By Olabode Opeseitan
In the Chinese culture, 60 years is a big deal. It is regarded as the beginning of a new life cycle. In Nigeria as well, 60 years is the first significant milestone after the golden jubilee.
It is a miracle for a nation, which was predicted would be balkanised over five years ago, to still be together after 60 years of tension-soaked coexistence. Even though we are clutching precariously at straws, we are still an endowed nation.
Hardly are there many countries like ours which tested the limits of their togetherness and survived. You could barely count at the finger tips other countries around the world which have the kind of our natural resources in commercial quantity. Yet, our biggest asset is our young, dynamic and exceptionally brilliant population.
Several foreign experts have marvelled repeatedly at the kind of special intelligence of Nigerians to the point that the American intelligentsia secretly concluded that Nigerians are gifted with some special brains. As an adjunct, you will always find Nigerian students excelling in several academic institutions around the world. In what has become a ritual, the best graduating students of many schools globally are often Nigerians.
The American peer review apparatchik believes it is not a mere coincidence to have happened so frequently. If we are this brilliant and so blessed with immense natural resources and a huge population, why is our growth so stunted as a nation?
At the diamond and matured age of 60, Nigeria cuts the pathetic profile of a polygamous family of six where the brothers and sisters are perennially at daggers drawn. It’s a classic case of a house divided against itself where rather than joining forces to build a stronger and greater nation, there is a ruthless, fratricidal war, consciously or unconsciously fuelled by the same leaders given the mandate to unite the people and make the nation prosper.
Tragically, Nigeria has become a nation where medieval myopia has made a crop of leaders to believe that in the 21st century, you can hold down a part of a country deemed to have an advantage for others to catch up rather than building on your strength as a nation while working hard, fast and furious to collectively improve on your weaknesses.
Distrust, fear, uncertainty and instability have expelled unity, peace, progress and prosperity from the land. Incompetence, bare-faced lies and acrimony have been elevated into statecraft.
As a nation, the basis of our togetherness has been compromised and enkindled. Today, virtually every part of the country is clamouring for self determination.
For the past five and half years since the inception of this administration, insecurity has traversed different parts of the country, manifesting as worsening herders/farmers clash, continuous Boko Haram insurrection, kidnapping and daring robberies. Nowhere seems safe.
At 60, Nigeria remains an exceptional oil producing country which cannot refine its own oil for local consumption. All the promises freely given to the people about fixing the refineries have been lavishly broken.
At 60, Nigeria is sinking deeper and deeper into debts. Nigeria’s public debt stock, according to the latest data released by the Debt Management Office (DMO), rose to a total of N31.01tn at the end of June. In the last five years, the country’s debt has risen by N18.89tn, about double of what it was by late 2014. Yet, during the regime of Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s debts were almost wiped off completely.
Rather than making progress, Nigeria is retrogressing across major indices. The value of the naira you hold today is at least one third lower than what it was five years ago. Like a friend derisively put it during a recent conversation, the lives of Nigerians have been devalued.
The apologists of the present situation may roll out the drums to celebrate a whitewashed rot as a symbol of what excellence should be and where Nigeria should be at 60, the people are not fooled.
They are tired of a jaded union that offers no hope of a brighter tomorrow. They are worried by the endless pattern of hiking the prices of everything. After the fuel price hike and removal of oil subsidy, they remember the preceding hikes of the Valued Added Tax, prices of food items, port charges, electricity tariffs and others too numerous to mention.
They remember that while they are making all the sacrifices, their leaders are relishing all the goodies, living large at the expense of their misfortunes. They are waiting patiently for the next hike and wondering even if the colonial masters would have violated them this much. They hope that, perhaps, by some divine intervention, there will be a better tomorrow.
The very wise words of the first President of the United States, George Washington (1732 – 1799) are quite apt as a rallying call in a moment like this: “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
-Opeseitan is a business developer, digital business strategist and integrated marketing communications consultant.