Dear Mother, It has been quite a long time you left us your children and the country you loved so much for another country. We, your children that you left behind will always remember you and the passion you had for Nigeria, the country you told us was filled with milk and honey.
I will try to update you about the past and present situations we are in as a people. I am conditioned to let you know that your dear country, Nigeria is now Sixty years Old. I need to let you know that things have not changed much positively than you left it 20 years ago!
Can you still recollect the amalgamation of 1914 by the British you told us when we were young and also studied in the college? That, after the amalgamation, the country was christened Nigeria. That was the beginning of the journey as a nation with the parliamentary system of government. Remember, Mum, that you narrated to us and we also read about in the college that the civilian regime of pre-1966 was crippled by ethnic and political rivalries coupled with over-whelming regionalism. The army seized power as a cohesive, united, ‘corrective’ instrument. However, contrary to expectations, the Nigerian army proved beyond a reasonable doubt to be a reflection of ethnic and social deficiencies. The army who came to ‘save ‘us out of the array of corruptions and preserve law and order, aggravated it and was swimming in the ocean of corruption more than ever before under the civilian rule of the first Republic!
The people were fed up of military administration and were in search of a system of government which could salvage Nigeria’s peculiar problems and bring us the national unity. This landed us in the hands of Executive Presidency System of Government headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). The four years of the first Nigeria Executive Presidency were four years of wrangling among party leaders. Let me remind you of some, because, then, I was a college boy at that time: it was four years of the constitutional and unconstitutional, four years of zoning and problems of zoning, four years of accord and discord, four years of political alliances and re-alignment; four years of the quota system as an instrument or policy of national administration, four years of a fragile economy and the continuous war on inflation; four years of Economic problems which the president could not tackle. They were four years of complaints and protests by our legislators, ‘four years of pistol and dagger’ during parliamentary sessions; four years of Mr Speaker walking out on Members and members walking out on Mr Speaker. All these notwithstanding, the first four years of executive Presidency in Nigeria was a determined effort by the operators to lay the foundation of the Nation Nigeria.
The government of Shagari was toppled by the Buhari/Idiagbon administration(then an army General) on 31st December 1983 on the allegation of corruption and ineptitude and remained in government until 27th August 1985 when General Babangida( Rtd) came to power on 27th August 1985 until 26th August 1983. It was from one military government to another until a middleman Ernest Shonekan, a civilian was appointed to stand in the gap as an interim national government-28th August 1993-17th November 1993. Yet, on November 17th, 1993, General Abacha seized power and was in government until 1998 when he mysteriously died impromptu.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar came on board on 8th June 1998 and was there until 29th May 1991 when Olusegun Obasanjo of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) was sworn in as the new Executive President of Nigeria thereby putting a halt to military intervention in Nigeria politics(even though, Chief Obasanjo was a retired general in the army).
Late Musa Yar-Adua took over from Obasanjo on 29th May 2007 and thereafter former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn in as the next President on 29th May 2010 also, under the platform of PDP and was in government until 29th May 2015 when another keenly contested general elections brought in the current President, Muhammadu Buhari on 29th May 2015(this time as a civilian President).
Dear Mum, judging by research on records Nigeria is blessed with intelligent rulers/leaders. Some of them have made some landmark achievements even though with pockets of inadequacies or weaknesses. For example, at independence, the Owelle of Onitsha, Dr Azikiwe Nnamdi, founded the University of Nigeria Nsukka with the objective of restoring the dignity of the ‘Blackman’ as the full-fledged indigenous university modelled upon the American Educational system. Zik postulated neo-welfarism but African political leaders failed to utilize it, and till date, African states are still searching for an appropriate ideological base for their socio-economic and technological developments. If Zik’s socio-political and economic ideologies available in his intellectual works, which if proactively utilized would certainly have led to recreating a new Africa, which he aimed at in his lifetime. Ditto Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was the Prime Minister of the Old Western Region, who introduced Free Education in his domain. The free education could not be sustained and replicated in the other regions probably because of political imbalance.
The military also made some progress when they took power. For example, there were infrastructural developments of roads airport and railways and the creation of states and local governments. They also made an impact in the encouragement of regional cooperation-ECOWAS and keeping the unity of the country; establishment of NYSC(as a promotion of national integration), local government reforms, National Directorate of Employment(NDE), the introduction of new currencies, creation of new Federal Capital in Abuja, among others. However, because of their dictatorial style, corruption and mismanagement and waste of public funds and violation of human rights, the people were happy when they were booted out.
When Obasanjo came into power as civilian President, Nigeria witnessed the establishment of the EFCC and ICPC and strengthened the code of conduct bureau to fight corruption. He jailed Tafa Balogun (late Inspector General of Police, and Bode George. Also, Nigeria foreign reserves rose from $2billion in 1979 when he came on board to $43billion when he left office in 2007. Obasanjo secured an $18 billion debt relief from the Paris and London Clubs and got Nigeria out of debts. He also brought to Nigeria, Mobile Telecommunications (GSM) and discovered Charles Soludo and Okonjo Iweala who positively contributed to his administration and are still relevant today nationally and internationally.
Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan also did his part even though he had a tough time in the saddle with the rise of insurgency and the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls by the notorious Boko Haram terrorists. It was alleged that he could have nibbed the insurgency in the bud if he had taken the issues seriously at the outset before it escalated. However, some of his achievements could not be wished away: Nigeria GDP rose to $503 billion in 2003 and over 25,000 kilometres of motorable federal roads from just a quarter of that number in 2011. He resuscitated the railways in the country after about 30 years of a break and recorded more than 50% reduction in food imports. He swiftly handled and healthily controlled the Ebola Outbreak.
The current President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari is a ‘lucky’ man who inherited a barrage of problems from his predecessors, especially the Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen clashes with the locals, kidnapping and cybercrimes. All these problems are a spoke in the wheels of progress in the country and headache for the man at the centre and the country in general. Nonetheless, it was expected that a former war general would have made all these problems a walkover by now with all the technocrats, money and materials that have been deployed in this area.
Today, it may be the killing of a police chief, or scores of our soldiers; tomorrow. it may be the story of the abduction of a priest or village chief. It is worrisome.
COVID-19, the dreaded disease from a small town, Wuhan in China struck the whole world like a bolt from the blue and has devastated millions in the world today, Nigeria inclusive. We need to thank God that Nigeria is gradually stepping out of the murky and tide of COVID-19 under this administration but much is needed to be done to cushion the effect of the pandemic and allay the fear of citizenry in the areas of security and economic emancipation. Buhari’s government could also, like others before him, boast of some notable policies that affect the masses which are: fighting the gender-based violence, approval of some percentage of employment in the public service for people with disability, the introduction of Single Treasury Account (TSA)(to prevent fraud in the civil service(,’ Marketmoni’ and ‘Tradermoni’ programmes where affordable loans are provided to small and micro-scale enterprises to grow their businesses. Also, the National Homegrown School Feeding Programme was introduced where ‘over 9,960,729 children are being fed to keep them in school and improve their nutritional status (efforts should be made to monitor the continuous implementation of this programme because of various criticisms that have been trailing it especially diversion of funds meant for the programme that flew to private pockets in the middle of COVID-19 when the country was on lockdown! It’s good news that the ICPC has been able to trace the money-just 2.67billion!!
Dear Mother, Nigeria is sixty years (60) old. I enjoin you to always pray for your country you left behind because prayers can move a mountain as you always say. The only option for us staying here is to have the mind to salvage our country from all forms of misrule, corruption and selfishness prayerfully. We need to jettison the excess baggage slowing us down and give education and its funding a priority; when employment opportunities and vocational training and good health facilities even in the rural areas take the front burner in the country’s budget and not political rallies and campaigns, then we shall be at the promised land.
I will at this juncture, tell you my mind on this unique occasion of the 60th-anniversary celebration: We shall be more progressive when we begin to look out for each other rather than stand in the way of one another; when we begin to let others lead without our influence; when we disallow mismanagement of our diversity to crack the foundation of our nation; when ethnic jingoism and religious fundamentalism are not permitted to put things asunder.
When the stress on a rock is great enough, it would crack. We should not allow the country, Nigeria to become a sad metaphor for structural failure. Going by the Daily Trust of January 20, 2019,(which is still germane today)’’ you know that there is a challenge when nothing works except crime’’. When we have leaders but they allowed a huge camp of 300 million internally displaced people taking asylum in other places. What can we say of this? Somebody works in Katsina but sleeps in the Niger Republic. They are scared of sleeping where they work because of insecurity. We have a reason to celebrate at 60 but must not rest on our laurels. The world is watching us and we must not fail as a nation; unity, even in diversity should not be compromised.
On your behalf Mum, and we, still living in Nigeria, we are wishing the grandpa of other African Nations, NIGERIA, a happy celebration at 60 –Bravo.
By- Idowu Tunde