership right, gets its act together, this can be as great and live-able a country as any on earth.
Since the return to democracy in 1999, the political class has shown impetuous and irresponsible behavior at the expense of the people. The looting and the waste going on in Nigeria in the name of governance has no parallel anywhere else and is responsible for breeding an angry and alienated citizenry who see no dividend in this democracy. On all accounts, Nigeria at 60 is yet to fulfill her destiny. The current structure of Nigeria today, which is anything but federal, holds down the country, stunts its growth, truncates its progress and actually threatens its unity.
This falsehood must be corrected as soon as possible to liberate the nation’s full potential. The starting point towards the actualization of a Nigeria of our dreams is the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report, not in any way a perfect document, but certainly one good enough to take off from. These proposals for a new Nigeria are daunting. To chart a course of progress, Nigeria needs big dreamers and even bigger dreams, leaders who would do things the unusual way. It is not too late to rescue Nigeria from the brink. Exemplary leadership is imperative at all levels to realize the dreams of the founding fathers who toiled for Nigeria’s statehood. Nigeria must demonstrate its coveted state of independence by beginning a new chapter, and the time to do so is now.
As the nation gets set for her 60th independence anniversary celebrations, questions and more questions have cropped up. Has the country come of age? Is there a need for celebration? Are there hopes of better tomorrow? So as the anniversary begins, Nigerians look forward to the actualization of the dreams and visions packaged by the founding fathers of this country. They also look forward to seeing a realistic improvement on the inherent inadequacies that have stood in the way of attaining peace, harmony, tranquility, progress and unity, in the first instance, and the accomplishments of all the tasks that will make room for true attainment of a Nigerian nation.