(By Samuel Orovwuje)
“While Nigeria’s landmark anniversary of 100 years provides an opportune moment to reflect on the challenges and the various changes that have taken place in the political and governance landscape over the years and the necessity to adapt to new realities in our nation building efforts, it is also important to bear in mind that change is constant and as a people we must rise to the occasion to retooling our nation for a better future. The desire and ambition to uphold the constitution of Nigeria and human dignity should be uppermost as we forge ahead from fragmented and chaotic state to nation-state where pride and patriotism is the common factor for its unity in diversity.“
JANUARY 1, 2014, the country marked 100 years anniversary of its artificial creation in response to the administrative and economic reality of the British colonial administration at the time. This creation in 1914 is called Nigeria, and its philosopher-king was named Lord Lugard. His country of dream today is among the very few countries in the Commonwealth that are still in search of true federalism and nationhood after 10 decades of existence. Many years later, this wonderful and beautiful country would become the subject of endless ridicule by national and international media on corruption, terrorism, kidnapping, inept leadership, religious and political intolerance, bad governance, and most recently open letters on the state of affairs! Indeed some of these issues would have been unimaginable in Lugard’s days!
Today’s Nigeria would be unrecognisable to Lord Lugard if he were alive at this time for obvious reasons. One is the negative manifestation of the divide and rule politics he bequeathed to us and the manifest drawback to attaining nationhood and, above all, the increased agitation for the restructuring of the Nigerian state would most likely leave him bewildered. Does this mean that the fundamental principles of nation-building are not achievable in Nigeria?
The centenary celebrations provide Nigerians an opportunity to celebrate some important accomplishments particularly flag independence in 1960. The anniversary is bitter-sweet as it comes at the same time as the country’s selfish and self-centered political elite and power mongers are jostling for political superiority and relevance for 2015 general elections, which are likely to descend into chaos, if not well managed. Our leaders must tread on the path of caution and restraint in the interest of the nation.
The political cross-fire of the ruling elite and the unwholesome alliances and mergers for personal gains also paint a gloomy prognosis of a glorious future. In the same vein the overt politicisation of governance has hindered real development in the midst of plenty. Furthermore, poverty and insecurity escalating at an alarming proportion are a sad reality of our country. This could worsen as most Nigerians lack access to shelter and means of livelihood and, above all, food security.
This article explores some of the salient and compelling building blocks for the reconstruction of a genuine national identity framework that can be a unifying factor for equitable and people centered national development. National values and ethos should be our watch words going forward and a clear mandate for the years ahead is the transformative shift that must underpin a new agenda driving common goals and related national targets to cover themes of inclusive and sustainable political re-engineering. It should be such as would focus on the strengthening of good governance which is collapsing rapidly and operating below average performance using international governance index and benchmarks. Nigeria at 100 years is still plagued with high level of financial mismanagement. This is not good for sustainable development and national prosperity. Governance and indeed the national and state leadership require careful monitoring, evaluation and vigilance by all. In short, performance indicators for our leaders would do the country good as we prepare for elections in 2015.
Social institutions like the church and voluntary organisations should be drawn directly into the tasks of nation building. A policy which places greater reliance on the people while drawing upon government resources as catalyst is imperative. Because most social organisations are already in involved in social engineering and actions of various sorts, it has become very clear that the government alone cannot bring us to prosperity and development. Thus, public policy initiatives must increasingly embody high moral standard involving the press as watchdogs, trade unions as pressure groups as well as transparent private corporations and small businesses.
The ideals of Nigeria democratic capitalism must work in harmony with the three independent and interdependent systems, the political, economic and the moral-cultural systems. Therefore, Nigeria needs to capitalise on its democratic dividends and initiate policies for creating jobs. Inclusive and sustainable growth must be a part of the economic transformation agenda. If Nigeria can properly mobilise its young workforce, it can also enjoy the benefits of a great nation like the Asian Tigers are doing. It is evident from findings and reports of international agencies that Nigeria is one of those fast-growing and large-population economies in the world, but the challenge, however, remains the ability of the Nigeria government and the economy managers to generate and galvanise resources to trickle down development path that will sufficiently create jobs. Put differently, Nigeria over the next 15 years should rely on its ability to generate sufficient quantum of job opportunities for its restive youths.
The future is not ordained; it depends very much on what we decide today as a country and a people. In any case, it is certain that we need a Nigerian dream and vision to create a clear and coherent system of policies, programmes, institutions for both the public and private sectors. In my view, the common ground between the government and the people, regardless of political, religious and ethnic sentiments should be a genuine commitment to moving the country forward with a purposeful agenda. This requires transparency and clarity of mind on the fundamental issues of federalism and national rebirth. We must also recognise that strength can be found in diversity and the need to develop strong relationship with the people is paramount at all times. Striking the right balance of diversity, developing national leadership compass and striving for the highest moral and ethical values will help to secure the future of this great country.
While Nigeria’s landmark anniversary of 100 years provides an opportune moment to reflect on the challenges and the various changes that have taken place in the political and governance landscape over the years and the necessity to adapt to new realities in our nation building efforts, it is also important to bear in mind that change is constant and as a people we must rise to the occasion to retooling our nation for a better future. The desire and ambition to uphold the constitution of Nigeria and human dignity should be uppermost as we forge ahead from fragmented and chaotic state to nation-state where pride and patriotism is the common factor for its unity in diversity.
Lastly, we must make conscious effort to re-launch the Good people, Great Nation initiative of the former Minister of Information and Communication – Dora Akunliyi. Beyond the Millennium city project in Abuja and the highly politicised centenary country report on women in celebration of the 100 years anniversary, I will like to propose that January 1 every year be instituted through an act of parliament as Harmony Day in celebration of our common heritage and national aspiration agenda. The day should be used as national reconciliation mechanism to heal the wounds of the evil seeds of mistrust and the divide and rule politics that was bequeathed to us by the British high command which was carefully executed by Lord Lugard and his mistress. Nigeria can be great again and the time is now!
• Orovwuje is the founder of Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”