Less than two years to six decades of commemorating the attainment of political freedom by Nigeria from the British colonialists, the Adamic curse as pronounced by God on Adam, the first man on earth, that he would eat from his sweat is still prevalent in our country. Not even the technological breakthrough in mechanized farming as practised in other countries has saved rural farmers who engage rustic implements to produce crops for bare living. Nearly three scores years into independence, the vision for developing the agricultural sector has largely remained in the books.
Fruits and other farm produce litter the environment, with no effective means of transporting them to areas they are needed. In Benue, oranges and other seasonal fruit crops easily become waste as the absence of processing industries have turned them into an environmental eyesore. While government is quick to grant permit to South African Shoprite stores to sell oranges and other fruits from their country, we deny our farmers patronage for some inscrutable reasons(s). The Taraku Mills in Benue, one of the best in the country, has been taken over by reptiles. There is not a single industry working in the state. Unemployment has become a social jeopardy, as second degree holders resort to commercial motorcyling business to survive. Forbidding danger stalks the average Nigerian as the present is fraught with frightening improbabilities.
Despite abundant water and gas resources, among others, endowed by Mother Nature, we have failed to generate electricity to provide the foundation for industrial revolution. Nearly 16 years after former President Olusegun Obasanjo commenced spending of whopping sums of funds to resuscitate the power sector, improvement in the field has been marginal and frustrating. In 2018 alone, Nigeria experienced a total collapse of the national grid no fewer than four times. It seems the more money we pump into the sector, the more the agents of darkness do not allow us see the light. Closely tied to the power sector is the shameless and continued importation of refined crude products for several decades. The turnaround maintenance of the refineries has only provided a cesspool of corruption for a few members of the ruling elite fleecing the nation to her bare bones.
Employment into public sector is a privilege for an exclusive few. Where jobs are available, applicants are subtly coerced to part with hundreds of thousands of Naira before offered employment letters. Children of the poor cannot get jobs in Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other ‘juicy’ agencies without being asked to present feathers of a snake as a condition.
The police are still holding weapons that had expired long time ago in developed countries. Corruption in the system has not allowed them acquire superior fire power to stand up to criminals. With over 180 million people, we have fewer than 360,000 workforce to police a country where citizens are forced to beat the rules in a bid to survive the hard times.
Our education is in the pots, with teachers in both tertiary and secondary institutions bowing to the altar of Mammon to survive perilous times. We now have students engage in “follow-up” to bribe lecturers for specific grades, just as our daughters are now sex tools to satisfy the sexual needs of egg heads in the ivory towers. Unlike their colleagues of yore, these present teachers now insist to have their rewards on earth and not in heaven. Education is now a commercial venture, even as the federal government has finalised plans to increase tuition fees to N350, 000 per session in universities. The planned increase has prompted warning from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to perish the idea or face its anger.
While our leaders harp on the need to unite; their actions encourage division. We are daily confronted with questions on our ethnicity, religion and state of origin, including our villages and towns, when filling documents. The tragedy of our existence as a country is not that we face problems threatening the corporate existence of our nation; the real tragedy is the absence of a political will to rise above our potential status as a nation.
As we groan over our many tragedies, Nigeria @ 58 does not guarantee freedom to life. As I write this piece, Leah Sharibu is still in the captivity of Boko Haram for refusing to renounce her religion. Just last Thursday, there was a news report that she had been released to the ECWA headquarters in Jos. Sadly, few hours later, the report was debunked as fake news. Nearly a decade, the Nigerian security forces are yet to completely defeat the Islamic insurgency that has become a fearsome machine in the North-east.
The fiery expedition of Boko Haram is being re-enacted in some states of the North-west and North-central geo-political zones. The increasing recurrent bloodshed in Zamfara State by cattle rustlers and other criminal elements have turned the state into a hair-raising killing field. The Maru rocky hills have been turned into hideouts for cattle rustlers carrying out deadly attacks on unarmed communities. Taraba and Adamawa states are not spared this barbarity. The Birnin Gwari and Southern Kaduna are still flashpoints of butcheries. Nasarawa and Kogi are not immune to these merchants of death.
Benue State, often referred to as the ‘Food Basket of the Nation’, has metamorphosed into a basket of killings. Not only has the Agatu massacres led to global outrage, the state has become a stranger to peace, with thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) becoming refugees in their own country. Plateau State, once hailed as ‘Home of Peace and Tourism,’ is often in the news for ferocious and daily slaughters. A trip to the state is akin to leaping into the dungeon of death, not knowing where the bullet will come from. Thousands have fled their villages in Gashish district of the state, while additional thousands are in IDP camps located in various parts of the state. Some of these sacked villages are being occupied by their invaders, while government feigns ignorance of what is happening. The failure by government to ensure the security of the citizens has led to the collapse of the social contract between government and the people, with victims reduced to identity tags.
Nigeria @58 is best described as an excruciatingly painful metaphor of failure by both the leadership and followership to rise up to the challenges of nation building. Taking into cognisance the harrowing indices of where we are as a nation, freedom is a fluke just as the hope of attaining development goals rendered a mirage. If Nigeria has faced grinding despair in both the past and present, our future looks too bleak to provide hope out of our present quagmire. The present system has been appropriated by a greedy political class that is only concerned with personal acquisition of wealth. Deceit, lies and outright manipulation of our fault lines are weapons used by some of our politicians to permanently keep us in chains. Considering the abundant resource Nigeria is blessed with, God should be weeping over a country that is so much blessed but cursed by bad leadership that has failed Nigerians.
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