NIGERIA AT 60 A CELEBRATION OF “HUNGER AND ANGER”

I was born on the 12th of December 1956, four years before the Nigerian state came into being, by this I am four years older than the Nigerian State. Some sixty four years since this journey began I was fortunate to witness the good, the bad and ugly this nation could offer. But how many generations coming after us would enjoy the privileged my generations benefited from this great nation?

Nostalgically, I still remember the times of the Balewa’s the Ziks, Awolowo’s, Sardauna’s they were good men who brought us out of the shackles of colonialism with dignity and compassion. They were selfless generations of Nigerians who would have built the foundation of a better country we all yearn for today, but they killed them. Those who survived the unnecessary coup were frustrated to their graves in spite of their un diluted patriotism. The sins of our actions still hang on us a nation.

I remember the time when the Nigeria education sector is comparable to any nation of the world. The quality of graduates churned from the Nigerian Universities were excellent, our graduates were sought after by the employers of labor. But today institutions, industries, the banks and high profile government agencies tend to give preferences to Nigerian graduates coming from universities abroad.

The NNPC in a recent recruitment exercise justified this assertions. The underline aparthy though not understood by many is who are those children they employed?
The wonderful health sector bequeathed to us by colonialism where doctors prescribe drugs without fear it wouldn’t be on the shelve is lost public hospital are ghost of themselves.

The roads we inherited from our founding fathers though narrower, they had no pot holes. Today the roads are wider but not motorable, standards are compromised. The most annoying aspect of all this, roads that are suppose to be built in a couple of months now takes a whole generation to be completed, often at three times the initial cost due to cost variation and corruption.

The shylock contractor have perfected a scheme of building the roads in segments knowing fully well the government will not keep to the schedule of payments. They work and stop based on milestone they design for themselves by the time they are through with the first part of the road, potholes begin to surface before the second section is midway through. This vicious cycle of work ethics and price variation continues, it also guarantees the shylock road contractors work to do unending. The contract becomes open ended with no completion period. This is how bad road construction has become in Nigeria.

The privatization of the electricity company aimed at improving the fortunes of the power supply nose dived. Instead of building competition, effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery, it ended in concentrating ownership in the hands of those greedy shylocks who buy our commonwealth cheaply and milk the country dry. That is why the government could not deal with the power distribution companies because the people who govern us are the owners of the companies.

The good days of the Electricity Company of Nigeria (ECN) ended on the birth of NEPA, at least during the time of the ECN constant supply of power was guaranteed. The light was always there even when there were strong storms during a rainy day.

Today in spite of the massive public funds deployed to the power sector, supply is epileptic in some cases none existent. Whenever the clouds begin to form signaling the possibility of rain, people begin to contemplate whether to pray for the rain to come or ask nature to hold the rain as lights would surely go off only to return several hours after the rain has stopped or in most cases until the next day or two.

I still remember when we drive across the length and breath of this country night or day without any fear. The security situation of the country was near perfect there were no such issues like Armed Robbers, Boko Haram, Kidnappers or Bandit you only contend with the policemen on the roads doing their legitimate duties of keeping the peace.

The economy was also booming the Naira was almost a convertible currency. It was close to one to one to the British pound. The Naira was greater in value than the America green buck unlike today when you pay four hundred and seventy three Naira to purchase one American Dollar.

The economy was not suffering from any debt over hang in fact we had plenty of money and the problem was how spend it.

Corruption was alien to our culture, you hardly hear the word because the leaders were upright, selfless and committed nationalists. Nigeria first before any other considerations.

The rule of laws was on the front burner, all were equal before law. Judges were fearless, the law was applied in respective of who was involved. Not like today where justice can be purchased. Borrowing from James Hardly Chase, who said “every head has a price unless if the price is not right”. The judiciary is no longer the last hope of the common Man. what is left of the Nigerian Judicial system today is a mockery of the rule of law.

The civil Service which was driven by committed technocrats anchored on professionalism, rules, regulations and procedures suffered similar fate.
Movement across cadres in the civil service were guided by merit, promotions were carried out as at when due. No favoritism, political, ethical or pecuniary consideration but merit.
I can recall how the treasury system we are shouting about worked well for the Ministries and Extra Ministerial Departments. Access to budgetary allocations were without stress, the process worked seamlessly.

The single treasury system only succeeded in warehousing government funds in one account, but it did not make government spending much easier. Time has revealed it has not succeeded in curbing corruption. It is still business as usual.

The military were feared and respected not like the ones we see on our roads. The soldiers were revered not reviled like today, they were apolitical.

The “Yan Doka” that became the nucleus of the Nigeria Police were really good men, they handle their jobs with diligence. They were respected by the communities and were sought after for inter-community mediation of disputes.

The once friendly police force turned into a monster. The stench in the Nigeria police is irreversible no reform no matter how well intentioned will change the Nigeria police, might be we need to try the Georgian approach. When the country lost hope in it’s police force it disbanded the whole police force developed a new strategy and recruited fresh hands. Any attempt to reform Nigeria police will be an exercise in futility and waste of public funds unless something drastic is done.

The transport sector also suffered the same decay. The Nigeria Airways for example known for it safety records, once the envy of all, in the aviation industry, was literally crushed to the ground by the system. The Nigeria Airways with assets spread across the globe which could have taken care of all it’s indebtedness was hurriedly and cheaply sold for pittance all in the effort to pave way for some power group who were bent on taking over the lucrative sector to float their private airlines.

Today Nigeria and Nigerians are the worst for it. No wonder they are still frustrating the efforts of the Minister in floating a national carrier. The high cost of air travels and the humiliating treatment Nigerians receive from foreign airlines who are benefiting from our in competence is worrisome and embarrassing.

This is how the Military, the Politicians and the Technocrats squandered our national wealth

Nigeria will be 60 on the 1st of October 2020, if it were human being, it would be occupying the enviable position of being a senior citizen. But here we are encapsulated in the concentric circle of bad governance. The country suffers from deficit of good leadership, high level corruption, mass poverty, illiteracy, failing infrastructure and insecurity.
The widening gap between the have and have not keeps growing.

We have all been urged by the past and present governments to be patient and for 60years we have done so, yet there seems to be no light at the end of tunnel.
Hunger and frustration arising from high cost of living is making us angry people. Insecurity and bad governance across the three tiers of government give no one any hope that we have reason to celebrate the 60 years independence anniversary.

Some 20 years ago Dubai was just a barren desert. Rwanda a small landlocked African nation that suffered one of the worst ethnic cleansing in Africa is over the position of the big giant of Africa.

I deliberately chose these countries because we share some historical underpinnings. Dubai being an oil-producing country just like Nigeria developed because they have visionary leaders who turned the fortune of their country. It developed its infrastructure and diversified its economy away from oil.

Rwanda, lost almost 1million people through genocide has through a visionary leadership have rebuild their country and made it one place to be in Africa today.

No wonder therefore the drums of Nigeria gliding to or has become failed state is becoming more louder. No matter what some people would want to say about our Nigeria situation the truth is we have a big problem on our hands.
When the former president OBJ said “I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians with the situation we find ourselves in. Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to (becoming) a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.

And these manifestations are the products of recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our country. Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere,,

Be it what may, the former President spoke the truth and the truth is what power does not want us to know. It is therefore not surprising the word of caution did not go down well with the spokesperson of the government.
But before OBJ made that statement, the 2019 Fragile States Index, after scrutinizing 178 countries “across 12 indicators of the risks and vulnerabilities faced by individual nations,” placed Nigeria on the High Alert category as the 14th most fragile state in the world and ninth in Africa. What the former President said is not anything new but a caution so that we watch the way we are doing things.

Nigerians are angry and hungry there is frustration all over the place, so what manner of celebrations are we expecting them to do?

We must tell ourselves the home truth, we must listen to our elder statesmen who speak the truth, mare attacks on them without building hope in the citizenry will lead us to nowhere but a catastrophic end if we are not careful. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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