Opinion: Nigeria’s 53 chequered years

by Wale Sokunbi

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For this 53rd celebration, Boko Haram, as it has done in recent years, kicked off the celebration with the midnight murder of about 50 innocent students in an agricultural college in Guijba, Yobe State, recently. Beyond Boko Haram, kidnapping for ransom has become a serious problem in the Southern part of the country, especially in the East.

Nigeria turned 53 yesterday. Ordinarily, any anniversary is an occasion for good cheer. It is an opportunity to look back down the years and thank God for how far He has kept the celebrant. In times past, Independence Day anniversary celebrations were truly “celebratory.”  The occasion was usually marked with much cheer, colorful parades, public lectures and even parties. The public holiday that the occasion affords usually brought the significance of the day much closer to all Nigerians as the anniversary was viewed as another opportunity for merrymaking in celebration of “Nigeria’s independence birthday.”

But then, the joie de vivre that characterised this occasion has fast eroded, no thanks to the insecurity occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency in the country, and the nation’s dwindling fortunes. As a matter of fact, Nigerians no longer appear to be agreed that there is any need for a celebration, at all.

Boko Haram elements first sounded the death knell on the loud national celebration of Independence Day anniversaries at the Eagle Square, Abuja, few years ago, when they unleashed twin bomb blasts that killed a number of people around the parade ground. Since that time, President Goodluck Jonathan has wisely adopted a culture of modest celebrations, with the excuse that the nation’s centenary coming up in January 2014 is the one that would be celebrated with pomp and ceremony. With this much-touted centenary just three months away, here is praying that the state of the country at that time will not make the prospect of the planned grand celebration, impossible.

For this 53rd celebration, Boko Haram, as it has done in recent years, kicked off the celebration with the midnight murder of about 50 innocent students in an agricultural college in Guijba, Yobe State, recently. Beyond Boko Haram, kidnapping for ransom has become a serious problem in the Southern part of the country, especially in the East.

There are problems in the nation’s education sector, and the challenge of unemployment, which has left about 40 million able-bodied youths out of job, is fuelling a culture of criminality.

You name it: electricity, water supply, health care, roads. The scope of the story of poor services that has been on the lips of Nigerians for many decades now is not reducing.

Nigeria has moved from Electricity Company of Nigeria (ECN) to National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and now, to unbundling and sale of PHCN’s power assets to Electricity Generating Companies (GENCOs) and Electricity Distribution Companies (Discos). Yet, the problem of power supply in the country has continued to persist. We are not yet dancing DISCo over the electricity matter.

As Nigeria turns 53, I congratulate President Jonathan and the entire country. There is no debating the fact that the country has not quite turned out the way the nation’s founding fathers envisaged it, or the way we the current generation would like it to be.

But, instead of lamentations, this anniversary should be considered as another opportunity to reflect on national problems and issues with a view to remedying the ills and re-directing our paths. In this, the president has a very important role to play. While one man cannot make a nation, the responsibility for the state of the nation at any time usually falls on the man or woman who is the president.

So, while congratulating all Nigerians, it is necessary to encourage and support the man who is an embodiment of the nation in his efforts to build a greater country. All Nigerians have a role to play in making Nigeria a greater nation, too.There is no doubt that Nigerians love to criticize their leaders. If my memory serves me well, Gen. Gowon was widely criticized as a spendthrift who said that Nigeria’s problem was not how to get money, but how to “spend oil money.” He is said to have, through his ministers, given the nation its first lesson on corruption, specifically Corruption 101. Gen Murtala Mohammed, was regarded as “impatient and ‘rash” and wanted everything done with immediate effect. Only the mercy of his assassination saved his name, and he is today regarded by many as Nigeria’s most respected leader. I wonder what Nigerians would be saying of him had he lived longer.

Obasanjo, as a leader, is regarded as stubborn, wicked and vindictive. That stubbornness is still believed to be trailing him today.

For a number of Nigerians, Shehu Shagari was a “reluctant leader” who did not know “his left from his right” when it comes to governance. He is said by many to have given his ministers free rein over the public treasury. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari is regarded as stiff, authoritarian and draconian. We wanted him to stop corruption by rubbing corrupt politicians on the back and patting them on the head.

Gen. Ibrahim Babangida is the handsome leader whose regime was believed to have given Nigeria its post- graduate lessons on corruption. Call it Coruption 787– How to build a name and a fortune in power while mesmerizing the nation with captivating gap-toothed smiles.

Ernest Shonekan? Clearly out of place and lacking in political clout, Nigerians said. He was easily shunted out of power by the military. Then Abubakar– wisely quickly “distributed” contracts to cover what could be found in the national coffers, and stepped out.

Obasanjo came back to spend another eight years. He had to be shown the last piece of yam in the house before he could be made to give up the Third Term Agenda.

And then, our “kindergarten” teacher Jonathan, regarded by some as “clueless” on how to solve the nation’s problems! When will Nigerians have a leader that they will like? Such a leader may never fall from heaven. That is why, on the occasion of Nigeria’s 53rd anniversary, Nigerians will do well to begin to appreciate and encourage the efforts of the present administration. To build a better country, the people should try to jettison “adversarial followership” for once and think of how to cooperate  our leaders to move the country forward.  Even the opposition parties can play politics without trying to pull the party in power down especially when elections are still almost two years away. This should be food for thought as Nigeria enters its 54th year. Happy anniversary, Nigerians.

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Read this article in the Sun Newspapers

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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