Today will make it exactly 63 years since Nigeria gained her political independence from the British colonial overlords. Within that period, a lot has happened to test the resilience and the tenacity of both the people and the geographical entity to survive and sustain.
Within that period also, democracy, as a system of government bequeathed to the nation by the colonial masters, has also been tested for its tensile strength. The tests, in both circumstances, have yielded varying degrees of success. At least the country is still under one umbrella even if not sufficiently united.
At 63, Nigeria should have consolidated on its democratic principles and ideals. That the system of government is still referred to as nascent brings to mind the sad interventions of the military and the rascality of the political class that created a fertile ground for such intrusion.
In the opinion of this newspaper, the threat to democracy that military interregnum posed was nothing compared to the pervasive situation of insecurity that is presently making the nation near ungovernable. Since the reinstitution of democracy in 1999, security issues have dominated political discourse with an end nowhere near in sight.
It has become so intractable that valuable resources needed for socio-economic development are diverted to what is seemingly a bottomless pit. Already, many are beginning to see it as an industry driven by interests, local and foreign, all geared towards serving some entrenched even if weird pecuniary benefits as well as the expectations of outside forces that are committed to a disunited Nigeria, a country they perceive as a threat.
It is on record that Nigeria harbours the largest assemblage of black people in the world with resources, human and material, that, if well-harnessed, could rival the dominance of some foreign powers. The envy of an African country with such potential contributes to the challenge of development that confronts Nigeria as a nation.
Curiously, in our view, the ruling class outrageously possessed by the vile spirit of misgovernance and crass incompetence, lay credence to the perception that the available resources instead of being a blessing are, sadly, a curse.
At 63, the nation is still having the problem of not educating its citizens. The country is considered the poverty capital of the world with close to 130 million of Nigerians trapped in what is euphemistically referred to as multi-dimensional poverty.
At 63, the nation is still burdened by massive youth unemployment that authorities make a joke about in statistical data – is it above 30 per cent or less than five per cent as if that, in itself, will remove the fact that school leavers of various category can and do stay years after graduation without a job to do no matter how menial.
At 63, inflationary trend is so wild that to eke out a living has become a struggle. Food security and the other angles to it like cost of living that is so high have made life dreary and unexciting.
At that supposedly matured adult age, the nation is still struggling with feeding the populace that has lost the access to avenues of feeding themselves by the activities of miscreants masquerading as bandits, kidnappers and other such criminal elements.
At 63, many a Nigerian is looking for the slightest opportunity to exit from the country they conceive as dreadfully uninhabitable. Doctors, engineers, lawyers, and other skilled professionals, not to mention the youthful segment of the society, resources sought after by any nation, are leaving in droves in search of greener pasture in what is derisively referred to as the japa syndrome.
The sorry part of it is that the political class seem immune from the adversities that are so palpable. Surrounded by filthy luxury at state expense, the impression they create is that of indifference to the pain and penury that is the lot of the governed.
The fight over political offices and positions which should provide a leeway to service to the majority is so fierce and debilitating that it makes democracy lose its true meaning as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Valuable time and resources are invested in the effort to outdo one another that the real essence of public service and good governance is lost unduly.
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Out of this morass has emerged a brand-new government that has promised to turn matters around for good. But because of past deceptions fueled by corrupt tendencies in high places, optimism that ought to herald a new government is, unfortunately, muffled.
In the view of this newspaper, the only item left on the shelf is hope, that state of mind that makes the difference between life and death. However, and in spite of everything, Nigeria has precedencies to refer to of countries that passed through similar experiences and emerged healthy and strong. That is what Nigerians have cause to believe. That is what they are working hard at. That is what they look forward to as a nation. The con viction is that for us to grow, survive and flourish, the embers of patriotism, must be fanned into flame. At 63, all hands must be on deck. Happy Independence!