In less than 72 hours, Nigerians will mark 59 years of their country’s political freedom from the British colonialists. Considering the nation’s achievements and travails, there are differing opinions as to whether Nigerians should celebrate or wallow in lamentations. Taking into cognisance the frightful clouds of uncertainties in the nation’s political firmaments, the fate of country still hangs on the precipice. In a time like this, Nigerians are wont to ask themselves: Is the country on the fixed path of fulfilling the lofty dreams of the founding fathers? Can it be generally said that, though the present impairments of nation building weigh greatly against us, our nation is on a sure foot in realising national goals?
Since the lowering of the British flag on October 1, 1960, Nigeria has become a laboratory on how a nation has acquired the notoriety for dancing on the cliff. The twine of hope that precariously blew over the country at independence would suddenly take a plunge into the abyss of human catastrophe. Due to ethnic tensions and fight for political supremacy among various contending forces during the early years of freedom, Nigeria would be engaged in a bitter civil war that lasted 30 months. Under the youthful leadership of General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), the country emerged from the war mortally wounded, but also hopeful of rebuilding a country rising from the smoldering heat of ethnic suspicion. Gowon’s irrevocable commitment to healing the wounds of our nation from the pit of balkanisation accounted for the initial success of national reconciliation.
The military officer, who hails from Pankshin, later got booted out of power in July 1976 when he reneged on his promise to return the country to democracy. His successor, General Muhammed Ramat Murtala, set the pace for the eventual return of democracy on October 1, 1979. His life was later snuffed out by rogue elements in the military. General Olusegun Obasanjo, who succeeded Murtala, wasted no time in working towards the return of democracy as earlier promised by his predecessor.
However, democracy only survived as a fleeting vision as the military struck again in the dying hours of 1983, sacking the government of President Shehu Shagari that was accused of running a corruption-ridden administration. Leading the military putsch was Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, then General Officer Commanding (GOC) Jos Division. The lanky and unsmiling Katsina officer, described as a tough military officer, would later be overthrown by his colleagues in a bloodless palace coup in August 1985.
Then came General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida whose footprints in the nation’s history has remained a subject of contentious discourse. IBB is reputed to have spearheaded several reforms, especially the liberalization of the economy in an unprecedented manner. Despite several attempts to remove him from power, the Minna General survived the vicious intrigues of his colleagues. By the time he stepped aside from the saddle in August 1993, he had become the nation’s longest survivor of military coups. His longtime friend, Major-General Mamman Vatsa, was among other elite military officers of global reckoning to succumb to the coup intrigues.
The lame duck Interim National Government (ING), headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan, got shot down in November 1993 by General Sani Abacha who, all along, had always been seen as a successor to IBB. The dark-goggled General from Kano ruled for nearly five years. He succumbed to death in June 1998 when preparation for his political transmutation into a civilian president was at its peak. His demise and later that of Chief MKO Abiola in July of the same year opened yet another opportunity to pull the country from the precipice in the aftermath of public outcries against the annulment of June 12 presidential poll that was presumed to have been won by the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
With both Abacha and Abiola dead, the emergence of General Abubakar Abdulsalami (rtd) as head of state saw to the shortest transition programme ever conducted in the country. Though a cacophony of opposing voices were virulent against the choice of a former head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was contesting as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 1999 elections, the inauguration of the Obasanjo as an elected president would temporarily save a nation whose fortunes had been saved, and suffered, in the hands of professional coup plotters.
It’s been over 20 years since the dawn of the present democracy that has seen PDP ruling the country for 16 years. The All Progressives Congress (APC) torpedoed the PDP’s hold on power in 2015. Both parties are in court over the 2019 presidential poll. Throughout these years, it’s been a potpourri of fates for a nation whose hope of development has always been hinged on the return of democracy. Sadly, during these 20 years of unbroken democracy, Nigerian have witnessed the monsters of corruption growing into a size never before seen. Gloom has replaced the hope of a people whose quest for democracy has been hijacked by a few political actors.
It’s not to be controverted that the country has witnessed development in various sectors, but these strides have been diminished by the rattling scope of corruption, insecurity and poor management of the nation’s resources that presently ail the country. The summation of Nigerians’ experience with democracy since 1999 to date is that of political brigandage deployed by overwhelming number of political actors to stultify growth of the country. More than the monstrous corruption that pervaded past jackboot regimes, the over 20 years of Nigeria’s democracy have portrayed our political leadership as greedy, selfish and devoid of critical thinking.
Nigeria @59 is the picture of a nation whose quest for growth has been effectively replaced with leadership deficits in all sectors of national life. It is a tragedy that Nigerian politicians are far more interested in buying houses in Dubai and other European countries, among others, than providing infrastructure for national development. From their Olympian heights of comfort, Nigerian leaders have successfully turned the country into Farm House solely set up to provide for their comforts. They are never committed to the emancipation of the citizenry from the clutches of grinding poverty that is now the unbearable burden of nearly 100 million people.
Little wonder, in nearly three scores of our political sovereignty, Nigeria is now the global capital of poverty. This newly acquired status has sentenced citizens to a life of biting misery made worse by insecurity that has driven many into various Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps. Boko Haram, though declared technically defeated by the military, still sends shivers down the spines of many terrified citizens as the group continues to amplify its capacity to unleash destruction on both troops and innocent Nigerians.
Apart from Boko Haram’s murderous expedition in mostly states of North-east geo-political zone, kidnappers and bandits are having unhindered access and making merchandise of our people. The North-west states of Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, among others in the country, have become safe havens for abductions, with the Abuja-Kaduna train service now providing succour to even serving military generals who now prefer the safety of these trains than face the sophisticated weapons of bandits who now collude with rogue security officials to perpetrate despicable actions.
Nigeria @59 is an unbroken tongue of treachery of what a nation should be. Apart from abandoning national goals premised on achieving the best for the overall majority of her citizens, the political leadership has cornered national resources through exposing our fault lines of ethnicity and religion, among others, to keep us permanently divided at all times. Herein lies the dilemma of a potential nation whose avaricious leadership cannot be questioned by a sheepish citizenry involved in the worship of wealth and prosperity.