Date Published: 10/01/10
Nigeria’s 50th Independence Anniversary and Our collective failure to build a virile Nation
On 1st October, 2010, Nigeria marks its 50th Anniversary as an independent and Sovereign Nation. It is a Golden Jubilee, and a milestone in the life of any individual or nation, and most often calls for celebration. This therefore, may explain the flush of enthusiasm in the build up to this year's Independence Day Anniversary. Our political leaders have rolled out drums across the federation for an elaborate and lavish celebration.
It was widely reported in the nation's media, that the Federal Government,
with the approval of the Senate, has budgeted N9.5 billion for this year's Golden Jubilee celebrations. The National Association of Seadogs, NAS, considers this huge amount insensitive on the part of our political leaders. This is at variance when placed side by side with the plight of the suffering masses of this nation, who are living in abject squalor, endemic poverty and unable to afford basic education and a measure of good life for themselves and their families.
Indeed, this is not an auspicious moment for a nation beset by this catalogue of denigrating socio-political conditions, to be engaged in reckless and profligate adventure, in the guise of independence day
celebration. Rather than a jamboree, the Nigerian government should use the occasion of the nation's 50th anniversary for self-assessment and sober reflection. We are deeply bothered that at 50 years, Nigeria, a country of about 140 million people, still toddles due to countless socio-economic and political problems. With a huge and promising global market share, the envy of many other nations, it is sad to note that access to healthcare is largely elusive and very expensive when available - about 38% of rural dwellers consider cost to be the greatest challenge to accessing adequate healthcare. Our hospitals suffer from scarcity of operational funds, obsolete equipment, power failure, incessant doctors' strike and poor working environment. As it is today, only the rich can afford better healthcare services in mostly privately owned hospitals, and alternative overseas Medicare.
Regrettably, the energy sector, the only driving force of the economy, is comatose. In spite of numerous assurances, the government has failed to meet its own target of 6,000 megawatts of electricity for the country, thereby signaling that the 10,000 megawatts target set by the Olusegun Obasanjo's administration, may have been over ambitious. Incessant power outages and fluctuations in the country have led many industries to depend heavily on alternative sources of power especially generators, while those who could not cope have since shut up shop.
The state of insecurity in the country is worrisome. Armed banditry,
kidnapping, political assassinations and militancy have gradually become the order of the day. The police authorities are underequipped, poorly
remunerated and ill trained to counter these increasingly daring dimensions of criminality in the country.
Nigeria's socio-political and economic growth which was stunted and bastardized by over 28 years of cumulative military dictatorship has however, not be helped by the last 11 years of civil rule that has seen the political class hijacking the democratic process and occupying privileged positions through questionable circumstances and large scale electoral manipulations. The result of this is massive corruption and unrestrained looting of public funds. A review of the Amnesty International Corruption Perception Index, CPI, which "measures the perceived level of public-sector corruption in countries and territories around the world," reveals that Nigeria is consistently ranked top on the list of most corrupt nations in the world, hovering around 0.6 and 3.0 confidence range for over a decade.
Nigeria, which currently produces a minimum of 2.2 million barrels of oil
per day (OPEC) allocation, and the eighth largest producer of oil in the
world, cannot even properly account for the estimated $300 billion realised
in oil revenue since 1960. And the political leaders who presided over this
plundering of our common wealth still walk the streets freely. Some of them have even besieged the political space with great effrontery, brazenly
attempting to make their way back to power in 2011 to again, pillage and plunder. In addition to the huge Oil resources, Nigeria earns revenue from the abundant Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to the value of 50% of whatever revenue the country earns from Crude Oil. Sadly, the nation’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, that used to hold many corrupt public office holders accountable and keep other criminals in check now lies subdued.
The oil that has been a source of blessing to other nations has become a
curse to Nigeria due to the contradictions thrown up by its own
dysfunctional political structure. The Niger Delta area, which produces over
90 percent of the country's wealth, has suffered tremendous neglect. The
recommendations of the Willinks Commission of 1957 have been ignored by every successive constitutional arrangement. The 1963 constitution which tried to entrench true federalism, has been consigned to the wastebasket of history. Worst still, some obnoxious laws such as the Exclusive Economic Zone Act; Petroleum Act, Land Use Act, Oil Minerals Act, the Oil Pipeline Act, and the Oil Terminal Dues Act, National Inland Waterways Act, and Territorial Water Act, have all been skewed to deprive the region a fair share of their God-given natural resources.
Though some strides have been made by successive governments towards the development of the country, through the massive (but largely uncoordinated) deployment of the oil revenue wealth to infrastructural development in the '70s and early '80s leading to the establishment of some educational, health, manufacturing and agricultural institutions, and the recent revolutionary strides made in the telecommunication and banking industry, the country is still far from being economically viable and self sufficient.
Despite Nigeria's abundant natural resources it is still classified as one of the poorest countries in the world. In the 2009 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Nigeria scored 18.40 and is ranked the 47th of 84 hungry countries in the world. Nigeria's situation is equally designated as "serious"; the same level as neighbouring Benin Republic, though ranked slightly higher than Benin in the Index. The GHI, according to International Food Policy Research Institute, the publisher of the Index, is measured on three indicators: "prevalence of child malnutrition, rates of child mortality and the proportion of people who are calorie deficient."
The 2010 World Bank report on Nigeria reveals that 29.6 percent of Nigerians live on $1.25 per day while 83.9 per cent live on $2 per day. Also the 2010 World Bank development report further reveals that Nigeria's per capita income is $2,748, lagging far behind some African countries such as Cameroun with $10,758 and Ghana with $10,748. Inflation rate in the country is at 10% compared to South Africa's 7.3%, Kenya's 7% and Egypt's 9.1%.
Though there is appreciable increase in the number of enrolments recently
into schools with the introduction of the Universal Basic Education, there
is still a very high rate of illiteracy in the country. Statistics have
shown that about 60% of Nigerians are still illiterate. A recent report by
the Global Campaign for Education, GCE, states that Nigeria has more children out of education than any other country in the world. The once vocal student body, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), has been corrupted and rendered toothless in the immediate past decade – a very regrettable development in the nation's educational system.
Less than 50 percent of Nigeria's rural population has access to safe drinking water. This explains the recent outbreak of cholera in some parts of northern Nigeria. While only 34 percent of the households have access to electricity.
The government of late Umaru Musa Yar'Adua came up with policies aimed at ensuring the complete turnaround of the economy to a much vibrant and viable one which would place Nigeria high up in the committee of nations in the near future in its Vision 20-2020 and the 7-Point Agenda. The present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has stated its commitment to the pursuit of these policies in a bid to attain the goals envisaged in the Vision 20-2020.
However, such sound and ambitious plans and projections have, over the years, been hampered by a myriad of obstacles, primary of which are corruption, lack of focus, insincerity, selective execution of policies and non-committal attitude of government to deliver basic services in some cases. Eventually, these policies are either scuttled or sidelined or completely discarded.
The National Association of Seadogs, therefore, calls for a pragmatic and revolutionary approach to the political and economic issues that have hitherto kept the country in the unenviable condition of stagnation, and these includes the following:
* The government must tackle corruption head-on
* The total reorientation of our values and ethics. Merit must take precedence over tribe, religion and political affiliations
* We must embrace the tenets of true federalism and discard through an
aggressive and continuous amendment process the fraudulent document called the 1999 constitution imposed by the military.
* The upcoming 2011 elections must be the collective responsibility of
all Nigerians and should be a watershed and complete break from the past. Nigerians must come out to register during the upcoming voter registration process and subsequently vote for credible individuals irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliation. The era of hijacking the political process by all comers and rascals must come to an end. All well meaning Nigerians should give their ALL to ensure the new Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, leadership, having shown an honest WILL to guarantee free and fair elections, succeeds in the 2011 and future elections in the polity. Nigeria still needs Option-A4 voting pattern.
* The political party system should be strengthened to avoid the current near one-party-state. Nigerians should clamour for the emergence of a strong and viable platform as an alternative to the ruling party. Opposition parties must re-strategize, re-invigorate and develop a pragmatic road-map of action to effectively engage the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The opposition in the past 11 years has remained a far cry from the expectations of the people and must retool if they are to be taken seriously. The time to do so is now.
* We demand that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan find a lasting
solution to the problems of the fractious Niger Delta Region. The current
amnesty is a fragile arrangement that holds little possibility for a permanent solution to the underdevelopment and degradation in that region. The President should equally address the deliberate marginalization of a
section of the country so that the unfortunate 3-year Civil War can be put
behind us and to ensure the desired and elusive Unity and National
* This government should embark on an immediate and sustained action
against the incessant kidnappings in Nigeria, especially in the South West,
South East and South South regions. We must not compromise adequate security of lives and property, anywhere in Nigeria, in our collective effort to build a virile nation. The police force should be decentralized to pave way for State and Community policing in line with what is prevalent in other
* All Progressive forces and Civil Society groups should pull
resources together to revitalize the National Association of Nigerian
Students, NANS, to enable students take up their pride of place in the
polity as leaders of tomorrow. The prevalent void created by its current
toothless status is militating against the full actualization of a
democratic civil culture.
As we reflect and reminisce, NAS enjoins all Nigerians to join hands to move the country forward by being politically conscious, economically proactive and socially responsible. We wish Nigerians and friends of Nigeria a sober Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary!
National Association of Seadogs (NAS)
September 30, 2010