On Thursday this week, Nigeria would be 60. As the nation celebrates her 60th Independence anniversary, her citizens unlike way back on October 1, 1960 are not rolling out the drums to celebrate. That Nigerians won’t be celebrating are for obvious reasons. For six decades, the country has failed to reach her full potentials. This year, the country’s woes have been compounded amongst other things by the COVID-19 pandemic, mounting killings in Southern Kaduna, rising unemployment, hike in electricity tariff and petrol pump price.
On October 1, 1960, the political atmosphere was thick with high hopes and optimism. But it’s been 60 years of never-ending tales of dashed expectations amid insufficient achievements. The country is bedeviled with myriads of existential problems. Terrorism, kidnapping, corruption and other forms of crimes are increasingly confronting the country. The larger populace is poor and can hardly afford three square or balanced meals a day.
The educational and health facilities are in shambles. In the 21st century, basic amenities like water and electricity are still no available for the people. The 60th Independence anniversary therefore presents yet another opportunity for a soul-searching exercise on how the nation has fared. Lately, the media has been awash with a flurry of statements calling on the government to address the numerous issues threatening the unity and existence of the nation as well as the welfare of its citizenry. Few weeks ago, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, CBCN raised the alarm over the spate of killings in Southern Kaduna. Dozens of people have been killed in villages throughout Southern Kaduna in a recent ethno-religious uprising that started in July.
The sporadic attacks are characterized by murder, looting, rape, abductions for ransom and forced displacement. Nigerians are more and more becoming disturbed at the increasing rate at which the perpetuators discharge this lethal act with impunity. In a statement signed by the President of CBCN, Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze, titled “Insecurity in Nigeria: Stop the killings now”, the Bishops without mincing words, called for a solitary response from all well meaning Nigerians for the killings to stop. While assuring the people suffering the incessant attacks from the insurgents of prayers of the Catholics in the country, the Bishops declared: “Our hearts are bleeding and we are more troubled when we hear of the massacre presently going on in Southern Kaduna.
We want all people suffering from the incessant attacks in Southern Kaduna to know that all Catholics in Nigeria are praying for them, and we call on the federal and state governments to stop the killing of innocent people. Where is there is no peace there cannot be development. Any government that wants peace must work for justice for everyone. There will never be sustained development built upon the bloodshed of innocent people brutally murdered by religious fundamentalists without recourse to justice for the victim.
” Very displeased at the state of the nation, the Catholic Bishops called the attention of the federal government to her campaign promises which after five years are far from being fulfilled. “The present federal government came to power promising Nigerians the eradication of corruption, a guarantee to the security of life and property and rapid growth in the economy. The creation of jobs and an enabling environment that engenders growth of the private sector; a significant increase in the supply of electricity, affordable and quality healthcare, and the revamping of the educational sector.
Many Nigerians irrespective of the political party affiliation will affirm that these promises have remained a far cry. We strongly appeal to Nigerians to unite together in calling the Federal Government to give priority to these areas of our Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of the Metropolitan See of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie known for not hiding his disdain for misconduct of political leaders instantly backed the Conference of Catholic Bishops’ call for improved governance with his statement titled: “Corruption and Nigeria’s Uncertain Future”.
He decried the current level of corruption under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Describing Nigeria as a sinking ship that is being navigated by pirates, Okogie expressed the need for the government to take urgent steps to rescue Nigeria from the hands of brigands, adding that failure to do so would amount to flirting with violence. The Prince of the Catholic Church noted that the current level of corruption is dangerous, and that the anger of the people may lead to a violent uprising with dire consequences.
Anthony Cardinal Okogie said that at this point in time, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate between politics and criminality in Nigeria, as politics in Nigeria is divorced from morality. He said that the Nigerian constitution is just a formula for sharing Nigeria’s wealth placed in the hands of politicians, as it (constitution) provides for so many offices, so many parastatals and ministries, adding that the bureaucracy it creates is consuming Nigeria’s money. “The size of the government has depleted Nigeria’s wealth. Politics is the largest industry in Nigeria. It is no longer news that many people go into politics because of the opportunity to enrich themselves at the people’s expense.
There is no wisdom in spending so much money on political office holders who are not acting in the interest of the people. We ought to have utilized the wealth of Nigeria to develop the people. But we have witnessed successive regimes of politicians in military and civilian garbs who enrich themselves by impoverishing the people.” Continuing Okogie said: “The sad consequences confront us; no good roads, no good schools, no good hospitals, no good airports, no electricity, no security, no comfort. The average Nigerian has nothing to enjoy while members of the political oligarchy are living extravagantly.
But for COVID-19, they would have been in Dubai. Fela Anikulapo Kuti once asked: “How country go dey make money when country people no dey see money?” The question is yet to receive an answer.” While lamenting that the beautiful country that God gave us is raped and robbed with impunity by those who should be working for her common good, he added that the future of Nigeria is jeopardized by politicians who show symptoms of kleptomania, an irresistible tendency to take what belongs to all. His Eminence stated: “Many of our leaders are getting away with daylight robbery and murder.
We are deceived into believing that a war is being waged on corruption. But we witness a circus, a shameless show of brigandage in government, where we hear of billions of naira being spent on frivolous projects that are of no advantage to Nigerians. We have been told that looted money is being returned, yet, the government is borrowing. There is a big contradiction here. If looted money is being returned, why does Nigeria have to borrow so much? There is an urgent need to restructure government in Nigeria. Concrete steps will have to be taken.
First, the constitution must change. The current constitution provides a recipe and a license for theft in government, for the poverty of the populace, and for insecurity in the land” While advocating as a matter of urgency for reduction in the size of government, Okogie proffered that the new constitution Nigeria urgently needs must introduce new term limits. “Considering the acrimony and breach of peace that goes with every re-election bid in Nigeria, its attendant temptation to use the people’s money as campaign funds, it would be advisable to limit the president and governors to one term in office. “Each president and each governor should consider his single term in office to be a penalty kick.
A player chosen to take a penalty kick has only one opportunity to put the ball in the net. Nigeria does not need a bicameral legislature of 109 senators and 375 members of the Federal House of Representatives. She can do well with just one federal parliament. The current bicameral legislature is wasteful and should be abolished by the new constitution.” He said the military origin of the constitution shows that it was conceived by people who thought Nigeria’s oil wealth would flow endlessly to the advantage of political officeholders. “Now, we know better. The oil is not dry, but it is not being bought.
This will have severe consequences on the standard of living of the Nigerian. Post-COVID-19 Nigeria cannot survive on a bicameral legislature.” Calls for government redress of the many issues belabouring the country took a different and interesting controversial twist with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent description of Nigeria as a failed and badly divided state. While some people called for his head and considered his statement as an un charitable declaration, others applauded him and totally agreed with him. Obasanjo, Nigeria’s President from 1999 to 2007 two weeks ago minced no words in criticising the government. He emphatically stated that Nigeria is slowly becoming a failed state and more divided under President Buhari’s leadership.
The former President, a former ally of Buhari, however, advised the government to unite the people, strengthen security and broker peace between communities and groups currently battling unrest. Obasanjo made the comment recently in Abuja while delivering a speech titled ‘Moving Nigeria Away from Tipping Over’ at a consultative dialogue attended by various socio-cultural groups, including Afenifere, Middle Belt Forum, Northern Elders Forum, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo and Pan Niger Delta Forum. “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 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.
” Reckless statement as it may seem coming from an elder statesman, but it is a sincere declaration and also factual. The Failed State Index of 2019 ranked Nigeria as the 14th Most Fragile State in the world, out of 178 countries, and the ninth most fragile in Africa. Over the years, Nigeria has always been ranked in the bottom league of failed states. While Obasanjo was in power Nigeria was rated the 17th Most Failed State in the globe. Obasanjo ascribed the cause of the failing state of the nation to recent mismanagement of diversity and socio-economic development of our 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.” According to the former President, those calling for the country’s breakup must remember that, in the event of a split, citizens would still be neighbours and need to conduct relations among one another. He said unity is important to solve the problems bedeviling the nation and commended the consultative forum idea. “With what I have seen, read and heard from the rapprochement that you are forging together, I see a ray of hope that Nigeria can be saved from disintegration,” he said.
Many Nigerians could not but concur with the former President. Even his arch enemy Professor Wole Soyinka agreed and went ahead to say that Nigeria is “Close to extinction as a viable comity of peoples.” “I am notoriously no fan of Olusegun Obasanjo, General, twice former President and co-architect, with other past leaders, of the crumbling edifice that is still generously called Nigeria. I have no reasons to change my stance on his record. Nonetheless, I embrace the responsibility of calling attention to any accurate reading of this nation from whatever source, as a contraption teetering on the very edge of total collapse.
” Reacting to Obasanjo’s statement that Nigeria was more divided and becoming a basket case under the Buhari-led administration, and needed to be rescued from the brink of collapse, the Presidency described the former President as a ‘divider-in-chief ’ and one that does not mean well for the government. Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu in a statement said Obasanjo was only seeking self-gratification and attention but should not be taken serious, while the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina remarked that Nigeria was collapsing forward under Buhari in forward trajectory. His words: “The former President says the country is collapsing. I agree.
Nigeria is collapsing forward. In diverse ways, under President Muhammadu Buhari, the collapse is in a forward trajectory, despite all the odds.” He made this statement in an article posted on Facebook titled: “Yes, Nigeria Is Collapsing Forward.” Soyinka would take none of these. Obviously disappointed, he bluntly told the government to accept ‘truth’ that Nigeria was on an edge of total collapse. He fired back:”Chief Obasanjo talked about the mismanagement of our diversity, saying it is leading to collapse. True? False? Nigeria, since 1914, had been an uneasy Federation.” While recalling that the government spurned his earlier advice on the state of the nation, just as it did to Obasanjo, Soyinka noted that it was unfortunate that the government has not embraced the truth that Nigeria was on an edge of total collapse.
“That advice appears to have fallen on deaf ears. In place of reasoned response and openness to some serious dialogue, what this nation has been obliged to endure has been insolent distractions from garrulous and coarsened functionaries, apologists and sectarian opportunists,” he said. Soyinka further stated that the nation is divided as never before, and this ripping division has taken place under the policies and conduct of none other than President Buhari. The Nobel Laureate queried “Does anyone deny that it was this President who went to sleep while communities were consistently ravaged by cattle marauders, were raped and displaced in their thousands and turned into beggars all over the landscape? “Was it a different President who, on being finally persuaded to visit a scene of carnage, had nothing more authoritative to offer than to advice the traumatised victims to learn to live peacefully with their violators?” Soyinka left President Buhari with these words to ponder over. The 60th Independence Anniversary presents an apt opportunity to make amends. Nigerians are hoping that these multidimensional issues militating against Nigeria and its citizenry be tackled with absolute sense of responsibility and urgency if we must sustain Nigeria on awesome grounds.