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NIGERIA AT 59: Of Hope and Hopelessness
NIGERIA AT 59: Of Hope and Hopelessness

By - Makinde Ebenezer

Posted - 01-10-2019

After 59 years of Independence, there is still a general ambiguity about the future of Nigeria such that the country is said to be moving towards the path of development and underdevelopment at the same time. Indeed, when Nigeria takes a step forward, it must have already taken two steps backward. The October 1, 1960 Independence as at then was unparalleled in the annals of History of Nigeria wherein the whole country, was in joyous and jubilant mood not because of the achievement of independence from colonial rule per se, but because with independence came the massive opportunities for the country to achieve meaningful development and position herself as a beacon of hope in Africa.

59 years later, there is a general feeling among Nigerians, also shared by the rest of the world that the so called “Giant of Africa” has done poorly in her quest for development and that she could do much better considering her level of natural and human endowments. Nigeria should perhaps be the poster boy for “Paradox of Plenty” or resource curse hypothesis- the argument that countries with an abundance of natural resources tend to have less economic growth and development than countries with fewer natural resources.

Apart from human population with more than 200,000 million people, Nigeria is one of the countries in the world with wide varieties of different natural resources. According to the official website of the Nigeria government, all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT have at least one or more natural resources. Nonetheless, despite these natural endowments, Nigeria still suffers from palpable developmental challenges. A casual glance at Nigeria`s 59 years journey exemplifies betrayal of expectations of greatness where despite abundance of human and natural resources, the country remains largely in the comity of underdeveloped countries with many of its citizens living in abject poverty.

As Nigeria celebrates 59 years since political independence, it is our objective here to identify some of the major challenges confronting the most populous country in Africa and also discuss her prospects for the future.

Challenges of Governance in Nigeria
The hope and confidence that characterized the first independence celebration in 1960 have been more or less replaced with hopelessness and despair after 59 years of self-rule and misrule. Though, it is often said that the European colonizers created the foundation of Nigeria`s failure by merging largely diverse groups to form the present day Nigeria, such that the country`s governance misadventure is seen to be related to her pattern of emergence. Nonetheless, a general characterization of the problems confronting the Nigeria state has revealed that indeed, much of them are largely self-inflicted.

Firstly, the “firm foundation” on which Nigeria stands which Abubakar Tafawa Balewa referred to during his 1960 Independence Day official address have been rendered unstable and unsteady by subsequent socio-political events in Nigeria (like the Civil War 1967-1970, many years of Military rule, corruption, marginalization of certain groups), such that, even as Nigerians mark another Independence Day celebration as one community of people, there is a sense to which her unity is largely a hoax. What we have is a situation where the relationships between the constituent ethnic nationalities and religious groups have deteriorated which has created an avenue for further agitations for secession and political violence.

Indeed, subsequent political leaders in the Nigeria have failed to emerge a country devoid of ethnic jingoism and religious bigotry. It has been very difficult to advance a united Nigeria and political leaders in the country have expressly and deliberately exploited this disunity for their own personal interest and aggrandizement. In the light of this, problem of political leadership has become a permanent challenge facing the country. Inept leadership is perhaps the bane of Nigeria`s development wherein it is the Nigerian state that serves its leaders and not the opposite. It is very difficult not to sustain the argument that Nigeria is perhaps structured to benefit its political leaders only.

Structural Incoherence and System Irresponsibility
Perhaps more significant is the challenge of structural and organizational incoherence. There is something about Nigeria that makes impunities to thrive so much so that it is now a permanent feature of the country. By structural incoherence, we are not making a case for political restructuring which has dominated discourses about Nigeria in recent times (though, we could be making a case for it), but a much deeper societal reorganization of the country where wholesale irresponsibility is dared and defied.
Nigeria suffers from comprehensive irresponsibility whereby both political leaders and the followers have imbibed culture of negligence, recklessness and casualness such that issues that are taken very seriously in other climes are treated with carefree over here. On the one hand, it is this general irresponsibility that for example allows for the payment of ‘salary for life’ for Nigeria`s presidents when millions of Nigerians are living in condition of extreme poverty or the purchase of expensive cars by “honorable senators”. On the other hand, it is also what makes the electorate prefer stomach infrastructure where performance does not matter so far the candidates can ‘bless’ them with some cash.

Apart from systemic irresponsibility, Nigeria also suffers from the fancy problem of corruption. It is very difficult to put a number to the amount of resources that the country has lost to corruption since 1960, but there is general agreement among political commentators that corruption is a major problem confronting the most populous country in Africa. Corruption has constituted itself as a major social vulture ravaging the stability of Nigeria. Nigeria has indeed become a society plagued with this social scourge as it now enjoys the popular support of the citizens; invariably, it has been institutionalized.

Though it is very difficult to present a comprehensive discussion of the problems confronting Nigeria that have made development to be evasive, those issues discussed above have taken centre stage in discourses about the challenges of governance in Nigeria. They have also created an atmosphere of massive insecurities and criminality, ethnic distrust and religious violence, pathetic educational sector, poor infrastructure etc. What we have said is that many of the everyday challenges confronting Nigeria`s citizens are products and function of a dysfunctional society characterized by poor leadership and lack of transparency and accountability, corruption, systemic irresponsibility.

Solutions and Prospects for the Future
Nigeria`s prospect for the future is that of hope and hopeless. Though we may need hope, but one thing we need more than hope is action and the will to act. While Nigeria has not measured up with her level of endowments in terms of development, there is still the confidence that if things are done properly, it won’t be long before the country move towards the path of development and good governance.

The first point in this regard is the enthronement of good leadership. This placed a real burden on the followers as much as it placed on the leaders. When Joseph De Maistre said “every nation gets the government it deserves” often rephrase as “the people get the type of leaders they deserve,” he was making a case for the importance of followership as a means to an end of achieving good governance.

There is also the need for genuine attempt to reduce the manifestation of corruption at all levels of government. Since corruption has become institutionalized in the country, it will take more than routine anti-corruption regimes to fight the menace. In this sense, accountability and transparency must be encouraged, and government officials who utilize public wealth must be compelled to be accountable. One of the ways to achieve this is to a build of system of accountability that encourages transparency and due process.

As Nigeria celebrates 59 years of political independence in the midst of massive challenges, Nigerians from all walks of life must take heart and be bold because for what it`s worth, nation-building is not a one day wonder. Though Nigeria has not become what we all want it to be, we can still thank God for little mercies, hoping that the big mercies are in the offing. Perhaps as the American baseball player Yogi Berra quipped, “It is not over until it is finally over.”

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