The ‘going concern’ of Nigerian state: A clarion call to the youth (1)

(By Femi Aremu)

When Nigeria became an independent nation on October 1, 1960 the future looked bright with immense possibilities. Nigerians were united in their anticipation for a nation where no one is oppressed or victimised. The aspiration of the distinguished and noble leaders of our beloved country at that time was to hand over to coming generations a banner without stain, an emblem radiating hope and faith in our country with the upcoming future champions, a model that emphasises the morality of politics while damning the politics of prebendalism.

Without doubt, one of the most fundamental questions every Nigerian youth will ask if given the opportunity has to do with the possibility of the “going concern” of the Nigerian state. This question arises mainly from the fears and despairs the youth face daily as they try to make sense of their existence as Nigerian citizens in a world that has become a global village. This question has to do with the level of confidence that they have in terms of the relative opportunity to realise their potentials within the Nigerian political and economic milieu.

   It is also brought to the fore when Nigeria is compared with countries such as Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore and Indonesia that are not as rich in natural resources and were in the same situation as Nigeria in the 1960s but have experienced marked industrialisation, with improved quality of life for the vast majority of their population since the 1990s when Nigeria as of now cannot even confidently say it is on the path to industrial growth. For the Nigerian youth, this situation is made more complex by the contradiction between the values and goals that the youth are expected to uphold and their interests as individuals who want to move ahead in both economic and social terms within such a society. There is a dilemma that arises from the failures of the promises of independence. One of which is the responsibility of the youth to a country that holds so much promise but carries very limited hope of their fulfilment for a vast majority of its population.

   Like any other political entity, I look back with nostalgia at the great possibilities which Nigeria represented on the globe some 40 years ago. History tells us of a land of diverse people living peacefully under one government. A land flowing with “milk and honey”, richly endowed with fertile soil and natural mineral deposits, harnessed for the good of all citizens. A political entity where an Hausa man from Kano once tested and won election as councillor in Enugu State, a land where a Nigerian nationalist of Igbo origin led a party that provided a Mayor, Dr. Olorunnimbe, in Lagos, and had considerable following in major towns in Yoruba land. What else shall be saying of a land where Nigerians held offices, live and traded peacefully outside their ethnic base without anybody to remind one another of not being indigenes? It is not surprising that education then was an interesting and inspirational experience where the teacher was an example of moral standards, a community leader, a rare breed and an authentic source of information with vibrant students who are agents of sustainable development. Education placed greater emphasises on the formation of character and civic responsibility of good hygiene.

   When Nigeria became an independent nation on October 1, 1960 the future looked bright with immense possibilities. Nigerians were united in their anticipation for a nation where no one is oppressed or victimised. The aspiration of the distinguished and noble leaders of our beloved country at that time was to hand over to coming generations a banner without stain, an emblem radiating hope and faith in our country with the upcoming future champions, a model that emphasises the morality of politics while damning the politics of prebendalism. The national day was always celebrated with pageantry and splendid ceremonial dresses, the young student had his or her little flag high with pride. At that time our leaders were role models. It was about contributing to humanity; life was all about living for some purpose. Our sovereignty as a nation and our commitment to unity in diversity was so distinct that the world stood still to behold the prospect of a truly great Nigeria that will fill the long vacancy for the big Black success story renewed and reconstructed nation with devoted citizens wanting to safeguard the banner of our common heritage lest it be stained by the wrong social values.

   Fifty three years after independence, it is still an item of debate whether Nigeria has experienced the kind of development we desire. Although some things are obvious – the nation is lagging behind when compared with other nations in Africa that also had their own share of colonisation, and could have done better had it had good, sincere and hardworking leadership and an active followership. Whether in the areas of infrastructure, such as provision of basic amenities like pipe-borne water, electricity and good road network, functional and up-to-date health facilities, it is obvious that more was expected from Nigerian leaders than they have given, largely due to corruption.

   Immediately after independence, the continuing story of this country is about bad leadership and poor governance. At this time of political moment in Nigeria, one of the most discussed issues of our time is the absence of a leadership that has the required vision and wisdom to lift the country from its fallen or diminished state. Nigeria has witnessed many bouts of bad leadership under both civilian and military administrations, with varying degrees of impact that has been crippling our enduring democracy. But the current one is very severe, the like of which has not been experienced for quite some time. The cumulative effect of this has been the outright collapse of infrastructure, particularly electricity with consequences for industrialisation efforts and the economy as a whole which are disturbingly obvious. Manufacturing firms are migrating to neighbouring countries. New investment in the country is mainly in oil and gas, sectors with minimal manpower requirements to make a mark on the deteriorating employment situation in the country. The near-collapse of education and health services has been well-documented elsewhere to warrant a detailed deliberation here, but it suffices to say that universities were shut down for more than four months owing to lecturers’ strike and government hospitals are just coming out of their own strike in most parts of the country.

    There is also evidence that bad leadership has given room for terrorism to fester, be it in the name of militancy in the South-South, or frequent religious uprising in the North or kidnapping for ransom in the South-East. Crime is spreading all across the nation and is eating up the country like cancer.  Almost everyone in Nigerian politics has cash and assets in volumes far in excess of, and in size disproportionate to their known sources of income. What they declare at the Code of Conduct Bureau when they take office or when they leave, as required by the law, is pure fiction.

To be continued.

• aremufemi@gmail.com 

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