56 years is a lifetime in the life cycle of any nation. For one whose union has been severally tested by momentous events such as a crippling civil war, an insurgency crisis that brought the entire north east region almost to a standstill and agitations of militants in the Niger Delta demanding ownership of their commonwealth, 56 years must seem like forever.
Any of these events would be enough to dismantle any union but Nigeria’s has remained and maybe even blossomed, some would argue, evidenced by economic trade between regions, inter-tribal marriages and the national behemoth that is the National Youth Service Corps.
There are numerous reasons to give up on Nigeria, especially at this time when morale is low, everywhere from Lagos to Lafia and the country sinks in the shame of economic recession. Indeed Nigerians would have to look back to the disastrous austerity measures of the eighties to recall a time when things were this dire. As inflation plunges to scary double digit values and unemployment rates hit the roof, Nigerians must be wondering what it is left to celebrate after 56 years.
Another year. Another low key Independence Day celebration. And it seems like for the past 5 years, the country has been stuck in low key celebration mood. It is against this backdrop that the Change era promised by President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressive Congress (APC) party was ushered in at the polls last year. At some point there has to be a ray of light at the end of the dark, lengthy tunnel.
Only it does not seem so yet.
The Buhari administration after over one year in office has not instilled confidence beyond empty slogans and cheap populism talk, that it is able to rise to the occasion and lift Nigeria outside of its present funk. Between conflicting reports from key figures in Buhari’s cabinet and a seeming lack of urgency deployed to tackle critical issues, the national mood worsens every day, even as businesses continue to collapse and more and more Nigerians join the unemployment market.
Somebody has to tell Muhammadu Buhari that what his compatriots need right now is for all hands to be put to the plough to drive Nigeria out of recession. With oil looking every day like a relic of the past, the need for economic diversification has never been more acute.
Beyond giving pep talks and trading blames, serious attempts should be made to revisit and encourage through encouraging policies, once thriving industries like agriculture, mining and manufacturing. Developments from the ICT and entertainment sectors show clearly that a lot of good can come out from there in terms of economic viability and the earlier all arms of governments begin to think of outside the box ways to help these industries thrive, while staying out of their way, the better.
National infrastructure lying critically ill needs to be resuscitated as fast as possible. The housing deficit needs to be addressed before it becomes another emergency. Ditto transportation issues across all the modes of transportation. Nigerians should be able to have access to some basic health needs while the haemorrhage of health professionals needs to be arrested.
Of course attending to all of this, does not in any way stop the much ballyhooed anti-corruption drive of Mr. President from going ahead. Neither does it stop the heroic efforts of the military in securing the nation and its assets.
Maybe when the people begin to see and feel these effects, they can genuinely begin to buy into Mr. Lai Mohammed’s ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign.
Here’s to hoping for a better 57th Independence Day celebrations.