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?