Nigeria turns 56 tomorrow: Prospects and challenges

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By Kayode Olaitan

Unarguably, every October 1 remains a unique and memorable day for all Nigerians, as they joyfully commemorate the country’s independence on Oct. 1, 1960.

Precisely 56 years ago, Nigeria became an independent nation after over a hundred years of British colonialism, and the country formally ceased to be a British colony and transmuted into a self-governing nation.

Analysts note that in spite of the country’s chequered political history, marked by certain uncertainties such as a four-year civil war, military coup d’états, insecurity and economic recession, among others, Nigeria embarked on a steady journey to nationhood.

Nigeria’s hope of becoming a greater nation, however, rose at Nigeria’s 55th independence anniversary due to a change in government which led to the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

On Oct. 1, 2015, Buhari reassured Nigerians of his intention to engender a systemic change in all facets of national life.

“`We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust. We must change our unruly behaviour in schools, hospitals, market places, motor parks, on the roads, in homes and offices,’’ he said.

He said that in efforts to bring about the desired change, Nigerians necessarily have to change into law-abiding citizens.

The president’s address to the nation was a clarion call on the citizenry to make concerted efforts to salvage and transform the country.

In spite of the president’s message of hope in 2015, citizens have been expressing mixed feelings on the state of the nation after 56 years of existence.

Mr Tony Uranta, a former member of the National Dialogue Committee and Secretary of the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy, said that there had been some pains and gains in post-independence Nigeria.

He, however, advised Nigerians to start looking beyond parochial considerations so as to enable the country to function well for the good of its citizens.

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“As a patriot who prays for President Buhari’s success in changing the negative trajectory which corruption, mediocrity and loss of positive values have forced this country into, one cannot remain silent in the face of certain new trends that could threaten the very fabric of Nigeria’s survival,’’ he said.

In his opinion, Mr Kenneth Imansuangbon, a chieftain of APC in Edo, said that Nigeria’s current economic recession and technological underdevelopment were intrinsically connected to the years of maladministration and military dictatorships in the country.

“Past governments enthroned corruption in Nigeria and they squandered the myriad opportunities offered to them to better our lot and take Nigeria to unprecedented economic and technological heights,’’ he said.

Imansuangbon said that Buhari, who had a zero tolerance for corruption, might be the messiah that would right the wrongs in the polity, turn around Nigeria’s ailing economy and take the nation to an enviable height.

Dr Olumuyiwa Adetutu, a gynaecologist, said that renewed efforts should be made to take Nigeria to the Promised Land.

He lauded Buhari for his determination to rid the country of economic saboteurs and treasury looters, adding that the president’s anti-corruption stance would go a long way in reinforcing efforts to salvage the country.

He blamed Nigeria’s economic problems on the political elite, saying: “Our rulers practically brought the country down through massive corruption, impunity and gross violation of the citizens’ fundamental rights.’’

Adetutu eulogised Buhari for living up to the citizens’ expectations by bringing unscrupulous persons who wanted to destroy Nigeria, particularly those who looted the nation’s treasury, to book.

He expressed the hope that the nascent efforts by the Buhari-administration to diversify Nigeria’s economy would provoke the nation’s economic recovery in no time.

However, Mr Olabode Towoju, a chieftain of APC, said that Nigeria would have been better off after gaining independence in 1960 if the managers of the country’s collective resources did not exhibit selfishness and inordinate ambition to corner the resources all alone.

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He maintained that the national economy was currently in recession because of the failure of its leaders to do the right things at the right time in the past, adding that Buhari was now striving to correct the anomaly.

Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Ariyo Dare-Atoye, a PDP governorship aspirant in Ekiti, said: “Nigeria has the potential to be one of the five most developed countries in the world.

“We have human resources and natural resources that could make us even greater than Great Britain but we have failed as a nation.’’

He underscored the need to rectify the mode of electing the country’s leaders, insisting on the need to elect the best leaders among the people.

He stressed that October 1 every year should always remind Nigerians of the fact that they had a country which should be one of the best countries in the world.

“All the same, this is a period for all Nigerians to reflect on the past, with a view to restructuring our lives and future,’’ he observed.

But Mr Samuel Akanbi, a political analyst, said that although Nigeria was the ninth most populated country on the planet, there was need to ensure its transformation into a productive country.

“We have arable lands; vast water and forest resources; oil and gas and solid minerals with all the attributes of a great nation but we are having circular problems due to years of maladministration, which the current administration is trying hard to address,’’ he said.

He underscored the need for all Nigerians to have unity of purpose and exhibit strong determination in efforts to make Nigeria great.

“Countries, which are far less endowed, have made greater economic progress via greater coherence and unity of purpose.

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“Nonetheless, the fact that we have remained together as a nation is an accomplishment we should all appreciate and consolidate,’’ he said.

Akanbi underlined the need for all Nigerians to promote the country’s unity and oneness, while eschewing divisive tendencies and ethnic sentiments.

With the benefit of hindsight, Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, on Oct. 1, 1960, said: “When this day in October 1960 was chosen for our independence, it seemed that we were destined to move with quiet dignity to our place on the world stage.

“Recent events have changed the scene beyond recognition, so that we find ourselves today being tested to the utmost.

“We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to responsible government are well-founded, and having been accepted as an independent state, we must at once play an active part in maintaining the peace of the world and in preserving civilisation.”

Analysts, therefore, underscore the need for all Nigerians, particularly the political elite, to always be mindful of the golden words of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and other founding fathers of Nigeria in all they do.

–  NAN

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