At 62 Years of independence, Nigeria is known for being the most populous country in Africa! It is an oil producing nation that has generated trillion of dollars that had been largely wasted through mismanagement and corruption. The corruption perpetrated by Nigerian leaders, both military and civilians is the reason why since its independence from Britain the country has consistently been ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world.
It has been reported that since independence Nigeria has lost over $600billion to corruption. It was the UK based The Economist magazine that stated that an estimated $600billion is believed to have been stolen from Nigeria since its Independence in 1960. The story was published in its online edition of October 10, 2019. The Economist published thus, “Light-fingered tyrants are looking back wistfully. In past decades they could stash their illicit wealth in the West. Friendly lawyers, banks and middlemen were on hand to park the loot. Sani Abacha, the military dictator who ran Nigeria in the 1990s, deposited billions of dollars in banks across the rich world, no questions asked. Western governments often seemed equally unfussed.”
The present leadership that made corruption campaign issue in 2015 and was elected has not fulfilled its promise to ” kill corruption.”
Instead, corruption has continued to wax strong and is now even stronger than ever before. While public servants in the First Republic were accused by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu in his 1966 coup speech of collecting ten percent kickback from contracts, nowadays the public servants and elected officials collect 100 percent or more of the contract sum without executing anything at all. Yet the same contract will also appear in subsequent years budgets.
The corruption in the country has become means of wealth acquisition by the political elites and top civil servants at the expense of the rest of the country. It is therefore fair to state that while Nigerian elites are enjoying the best of life, the vast majority of Nigerians are wallowing in penury, hunger and starvation. The proof of that is the fact that Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world, where more than 100million people live on less than one dollar a day and having over 33 percent unemployment rate and inflation rate of over 20 percent. Similarly, the government revenue has become too low that the country is having difficulties in serving its debt and borrows money to pay salaries.
The education system has dropped from the lofty heights that the colonial masters left behind in 1960 to today where university students are at home for over seven months due to the strike embarked by the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) while the country has over 13 million out of school children. In the area of security, the elites have cornered the police to themselves to protect them and families while the rest of the public are protected by what remains of the police and are often not enough to protect the people.
At the time of Independence in 1960 Nigeria was not known for insurgency, banditry, killings and sacking of communities by non-state actors. What we are witnessing is the result of leadership failure. If Nigerian leaders had been proactive, they would have foreseen the growing population of our people and plan for their education, health, employment and would have averted the present crisis we are facing in these sectors where the children of the elites are educated abroad because the education system has collapsed and the public schools left for the children of the impoverished Nigerians. The same thing is also playing out in the health sector where the hospitals have become ‘mere consulting clinics’ as the elites rush abroad to treat ordinary headache. It has become normalized that Presidents of the country routinely goes to London for medical checkup and treatment. The consequences are high death rate as a result of poorly equipped hospitals and personnel at home.
Agriculture which used to be the backbone of the economy before and after independence has been neglected by our leaders. Recall that the Western Region was largely developed with cocoa production and export and was the main source of fund for the building of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife and the free education of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo leadership of the Western Region. Similarly, the Ahmadu Bello University was the product of the Northern prowess in agriculture. This was also the case in the establishment of Nigeria’s first indigenous university, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN). Today the agriculture sector has been destroyed by the neglect of the sector as the elites embark on massive importation of food from all over the world because they are content with the ‘cheap’ crude oil money they are stealing from the public coffers. The situation is so terrible that a major exporter of crude oil like Nigeria does not refine its own crude oil for domestic use, instead import refined fuel from abroad, thereby making Africa’s largest economy a bad example on how not to manage natural resources.
Aside the importation of food that had killed the drive for agricultural productivity, another major threat to agriculture is the killing of farmers in their farms and communities which has set back Nigeria’s agriculture. It is no longer news that in many parts of the country especially in the North Central and North West killer herders masquerading as bandits have killed many farmers and those alive only practice agriculture at the pleasure of the bandits. In many of these farming communities’ bandits demand payment before farmers are allowed to cultivate their ancestral lands and also pay to harvest their crops. The farmers are also forced to farm for the bandits.
Also, numerous farmers that had been kidnapped and their family members forced to pay humongous amount of money as ransom to get them freed without the security agencies showing much drive to deal ruthlessly with these outlaws.
The indication is clear that after 62 years of independence, security is only for the rich and powerful while the poor farmers and ordinary Nigerians are left at the mercy of bandits and terrorists. As I write, there are still many Nigerians in the bandits’ camp kidnapped from the Kaduna-Abuja train attack over four months ago. There are also several hundred in the detention camps of bandits and terrorists unreported in the media whose family members may never see again because they have no money to pay for their release. To these victims and their families, what does it matter that Nigeria is marking 62 years of independence when the leadership could not provide the least requirement of statehood, which is the protection of lives and properties?
If we thoroughly examine Nigeria’s development trajectory from 1960 to date, we can safely say that we have failed in meeting the dreams of the founding fathers of the country. Years of military dictatorship and civil administration characterised by corruption have killed the dream of a country that hold so much promise 62 years ago. The country is now at a period when it is classed among the failing states of the world. However, despite the terrible state of the country, all hope is not lost. The country in a couple of months would be voting in a general election to elect new set of leaders. If we get it wrong, we will still be singing the same old song when Nigeria turns 63.
MAY NIGERIA REBOUND