Date Published: 10/01/09
NIGERIA’S 49TH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY: CELEBRATING WHAT’S NOT THERE By Temple Chima Ubochi
They don’t care about us (Michael Jackson)
Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder. (George Washington)
The brave man inattentive to his duty, is worth little more to his country, than the coward who deserts her in the hour of danger. (Andrew Jackson)
You know, by the time you become the leader of a country, someone else makes all the decisions. … You may find you can get away with virtual presidents, virtual prime ministers, virtual everything. (Bill Clinton)
The people's government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people. God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard it and defend it. (Daniel Webster)
Never had an entity so much, but, achieved so little. All the countries which started the “race” with Nigeria (at the same time or a little before or after), have all left Nigeria way behind biting the dust. There is nothing to celebrate about here.
Notwithstanding that the Brits who created Nigeria got it all wrong because of their exploitative/selfish tendencies, we, Nigerians have failed abysmally to correct their mistake, rather, some of us still dwell on blaming them (the Brits) 49 years after. It makes no sense at all.
The man who moved the motion for Nigeria's Independence in 1953, Chief Anthony Enahoro, once admitted to the mistakes of his generation and the founding fathers of Nigeria, by not ensuring that the country was constituted along ethnic nationalities. He said then that “Nigeria as it is today is not a nation. We did not think that just because the British created it this way, we were all bound by it. We thought that even if there was going to be a Nigeria, the component units should be the ethnic groups”. Enahoro felt the dream of those who fought for the country’s independence had not been realised, stating that Nigeria has become a nation of English people and that we conduct our business and daily lives in a foreign language which would not have been the case if federalism had been adopted. In other words, Enahoro blamed the nation’s woes on the mistake made by its founding fathers who decided to leave the country as a contraption created by the British colonial regime. True to that, this writer thinks Nigeria could have been effective if the units that make up Nigeria are the ethnic units. It could have been effective if the internal administration and the business are of/for the people, and not the business of somebody sitting in Abuja. An example is that this writer does not think that only a hand full of people should had taken the decision on a place that would be the federal capital of Nigeria. The decision ought to have been taken by all the people of Nigeria through plebiscite.
No matter the mistakes made, Nigeria had lost what it had during the colonial days and the First Republic, and this could be attributed to the failure of successive past leaders. At 49, Nigeria or whatever one calls it, had nothing to celebrate and may continue in that direction if the same set of people who had been leading still occupied the position of authority. Balarabe Musa once said that “Throughout the history of this country, particularly since the First Republic, the country had been controlled by a socio-economic system which is centred on self interest and produced a political leadership that owed the system”.
What’s there to celebrate about when democracy, the global hope for good governance, has become a nightmare to the nation? The nation is unable to reap significant democratic gains because its multi-party system is in disarray. Security and the welfare of the people, which the Constitution says shall be the main purpose of government, have been elusive. The Niger Delta crisis has become the nation’s albatross. Killings and kidnapping of foreigners and citizens are a daily occurrence. The economy, which is oil-dependent, is in a chaotic situation as the Niger Delta crisis has caused oil production to fall drastically. The Yar’Adua’s administration had not shown any sign that it was serious about confronting the challenges facing the country, especially in the power sector. Is it not a mockery to waste our time celebrating a failure?
Nothing works in Nigeria and despite all the opportunities, the country has continued to remain a nation of misplaced priorities and dashed hopes. Yar’Adua and his band are only massaging issues rather than deal with them frontally. YarÁdua still fails to improve on a faulty electoral system that brought him to power, despite the acknowledgement to that effect recently and as far away as New York. A country that cannot review its constitution without outside help is not worth to be called independent. We just learnt that the UN and Ghana's electoral chief may partner Nigeria on constitution review. That Nigeria’s efforts to review its 1999-constitution may receive the support of the United Nations (UN) and the head of Ghana's electoral body, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan. Shouldn’t we be covering our face in shame rather than celebrating what’s not there.
What are we celebrating when Yar'Adua has "northernised" all the key positions in government, and marginalised Southerners in the picks for plum jobs? Nothing!
What calls for celebration with the level of corruption, poverty, unemployment and crime as well as insecurity in the country? How can we celebrate when the political office holders had failed to prove their capacity to tackle the problems and make life more meaningful for the people? Who is fooling who in the name of celebrating our independence, when the government fails to focus on the policies and programmes that would put the nation on the path of development? There is a deficit of visionary objectives relating to some of the serious challenges of governance, especially in the areas of industry, employment and poverty alleviation, infrastructure, social services, election-management and democratic leadership, so there isn’t any need to celebrate. YarÁdua has defaulted over his assurance to ASUU about the implementation of all agreements the body reached with government. This default is the root of the now incessant industrial conflict in the universities. The universities and higher institutions of learning are closed for more than two months; all the president could do is to outsource the role of government negotiator to Adam Oshiomhole while he jetted out to Saudi Arabia to commission a well built and sustained university, what an irony.
Since assumption of office, Yar’Adua has been on hijra to Saudi Arabia on three occasions and these exclude the hajj he also went there to perform. No wonder Wole Soyinka said that "the man (Yar'Adua) is on permanent sabbatical". "… A permanent sabbatical from critical national duty,” Yar’Adua went to commission a university, and mysteriously some 90 public universities are shut down in his own country. Most of the states in Nigeria are battling with primary school teachers’ strike. At 49 years we do not have a University in the top 1000 Universities listing, none of our public schools can be certified as first class. And most of the politicians today are products of these schools which they have allowed to decay.
With the obsession to win elections at all cost, thanks to the PDP, in collusion with Maurice Iwu’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and using all foul means to win every available poll and celebrating the so-called emasculation of the opposition, we have nothing that calls for cheers. The PDP has taken a bold step towards the emergence of a one-party state, which is the dream of its old and new leaders and they want us to go celebrating with them. Let them count us out! Alhaji Lai of AC once said, that the PDP has begun to realise that it is much easier for it to rig elections than to positively impact on the lives of the citizens, hence the ruling party and its leaders have become objects of derision by the same people they claim to govern.
Since indications are that this administration has forgotten its seven-point agenda, we have to recall them here: Tackling the general insecurity of life and property; tackling the nationwide shortage of energy and power; alleviating mass poverty by wealth and employment creation; providing qualitative, functional and affordable education for the people; improving mass transportation; improving food security and agricultural production and initiating a general land reform. So before they put the “champagne on ice”, let Yar’Adua and his band fulfil their promise to Nigeria. Nigeria is dying and needs urgent revival, before the celebration could be real, it is time to get the best hands across Nigeria to salvage the situation; it’s no time for irredentist and obscene sectional politics.
The indexes are deplorable that it would have been better to waive every celebration of independence anniversary until Nigeria is halted from its full speed backward. The corruption rate can beat rocket ascension. Poverty is deepening in the midst of an unprecedented boom in crude oil receipts and sales, until the crisis in the Niger Delta slowed things down a bit; the prices of food items have gone beyond the reach of the people that those on minimum wage have to log two months salaries to buy a bag of rice; the much touted “rule of law” mantra is daily proving to be a ruse as it has served mainly the interest of those of patrons of corruption. In two years of Yar'Adua, we have had the third person in the saddle of EFCC all in an attempt to pacify corrupt people who brought the regime to power. Those charged with mind-boggling financial crimes now stroll in and out of the Villa with interview sessions to offer opinions on the way forward after sessions with Mr. President. They even acknowledged that they love they way Nigeria is being run. Who can blame them? Yar’Adua mortgaged his conscience and government to a world class thief who have seen the in and out of British prisons before, and out of no where, rose to prominent position in Nigeria. Yar’Adua is now a hostage as such that he is being overruled from all angles by James Ibori and Michael Aondakaa, the most corrupt attorney general and minister of Justice ever. Yar’Adua promised to re-shuffle his cabinet before his Saudi Arabian trip and to sack Aondakaa as the AGF because of his overt romance with corrupt people, all in the effort to pervert justice. He then came back only to be cowed by Ibori and Aondakaa, and now he has jettisoned the idea (cabinet re-shuffle) to please the duo. It’s very shameful, that a President and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with all the instruments of coercion and paraphernalia of office at his disposal, is being turned into a puppet by two lowlifes, one needs to see how the duo forced the president to take the posture of a dog that tucked its tail between its leg when thrashed. Is such a country with Yar’Adua as president that is calling for independence celebration? They are not serious yet. Nigerians should know that this government had never and would never serve our interests.
How can Nigerians be happy to celebrate in the absence of electricity? Isn’t it accurate that when Nigerians are not in darkness, individual power generators are polluting the environment with noise and deadly fumes? Who can deny that power supply, which is the engine that drives development, is at an all-time low? Until recently, power supply had worsened to an abysmal level. President Yar’Adua’s target of 6,000MW by 2009 and 10,000MW by 2011, is threatened and may not be achieved. We all know that the erratic supply of electricity has hobbled the real sector, worsened unemployment rate and increased the rate of crime in the country. We would not fail to note that while campaigning in 2007, President Yar'Adua promised to declare emergency in power and energy sector within 100 days, two years after and still counting, that remains a cacophony and the nation has only enjoyed more darkness, adulterated fuel and hundreds of deaths in pipeline explosions. And they want us to celebrate 49 years as an independent country.
In the absence of security, who wants to celebrate? The nation’s security system is weak. The life of the average citizen is worth practically so little, as indicated by the alarming level of insecurity in the country. Some of the elite now build helipads and move around in helicopters in cities like Port Harcourt, Onitsha to avoid being kidnapped. Have the police any clue about the murderers of Bayo Ohu of Guardian Newspapers, who was gruesomely assassinated recently by a team of gunmen in his residence in Lagos? Weeks, months and years would pass until we all would forget and the killers would not be brought to book. No one has solved all the mysterious murdering which happened years back and they want us to celebrate their failure. The crime rate in the country is galloping at full throttle; the Police that is supposed to provide security for the people are themselves victims of killings by armed robbers/kidnappers, who also terrorise banks, kill or kidnap innocent citizens daily. How can we celebrate when those who would go to the local government, state or national parades, as the case may be, are not sure of coming back alive or as “free” people, without being molested by armed robbers or kidnappers? It’s no longer the case of the south-east or south-south, armed robbery and kidnapping have spread and all parts of the country feel the brunt now. The Secretary to the Kaduna State Government was kidnapped; Governor Suswam of Benue State is crying that they want to kidnap him. In such situation, what do we celebrate about? May be, as a country of armed robbers, kidnappers, pen robbers, looters, killers, ritualists, occults etc, those ugly virtues are worth celebrating.
Calling for celebration shows that the rulers have no shame. Ms. Waziri was right to call for the psychiatric evaluation of Nigerian politicians and aspirants. More to that, she (Waziri) should undergo the evaluation also, so for us to know why despite the mountain of evidence at her disposal, she is still to prosecute any ex-governor to a conclusion, rather she is aiding and abetting the criminals! Also in need of psychological/psychiatric evaluation are all lawyers, magistrates, judges etc who are aiding the criminals in prolonging cases in courts or helping the treasury looters and armed robbers to go scout free by perverting justice. With such brazing manipulation of crime fighting mechanism, the federal government has therefore failed to seize the opportunity to further improve on its anti-corruption war and start good governance on a faster pace.
With such a condensed illiteracy in Nigeria, are we not ashamed to celebrate? Education, which is the backbone of development, is in a shambles. A report submitted to the UN says primary school enrolment in Nigeria, between 2004 and 2006, among female children slipped from 80 per cent to 60.4 per cent; secondary school enrolment slid from 83.4 per cent to 46 per cent, while enrolment for boys at the primary level dropped from 80 per cent to 64 per cent. The nation’s tertiary institutions are also grossly under-funded while the graduates are said to be “unemployable”. For a nation that has made a slogan of striving to become one of the world's 20 most developed economies by year 2020, the appalling state of education mocks that otherwise laudable ambition and they want to celebrate their failure.
A nation that has no data is celebrating. There is absolute absence of data to plan with; the country does not know its real population as what the Population Commission churns out is cooked up figures which have nothing to do with the reality on the ground. Before thinking about celebrating any independence anniversary, due process, in the real sense of it, should be revived in all government establishments; the books of all government departments should be annually audited as constitutionally required; the Freedom of Information Bill should be passed, the Constitution should be reviewed and the nation should return to true federalism.
With our borders porous, who wants to celebrate? The borders are porous and have become free inlets for the illegal importation of arms and ammunition and religious fanatics. Who knows how many potential Boko Harams are infiltrating now through the porous borders from Chad, Niger, Sudan etc and would soon mix up with local populations in the border areas and start claiming to be Nigerians with holy-than-thou attitude?
With such wasteful spending of our resources by the politicians, who cares about independence anniversary? The foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, in their report titled, “The Failed States Index 2008”, lists Nigeria as the 18th most unstable country in the world, a position it shares with war-ravaged Lebanon. Somalia is getting even more stable than Nigeria and all predictions point to the break up of Nigeria, if care is not taken, and the president and his government fail to address the problems which can impinge on Nigeria’s continuous existence and might expunge it from the map.
All over the country, with the scandalous exception of Abuja, infrastructure under the care of federal, state and local governments, is in utter decay and they want us to celebrate for them (ruling class). Don’t they see the extremely poor road network they care not about, is our roads not cratered as if bombed out in a prolonged war. Despite the fact that our roads remain hellish, the federal and state governments perpetually engage on whether it’s a federal or a state road while people die on these roads, and they want us to celebrate now to their own joy only. Virtually, the entire infrastructure has gone from bad to worse. There are no roads anywhere as most state governors now charter planes for domestic trips. Not too long ago, we lost 46 soldiers in one road accident, a daily figure of casualties that is doubtful for any well-equipped army at the war front in recent times. Ironically these soldiers survived in Darfur only to be claimed by the undeclared war going on at home. The other 27 soldiers, who survived in their peace keeping missions abroad, came home to be short-changed of their allowances. When they protested, they were court-marshalled and sentenced to life imprisonment that was recently commuted to 7 years in jail. But, still that is not acceptable to Nigerians; those soldiers should be freed immediately, and at worst, dismissed from the force. We cannot celebrate while those gallant soldiers remain behind bars for asking for what’s rightly theirs. With injustice pervading the land, there isn’t anything to celebrate about.
With our health sector as deplorable as our hospitals, including the teaching hospitals, which are mere “consulting clinics”, they (rulers) can safe their celebration. The 2008 USAID report says, “With approximately 2.5 per cent of the world population, Nigeria has more than 10 per cent of all under-five and maternal deaths – more than one million newborn, infant, and child deaths and more than 50,000 maternal deaths every year.” Health care is atrocious, and leaders who should see to its efficacy frequently seek the escapist option of flying abroad for their own Medicare needs. Health facilities have entered a state of comatose that it is only those who have no other choice, go to the hospitals now and still, they are saying the country has earned a celebration as a failed one at 49. No fewer than 20 people, majority of them children aged between one and 10 years, have been confirmed dead while over 400 were admitted to hospitals, as a result of the outbreak of cholera in Jigawa State. At least 76 persons have been confirmed dead from a suspected outbreak of an epidemic of cholera in about seven local government councils of Adamawa state. All these are happening in this 21st century Nigeria and they want all of us to go celebrating a fake independence.
Malnutrition, according to a recent study by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), is ravaging Nigeria with Kebbi, Adamawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Gombe and Kano states identified as the worse hit. About 1.3 million children have died of the scourge, and Nigeria calls itself a country worth celebrating.
The war against the Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV), the germ that causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), just suffered a major setback with the report that Nigeria now records 370,000 new infections annually. There is the decay in the country's health care system at the state levels due to the lukewarm attitude of state governors in implementing health care schemes or issues in their areas. Also, shortage of personnel, poor pay and incentives to medical professionals, poor career prospects, lack of basic equipment and infrastructure, lack of training and re-training of personnel and constitutional bottle-necks, are some of the bane of Nigeria’s health care system . Members of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) will soon begin a nationwide strike, if the Federal Government fails to circularise and implement the agreement it reached with the body recently on Medical Salary Scale (MSS). These are some of the mess in the sector.
On each of his visits to Saudi Arabia or Germany, Yar’Adua has been treated and attended to by some of the best the medical field has to offer, but, why can’t he build such in Nigeria?
What’s there to celebrate when the political leaders do not care that the price of domestic cooking fuel, kerosene, has risen, forcing many housewives to resort to the use of firewood. A gallon (5-litre) of kerosene is selling for N700 (N140 a litre) in some areas in Lagos right now. The scarcity of the product has led to retailers increasing the price of the commodity from the official N70 a litre. Does the government care that the hike in the cost of the commodity is linked to the major oil marketers whom, had stopped importation of the product, and that the refineries in the country were no longer producing the commodity because of internal problems. Can people celebrate with empty stomach?
Our president visited Saudi Arabia (instead of going to the UN) and was welcomed only by a governor, instead of, by the king of Saudi Arabia who invited him. This writer wonders if Yar’Adua knows that his absence at the UN is sad because it’s one of the many reasons that Nigeria and Nigerians are not been taken serious. We wonder if Yar’Adua recalls early in the year when he complained that it was unfortunate that the world did not reckon with Nigeria during the G-20 summit in London. Now he needed no invitation, but, he refused to attend. Here was an opportunity to try and remedy the serious image problems of Nigeria by confronting other world leaders face to face, but, he missed it all and Nigerians are not amused about it.
Yar’Adua decided to send the minister for foreign affairs to the UN and the minister had to fly into the US from Brazil where he had gone for negotiations on how the nation can achieve the 6,000MW power generation by December, despite the fact that he has no knowledge in that field. But the worse was that at the same time, the de facto president, Turai Yar’Adua, was in Vienna negotiating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Nigerians, please tell me in what capacity was the woman negotiating about nuclear power for peaceful use on behalf of Nigeria? Is there something ugly we would not experience in Nigeria? This woman has no knowledge about atomic energy, what the hell was she doing at IAEA in Vienna, Austria? No wonder that at 49 years and with an imaginary population of 150milliion, Nigeria is still struggling to generate a mere 6,000 MGW. There is no part of Nigeria that has a one-hour uninterrupted power supply for a seven-day week.
Nigeria at 49 years has some of the best brains in various fields but we have not been able to harness their potentials. That’s why today, many Nigerians are rotting away abroad, we see Nigerians with PhD degree certificate driving Taxi in US and England, those with first and second degrees carrying and distributing packets in US and Europe, and many still cleaning toilets or doing security job (black Eagle) with a law degree in Europe and America. What the ruling class is interested in, is for many Nigerians to leave rather than stay at home and oppose the strangulating grips they have on our commonwealth. Many Nigerians are dying or being killed in foreign lands because nobody cares. The House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Matters just vowed to confront the Chinese government over the planned cremation of the bodies of 30 Nigerians who died under questionable circumstances in China. The Committee also condemned the inhuman treatment given to Nigerian immigrants in Libya as 150 Nigerians were deported from the North African country on allegations that they entered Libya without official travel documents and settled there as illegal aliens. What are the duties of our missions and consulates in these countries if they cannot protect Nigerians? Our people are dying like flies at home and abroad with no one caring, and still they want us to celebrate a fake independence.
Even Nigeria that was a soccer power house has started to fumble. We cannot even qualify for the world cup, the feat of the Super Eagles of yesteryears are no longer attainable now by the present ones, and our always-winning Flying Eagles have lost their aura of invincibility also. What can we celebrate here?
The solution to all these rubbish would come one day. Although Nigerians are docile to a fault, but, we‘ve a lot of morning stars still slumbering, one day those morning stars would arise, and when they rise, they would never wane no more. Then and only then, thing would change and would never be the same again, and then there would be the reason to celebrate Nigeria’s real independence and freedom. For now, there’s nothing to celebrate about, but, failure.
Happy independence anniversary to all Nigerians ( the condition of things notwithstanding)
THE THANXS IS ALL YOURS!!!
Prince Charles Dickson
The Punch Newspapers
The Guardian Newspapers