Posts Tagged ‘Nigerian independence’

Happy 59th Birthday Nigeria!

Happy 59th birthday Nigeria! Today Nigeria marks 59 years of independence from her colonial master, and freedom from colonization is without doubt worthy of celebration. As we celebrate this Independence Day, it is again a good time to reflect on our areas of achievement and failure. 

For a country consisting of no less than 250 ethnic groups, who did not come together of their own free will, to remain together for 59 years is a laudable feat. Nigerians I salute you! From the north to the south and from the east to the west; the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo, the Yoruba, the Ijaw, the Kanuri, the Annang, the Tiv, the Ibibio, the Etsako, the Efik  and on and on and on: Congratulations! It may not have been all fun and games but Nigeria has remained as one, seeking a future together, showing a great resilience and defying the reckless attitude of the colonial masters who contrived a union so heterogeneous as to have little hope of survival. But here we are, 59 years and counting: Hooray Nigerians!

Then again, lest we forget, the state of our beloved country calls for deep reflection. If after 59 years of independence and with diverse resources such as should have brought us to a good place, we still find ourselves the world capital of unfavorable statistics: world poverty capital, the sole contributor of almost a fifth of the world’s maternal mortality—we need a good dose of soul searching. A look around Nigeria today is depressing; it is almost as if the river is flowing backwards: eighty percent of Nigerians live on less than two dollars a day, insecurity is worse than it has ever been, roads are death traps, hospitals are poorly funded, poorly functional and patients have to buy their own supplies for treatment while the country’s leaders award themselves the benefit of treatment “abroad.”

Is this not therefore a good time for soul searching? Surely, much as we do not need to be “exactly like anyone else” we need to hold up a standard that is highly estimable. Perhaps, we should take a peek at countries with whom we started out around the same time in this journey of independence and democracy. Take note that Nigeria’s crude oil was discovered in 1956 and she gained independence from Great Britain in 1960. Now, let’s consider a couple of countries with similar backgrounds.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) gained independence from Great Britain in 1971; oil was discovered in it in the early 1960s. The UAE has so managed its oil wealth and diversified its revenue sources as to make it a wonder to the world. They have shunned corruption and turned a desert into a thriving tourist attraction, wiping out poverty for their people.

Again, consider Singapore. It gained independence from Great Britain in 1963 and was expelled from Malaysia in 1965. Singapore also had crude oil but developed the country in order to attract foreign investors. Today Singapore, a highly developed free-market economy, has lifted its people from abject poverty and created a thriving middle class. How has it been able to do this? Singapore is the 7th least corrupt country in the world! 

Sadly, it would seem, our country has not lived up to standard, not even close. Neither the leadership of the country nor the citizenry has come to maturity in terms of what makes for a viable economy. The leaders lack patriotism and the aspiration to better the lot of their citizens, and the citizens lack the impetus to demand leadership. Rather than laudable achievements, the leaders of Nigeria are recognized all over the world for corruption. Self-aggrandizement has become the sole purpose for politicians seeking public office and the masses have become acclimatized to this with incredible lassitude: corruption and lack of accountability have become the norm, and lack of development the outcome. 

And so, at a time when Nigeria should be setting the pace for Africa, lifting her people out of poverty, decreasing the gap between the rich and the poor, she finds herself shackled by corruption, a task master more vicious that any colonial master.

Fellow Nigerian, is it not time to demand answers from our leaders?

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Too Big For Jail Time?

 The dust has all but settled on the re-election of President Buhari for his second term in office and the work before him and Nigerians in setting the country on the road to success is great indeed. A major point in his manifesto, both in the 2015 and again in 2019, was to fight the crippling corruption in the Nigerian government. Now that he has received the people’s mandate, it is the turn of Nigerians to see if he will provide the good governance he promised. This is his chance to leave a legacy. Will Nigerians remember him for establishing a precedent on how to robustly tackle corruption and win, for establishing a standard for the country on how to successfully conquer corruption moving forward, or will he be remembered for nepotism, herdsmen killing and maintaining the status quo of corruption?

It is unfortunate that corruption has become an accepted way of life in Nigeria—a trend which has turned a country with great potential into one that is becoming a failed state. Yet, Nigerians fail to see—it would seem— that no definite progress can be made by the country until corruption is conquered. Corruption, an enemy that has killed more Nigerians than any war, should not be handled lightly. 

While not advocating the death penalty for kleptocracy as is the case in China, Nigeria needs to do more than recover the stolen money from corrupt officials. Long prison terms, if not life in jail, after the recovery of the stolen money, is the only thing that will be punishment enough to deter the deep-seated kleptocracy in Nigeria. 

The main perpetuating cause of kleptocracy in Nigeria is the impunity which thieves in government enjoy; there is also the ignorance among the larger proportion of Nigerians who believe that the mere fact that you held a high level political office for 5 or 10 years implies that you can parade tens of millions of dollars and the position you have held merits such wealth.  Add to these the vast amounts of money available to be stolen (public office is by far the most lucrative career in Nigeria) and it becomes clear why being elected into public office is a do or die venture.    

No nation can achieve its objective of infrastructure development, successful nation building or sustained advancement in the face of deep-seated corruption. There are few places on earth where corruption is more deep seated than in Nigeria—as evidenced not only by its ranking of 144 out of 188 in Transparency International latest worldwide corruption perception index but also by the evident insecurity, unemployment and decay of infrastructure.

President Buhari speaks a lot against corruption and his words kindle hope. But one wonders: Is it going to be all talk and no action? Moreover, in the fight against corruption in Nigeria there must be no friend or foe. There must be no respect of persons or personalities. The practice whereby some of the politicians when caught, return the stolen money and then go scot free, which is prevalent currently in Nigeria, only promotes impunity. Returning the stolen money is not punishment; jail time after returning the money is punishment. As long as corrupt officials are allowed to use their loot to defend themselves, as long as they can make a pretense of returning part of the money and continue to come and go as free men, as long as thieves in government are celebrated as wealthy people rather than censored as criminals, corruption will not cease in Nigeria, neither will Nigeria be able to develop or take a respectable position in the world.                          

Clearly, the only government that will propel the country forward is one that institutionalizes the fight against corruption and institutionalizes dire consequences for the corrupt. If by the end of his second term in office, Buhari has not only waged the war against corruption but also fully conquered it, he would have left his mark on Nigeria as a veritable statesman, perhaps the first Nigeria has known after the fathers of Nigerian independence. And he would have turned Nigeria from the path to a failed state to that of success.

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