• Don’t give up on unity of Nigeria – Archbishop Martins
• We may never solve infrastructure deficit – Emefiele
• Only God can reverse our situation – Gov. Wike
• Nigeria is a giant of Africa with clay feet – Sanusi
By Constaincia Uruakpa
Sixty-one years after independence, the hope and promise of Nigeria remains just a hope and promise of a people, looking foward to better times. Unfortunately the country is one led by a derisive political leadership ruling a population, many of whom, if given the opportunity, would without much hesitation, leave the country for greener pastures, to fulfill their capabilities, while continuing to contribute their quota to the nation, and even still expressing feelings of patriotism from afar. Regrettably, the much envisioned and well-talked-about year 2020 came, without any record of all the progressive tides tied to it, rather, it was a year characterized by the COVID-19 pandemic, As it was tagged by many as a year of coronavirus, a pandemic that has left 4.55 million people dead, worldwide. Nigeria, which boasts of a population of nearly 200 million, has thus far, recorded 2,695 deaths, owing to the virus. Aside from this, the country has lost thousand of its population in the Northern part to attacks by Boko Haram insurgents, killer herdsmen, bandits and other criminal groups, whose activities have increased insecurity, and led to the label of the country as a terrorist zone.
This year, 2021, marks 61 years of the existence of Nigeria as an independent state, considering the ‘vision 2020’ as it was tagged some years back, and now a year after, with the myriad of problems confronting the country, one could wonder if Nigeria was ever on its way to becoming the country of its 2020 vision. If the main problem was that the country’s objectives were too lofty, especially in its economic aims, one might determine that such an offence is forgivable, and attribute it to a miscalculated forecast of progress possible in the given time span. Even as supposed plans were in place at a point to improve its lot, at placing the country in an enviable position as a top 20 economy in the world, its once largest economy in Africa, by GDP, currently ranks 17th in the continent . Besides economic problems, Nigeria is currently faced with a lot of issues, ranging from police brutality, which promoted the EndSARS protests by the young people in the country, to call government attention to the various worrisome issues plaguing the country.
The outcome of these protests carried out in many states in the country was nothing to write home about, as some of the peacefully protesting youths lost their lives, when ‘unknown soldiers’ opened fire and shot directly at the youths, at Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos. Till date, the panel of inquiries set up by the Lagos State Government is still on the issue of settling families who lost loved ones during this time. Again, the country is also faced with insecurity, borne out of insurgency, banditry, clashes between herdsmen and farmers, especially in the Northern parts of the country. Attacks carried out by insurgents and bandits have affected so many lives, especially that of Christians. These attacks on Christians and others in the North has elicited so much reaction from concerned groups in the country, and has led some into drawing out anoma lies and lopsidedness of the 1999 constitution, which the country is operating.
Some have called for the review and amendment of the constitution, while others have said the constitution be suspended and outrightly put aside for a fresh one. For herders and farmers clash, Nigeria has overtime; enacted laws to regulate human conduct, and to protect the lives and interests of citizens. Among the plethora of laws enacted in Nigeria, include the various Anti-Grazing Laws of some states in Nigeria that seek to end the numerous violent clashes between cattle herdsmen and farmers in the country. These Anti-Grazing Laws of some states have also been an issue of concern, as the Southern Governors and their counterparts from the Northern have different opinions on this.
There is also the issue of zoning of the presidency. Ironically, this matter always rears its head at the approach of election years. Most times, we see Southern leaders, demanding that the presidency come to the south, as the North has clanged to power over a long period of time in the country. Ahead of 2023, an election year, the Southern Governors have demanded that the Presidency shifts to the South. As it is, the Northern Governors and Traditional Rulers Council condemned and declared as “unconstitutional” this demand by the Southern Governors for the Presidency in 2023. The resolution of the Northern Governors and Traditional Rulers condemning this perceived genuine demand was slammed by Southern groups, including the Onanaeze Ndigbo. The Igbo apex socio-cultural body, expressed its views in a statement further described the Northern leaders’ postulations as gross insensitivity, and most regrettable.
These, among others, are unending issues that continue to line the narrative of the Nigerian state, at the ripe age of 61. Meanwhile, poverty rate in Nigeria reportedly moved from 15 percent at independence in 1960 to 50 percent in 2021. Ahead of the country’s 61st independence anniversary, Nigerians continue to react to the teeming issues affecting the development and progress of the nation. Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, in a recent chat with journalists in Lagos, insinuated that Nigeria may never be able to solve its infrastructure challenges. Emefiele quoted a Moody’s report, which concluded that Nigeria needed to spend about $3.3 trillion in capital expenditure over the next 30 years or $1.1 trillion a decade to close its infrastructure deficit. He said this amounts to $100 billion (N40 trillion) per annum or 28 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP of N144 trillion.
According to him, “Nigeria has spent just about $100 billion on infrastructure provision in the last 10 years. “In Nigeria, the current level of infrastructure deficit is a major constraint to economic development and attainment of growth average rate of at least five to seven per cent required to boost productivity and sustainable growth for businesses.” He quoted the World Development Indicators (2019) that said “56.20 per cent of Nigerians have access to electricity, while electric power consumption stood at 144.52 kWh per capita as of 2018.” “While infrastructure deficit in Nigeria is estimated to be about 1.2 per cent of GDP, it is projected that the Federal Government needs to commit about $100 billion annually to address the nation’s infrastructural deficit,” Emefiele said. Governor Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, at an Interdenominational Church Service in commemoration of the 61st Independence Anniversary at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, last Sunday said Nigeria is at such point of extinction that only God, can reverse the impending disintegration.
He stated that it is regrettable that at 61, Nigeria still grapples with leadership failure. He said, ‘This is the time Nigeria needs God more. The country is gone. Insecurity everywhere. Everyone needs to say, God, we need you because man’s leadership has failed this country. “At 61 years, Nigeria is full of enmity, full of divisions, hatred, ethnicity, a country that cannot put themselves together. Everybody has responsibility, so ask yourself questions, have I played my own part?” The Governor wondered what has become of the nation’s legislature that continues to approve any wish of the presidency, unfeeling about the consequences. He also decried the national judiciary for easily being submissive to intimidation as judges, he perceived, have abandoned their responsibilities out of fear, wondering the fate of Nigerians under such a seeming tyrannical atmosphere. He stated, “We cannot do the right things. Other countries are talking about how their elections will be transparent, we are talking about how we will rig the election in 2023. “Simple thing, transmit election results electronically to show transparency, that really that the person you’re declaring won the election, but we are afraid.”
“Where is the legislature? A legislature that cannot think, anything they bring is right, a legislature that can not say that Nigeria has nothing to regret from conducting free and fair elections. ” A legislature that you’ll close your eyes, anything they bring about, borrowing, you say borrow. A legislature that cannot say that this money we are borrowing, where is it, where are you applying it? You have no confidence to ask questions. “The courts have been intimidated. The judges have abandoned their responsibilities out of fear. You’re seeing something that is wrong, but because you will be summoned in the night, you abandoned your responsibility.” He also blamed the nation’s woes on a docile follower-ship and how ascendancy to leadership is no longer driven by merit but by ethnic and religious biases. Also speaking at the Kaduna Economic and Investment summit (KADINVEST) on Friday, former Emir of Kano, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, described Nigeria as a giant of Africa with clay feet.
He said other African countries like Ghana, Senegal and Kenya were better placed economically than Nigeria. “Only nine per cent of new graduates in Nigeria find employment, so we have an incremental 4.5 million people added to the unemployed annually. 41 per cent is the number for youth unemployment. Overall, we have 27 per cent unemployment among the youths, which is the most serious component of the population and that is why you have restiveness, thuggery, crime and that is why you have insecurity”. Sanusi lamented that Nigeria is ranked 114 in the global innovation index; we are lower than other African countries like Kenya, Rwanda, and Senegal. “We are ranked 14 in Sub-Saharan Africa. I think we should have this reality check and know where we are as a country. If not, we continue to call ourselves giant of Africa; we are a giant with clay feet. We are 14 in innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Countries like Senegal and Kenya are ahead of us and I am not even talking about South Africa. Our expenditure on education as a country is only seven per cent of the budget.
We are spending less than Ghana on education, not on percentage, but in absolute terms. And we are surprised that companies are moving to Ghana, that industries, individuals are moving there. We are not investing in education and human capital. We have a 68 per cent mismatch between graduates’ skills and job requirements, the major areas being communication, IT and decision making.” He said the countries that are growing are those that have developed their human capital and not resources. The former CBN Governor had earlier in the year analysed that Nigeria made no economic progress in the last 40 years. “In 1980, Nigeria’s GDP per capita on purchasing power parity basis was $2,180. In 2014, it appreciated by 50 per cent to $3,099. According to the World Bank, where were we in 2019? $2,229. “At this rate, in the next two years in terms of purchasing power parity, the average income of a Nigerian would have gone back to what it was in 1980 under Shehu Shagari.
That means, in 40 years, no progress, we made zero progress. 40 years wasted. “Between 2014 and 2029, on the basis of this index of the purchasing power of the average income of an average Nigerian, we have wiped out all the progress made in 35 years. We have a responsibility as a people to rise and improve the lives of the people of this country.” Despite Nigeria’s history, and incessant pontification of the country’s woes and its difficulties, some Nigerians are hopeful for better days, as they say that the country is not without its bright spots. Most Rev. (Dr.) Alfred Adewale Martins, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, has assured Nigerians, as the nation marks its 61st independence anniversary amidst so much insecurity and anxiety, that a bright future still lies ahead, provided there is sincerity of purpose and the will to be just and equitable, by all and sundry.
In his 61st Independence anniversary message to Nigerians signed by the Director of Social Communications, Rev. Fr. Anthony Godonu, Archbishop Martins, noted that the country is passing through one of the most challenging periods since independence in 1960, as he urged the various ethnic groups not to give up on the unity of the country, but to take the necessary proactive steps to right the wrongs. “We have to work on those things that have afflicted us, and bring about a country that all would be proud to associate with”, he said. Archbishop Martins accused members of the political class, across the various political parties of deliberately and continuously playing the ethnic and religious cards across the various ethnic nationalities, in order to further perpetuate unhealthy rivalry in the polity, for their selfish and parochial interests. He said the solution to most of Nigeria’s problems can be found quickly, if the political actors and their associates would set aside their mundane interests and work for the common good and welfare of all.
He said: “At this time that we celebrate the 61st independence anniversary of our country, we must thank God for the gift of life and for keeping the country together, despite the atrocities being committed by criminals of various descriptions, who through their atrocious acts of blood-letting have led thousands of our fellow citizens to their untimely death and loss of properties. “It is indeed a miracle of some sorts that despite all these anomalies, across the land, we are still here to mark this year’s independence. We pray that this will not be the last and that our country will continue to thrive. “We shall thrive and bounce back again, only if we are able to address the fact that we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. We are all aware of the issues that need to be addressed, but which the leadership at all levels has not found the will to address. Such issues as insecurity, ethnic bigotry, the activities of Boko Haram and bandits, perceived and/or real marginalisation in the scheme of things, corruption, mass unemployment, poverty, lack of good health care system, religious bigotry and fanaticism and so on, are leading the country in the direction of disintegration.
“Evil is thriving in our land because most of those in positions of leadership and the majority of the followers, over the years have failed to do the needful. And unfortunately, no one is being held accountable. The celebration of the independence anniversary of our country, presents us with another opportunity to reason together and face the reality that all is not well with us.” He said Nigerians must be brave enough to confront the challenges facing the country, with honesty and objectivity, else they risk the disintegration of the country; “God forbid!!” he prayed. The Archbishop also reiterated his call for a total overhaul of the present structure of governance in the country.
According to him, “The present system is so badly skewed, that there would always be people who feel left out and unjustly treated in the scheme of things within the country. Therefore, there is a need for discussion and negotiation among the peoples of Nigeria, so that we can attain the restructuring that would move the country away from the brink of failure that we have found ourselves. Finally, he said: “The Scriptures have told us that unless the Lord builds the house, the labourer labours in vain. We must therefore continue to ask God in prayers, for the unity and prosperity of the country, as well as the security of lives and properties of the people.