Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Nigeria at 50

Last Friday the 1st of October, Nigeria my country celebrated fifty years of independence from Great Britain. I, like many other Nigerians, acknowledge the fact that our country has not had much to show for the fifty years of her existence. But let us take a closer look..

Being as diverse as Nigeria is, the country merely surviving as a united nation for all of fifty years is itself a significant achievement. In this special report in the New African (among several similar reports), it is suggested that many Nigerians are disappointed, because going by its immense oil wealth, great population and intellectual acumen, (not to mention that most of the country's land is potentially arable), the country has failed to fulfil her potential as the engine of growth that carries West Africa and indeed Africa, into economic prosperity as Japan has done for the Far East. Well, my view is that what these critics often fail to acknowledge is that countries like Japan (and South Korea) do not face the same challenges that Nigeria has had to contend with.

Japan is a country populated by a homogeneous Japanese people who have inhabited that country's islands continuously, uninterrupted and have existed as a nation for centuries. This description applies to the Koreans too. Nigeria on the other hand did not come into existence as a recognisable political entity until towards the end of the 19th Century, when parts of the country that we now know as Nigeria were taken over by imperialist Britain. It was Britain's colonial officials who presumably for the purpose of easing their administration of those territories, later arranged for the amalgamation of (what was to them) various colonial territories.

The country of Nigeria is an artificial creation. It is an amalgam of different peoples and cultures (and their lands); an amalgamation for which the consent of those most affected was never sought, nor was it ever given. An appropriate analogy would be a hypothetical European state made up of Hungarians, Romanians, Czechs, Greeks and we can toss in a sprinkling of Slovaks and Albanians for good measure, where this artificial state has been foisted on the people and none of them are given a say in whether or not they should coexist as a single nation, but they must proceed nevertheless..

We all know that where artificial states have been created in Europe, those states have not stood the test of time. Yugoslavia fell apart spectacularly, leaving a trail of bloodshed in its wake. Even today there are still tensions between the Bosnians and the Serbs in Bosnia Herzegovina and between the Serbs and Kosovo. When communism unravelled in the Soviet Union, the Soviet state crumbled into its various component parts. The artificial states of East Germany and West Germany did not survive for fifty years. So in this sense, fifty years of Nigeria as a united nation is indeed a success story. Ours is a country of over 150 million people, where more than 250 languages are spoken with a corresponding number of ethnic groups. Yet, rather than breaking up or falling apart, the country's unity is strong and she has even fought (and won) a civil war to stay united.

However, I would not wish for us by getting carried away with our sense of achievement to fail to recognise that as a country we have and continue to fail in many respects. There has been a failure by us Nigerians in our minds to accord to our nation the exalted position that she deserves. This is part of the reason why those in positions of power think little of the consequences of their actions when they siphon substantial portions of the nation's financial resources for their own personal benefit, transferring the same to financial institutions overseas, whereas millions of their compatriots wallow in deprivation and poverty.

Regardless of the fact that there are very wealthy people living in Nigeria, it is still the case that most Nigerian citizens with disabilities are not provided for in an organised manner. Many are still condemned to a life of begging in the streets. And since a society is only as strong as its weakest member, the Nigerian society is not a strong one. The fancy buildings, the expensive cars and houses in Lekki and Abuja notwithstanding, the majority of the country's population continue to live below the poverty line. Since the days of my childhood, the problem of erratic electricity supply to the nation's population rather than improving has in fact worsened even further. Out of poverty, people continue to die of malaria, a disease which we all know is 100% curable; life expectancy at birth (which is a measure of the quality of life of a society) has been in steady decline in Nigeria since 2003.

The nation's resources belong to all of the nation's people and it is towards the improvement of the quality of life of its people that the nation's resources must be invested. There has been a failure by successive governments in Nigeria to recognise that the well-being of the people that it governs is the primary responsibility of any government, anywhere. There is a need for the reviving of the patriotic spirit in Nigeria, even among the leadership. I am envious of the way others are proud of their country. I wish to be proud of mine too..


CodLiverOil said...

Anengiyefa, nice write up.

For the most part, I do agree with you. There are some points I'd like to raise.

You cited that Korea and Japan are relatively homogeneous countries, true. However there are other Asian nations that are not homogeneous and are multi-racial and multi-ethnic like Malaysia and Indonesia

A friend Somali friend of mine was reading the BBC commentary on Nigeria’s 50 years of independence. He said it reminded him of how the BBC compared Ghana’s achievements with Malaysia’s after 50 years of independence. It is very similar, Malaysia is now targeting the next decade to officially declare itself a developed country. Ghana won’t have made it there by then, however they are now making fast progress.

Click here

Indonesia, is a nation of many thousands of islands, with many different peoples with different cultures, traditions and religions, if that wasn’t enough it is particularly susceptible to various natural disasters. Corruption is a big issue, so is inertia in government to loosening the government’s grip on the economy, not to mention ethnic tensions, their economy is not as fast moving as that of Malaysia’s. In spite of all this, they have still managed to place the country’s economy in the top 20 largest economies, and they haven’t really begun to tap their potential. Nigeria unlike Ghana is not moving rapidly in the right direction (as we all know)

This has been highlighted in another blog

Click here

Indeed Professor Utomi had observed this sometime ago

Click here

The blame for Nigeria’s stagnation or comparative regression doesn’t solely lie with the government. The government is drawn from the people, so whatever thoughts and values are circulating amongst the general populace, is what members of the ruling class bring to office.

Some serious comprehensive re-evaluation is needed, people can’t sit back and think that oil (or some other commodity), (we have to look beyond merely expecting raw materials) is the answer to all their problems. Oil should have served to jump start the economy, to provide the platform for diversification and investment in other areas of the economy, Nigerians instead have used oil to jump start the whole-hearted and deadly embrace of corruption, to the neglect of everything else, which dogs the nation to this day.

We all know Nigerians are enterprising and dynamic, that is our saving grace, where there is a will, there is a way. So that some day the name of Nigeria will NOT be associated with

Statements such as this

"The stakes are enormous in Angola," he told CNN.
"Whether the present generation of children, by the time they're adults, will be living in an upper-middle income society, like [oil-rich] Malaysia, or whether they'll be living in a country that's stuck in levels like DR Congo and Nigeria -- that's what's at stake.

or this

Nigeria is a prime example, where the country's own corruption agency estimates between $300 billion to $400 billion of oil money has been stolen or wasted over the last 50 years.

both taken from

Click here

AlooFar said...

Very interesting perspective.