Nigeria At 46: Quo Vadis?

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Nigeria At 46: Quo Vadis?

 

A Guardian Editorial

 

 

 

 

culled from GUARDIAN, September 30, 2006

 

On October 1, 1960, the green-white-green national flag of Nigeria was hoisted to displace the British Union Jack in recognition of the political manumission of Nigeria from the stranglehold of British imperialism. That was exactly forty-six years ago. On an occasion such as this, it is customary to take stock, to reminisce about the triumphs and travails of the Nigerian State. All the living human persons who share the same age with Nigeria have become men and women, with sturdy legs, and, in general terms, with some achievements to boast about.

 

In economic, social and political terms, Nigeria, at forty-six, remains a sick toddler, with tottering economic and political legs, in spite of its immense human, material and natural resources. This is so, no thanks to the despicable moral turpitude and political immaturity and perfidy of the Nigerian successors of the British imperial factor. In every situation, however there are always some lucid intervals; hence the nation, during the past one year, could boast of her extrication from the trammels of the Paris Club of Creditors. Besides, the Central Bank of Nigeria's key objective of consolidating the banking industry through mergers and acquisitions was achieved early in the year.

 

Aside from those achievements, the former of which remains a moot point, it is difficult to point at any other notable achievement on the tapestry of political and socio-economic activities since the nation's 45th birth-day, in October, 2005. It has all been a tale of woes. Between the last birthday and this one, the nation witnessed a spate of socio-political and economic tragedies. Barely three weeks after the last birthday, the nation lost 117 lives in the crash of a Bellview aircraft, Flight No.B3210, at Lisa Igbore Village, in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State, on October 22, 2005; about one month later, the nation lost her First Lady, Chief (Mrs.) Stella Obasanjo, to an operation performed on her in Spain. On November 28, 2005, a private aircraft exploded mid-air at the Kaduna airport, killing the two pilots on board; on December 10, 2005, a Sosoliso plane, a DC10 aircraft, Flight No. 1145 crashed in Port Harcourt, killing 105 of the 109 passengers, among whom were 72 students of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja.

 

On July 27, 2006, Engr. Funso Williams, a notable PDP gubernatorial aspirant in Lagos State, was brutally murdered in his bedroom, in Lagos, and on August 5, 2006, Dr. Ayodeji Daramola, another PDP governorship contender, was killed in almost identical circumstances, at Ijan-Ekiti, in Ekiti State. And on Sunday, September 17, 2006, an Airforce Dornier 228-212 plane crashed at Mt. Ngokura, in the Mbakunu District of Shangev-ya of Benue State, killing 13 senior military officers. Today, Nigerians are torn by gnawing feelings of insecurity, which has become the norm.

 

The life of the average Nigerian approximates the practical demonstration of the Hobbesian type, which is short, brutish and nasty as cases of unresolved political killings are growing by leaps and bounds. Besides, healthcare services remain a nightmare. Recently, Nigeria was categorized as a country with dismal health indices by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked the country's health system 187th among 191 member-states. The untoward upshot of all this is that European and even South African hospitals have become the rendezvous for the ruling class and their families.

 

The economic landscape is just as dreary: The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, two influential organisations based in the United States, ranked Nigeria 146th out of 157 countries listed for assessment on economic growth. In sub-Saharan Africa, the report rated Nigeria above only one country-Zimbabwe. And this is in spite of the fact that Nigeria makes over $20 billion (or over N2.8 trillion) per annum, from oil alone. Indeed, it should be noted that for much of 2006, oil sold for $73 per barrel. If we, arguably, produce 2.7 million barrels per day, that would translate into US$197 million per day (or over N27.5 billion per day). The standard of living of the average Nigerian continues to plummet as the per capita income, based on purchasing power parity (PPP) remains about PPP$1,050. In Malaysia, the same figure is PPP$9,512, while in South Africa, it is PPP$10,346. Over 87 per cent of the population in Nigeria live below the poverty line.

 

The Federal allocation to education has, since 2001, oscillated between 5 per cent and 10.5 per cent, falling short of the minimum 26 per cent of the nation's total budget recommended by the UNESCO. The chronic infrastructural defects in and outside tertiary institutions have not been addressed. In the sad event, Nigerians are compelled to send their wards to colleges and universities in Europe, the U.S., and South Africa, and even to Ghana, for higher education. Over half of the network of roads, nationwide, is unmotorable. At 46, Nigeria's basic means of transport are motor-cycles (or okada), which have phenomenally increased the rates of automobile accidents in the cities and towns.

 

Socio-economic development is hindered by malfeasance and rancid corruption in high places. Not a few critical questions gnawing away at the conscience of the nation continue to hang in the air, unanswered. The $13.1billion (or N2 trillion) illegally withdrawn from the Excess Crude Oil Account; the N15.6 billion allegedly paid by the Debt Management Office (DMO) of the Presidency to a consultant who handled the negotiations for the Paris Club's relief granted Nigeria early in the year; the composition, ownership and management of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc. (Transcorp); the massive embezzlement involving over N50 billion in the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA); the level of the personal involvement of the President and the Vice President in the asset-stripping of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF); the issue of Local Government Funds, etc. collectively remain an open sore.

 

Politically, the Nigerian state has been worsted by the improbity, greed and unscrupulousness of the ruling elite. The Presidency has been divested of the halo of respectability which should encircle it as President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar openly and brazenly trade accusations of corrupt enrichment and allegations of murder plots. For several months, the nation was shaken to its foundations by a so-called third-term project, by which President Obasanjo allegedly schemed to elongate his two-term tenure allowed by the Constitution. That project guzzled tons of money. The survival of the democratic experiment for over seven years is ascribable only to the resilience of the average Nigerian.

 

At 46, Nigeria's problem continues to be bad leadership. The 46th birthday coincides with the untidy build-up to the 2007 general elections: At the last count, there were 46 political parties, whose philosophies, ideologies or manifestos are unknown to the electorate. About seven months to the elections, definite candidates for the presidency, governorship, National and State Assembly offices are yet to be spewed up by the parties for screening by the relevant institutions and the populace.

 

At the end of the day, some veritable reprobates will be foisted on Nigerians as their new rulers. This should not be allowed to happen. The elections of 2007 represent a major turning point for Nigeria and her citizens: the process will test the capability of civilians to organise and manage elections without the deficiencies and anxieties of old. Seven months to that historic task, there is little on the ground in terms of infrastructure, logistics, attitude, and vision to inspire confidence that the state is prepared.

 

We are persuaded that it is high time we re-examined our socio-economic and political culture. The political class has taken Nigerians for a ride for too long.

The electorate reserves the right to know and choose its leaders; leaders who will help enthrone the rule of law and due process, the two major planks of democratic governance; leaders who will dispassionately prosecute the war against corruption and all forms of indiscipline in the body politic, and leaders of mature and unimpeachable character.

 

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