“Is the glass half empty or half full?” is a common expression generally used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for pessimism (half-empty) or optimism (half full)!
Psychologists use simple tests like this to determine whether a person tends to be an optimist or a pessimist. Optimists will usually say the glass is half-full, whereas pessimists will usually point out that it’s half-empty.
In examining Nigeria at 61, I have chosen to lay emphasis on “half full”, but I cannot ignore the reasons why some of our countrymen see the cup as half empty.
At independence in 1960, there were high hopes for Nigeria by Nigerians and friends of Nigeria. Alas, only a few of these expectations have been met, while many have remained a mirage. One of the expectations met thus far is that Nigeria has remained one country.
In the decades after it was established, the Russian-dominated Soviet Union grew into one of the world’s most powerful and influential states and eventually encompassed 15 republics–Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. In 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved following the collapse of its communist government.
USSR was a nation of cultural, religious and ethnic diversity, but it could not hold together, while Nigeria, a country of many nations, has remained a united nation, even after fighting a civil war that took over 3million lives.
Singapore was kicked out of Malaysia, Pakistan separated from India, Eritrea separated from Ethiopia, Yugoslavia dissolved as one nation, and the list goes on, yet Nigeria despite all the fault lines has remained a united nation.
Sadly, the unity of the country is being taken for granted, now, there is a lot of anger in the land which is testing our unity. Separatist groups are emerging in various parts of the country, mainly because the diversity of the nation is not taken into consideration in decision making.
Our founding fathers understood the value of education and human capital development in the emerging nation. They understood that any society that seeks to thrive must, first, invest in its human capital, as it is the individual that makes up the society. One of the areas Nigeria has done well is in education.
In 1959, the Ashby commission, was set up by the federal government to advise on the needs of the higher education sector in the country. The following year, however, the eastern region would establish its own university – The University of Nigeria, Nsukka – at Nsukka. Two years later, in 1962, the Western region and Northern region would follow suit by establishing the University of Ife, which would later become Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, respectively. The federal government would also create the University of Lagos, as well as make the University College, Ibadan, a full-fledged university, in the same year. Thus, the UCI and the University of Lagos became the country’s first federal universities. The other universities, however, remained regional. In 1970, the Midwestern region joined the Northern, Eastern, and Western region in owning a university, as it established the University of Benin.
Today there are 170 universities in Nigeria. As of 2021, 79 were private, federal universities amounted to 43, while state universities were 48. It was the Nigeria’s education system that produced Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and father of African Literature Chinua Achebe, two of Nigeria’s literary exports to the world. Many doctors that are making waves in advanced countries like United States, UK, Canada among others are Nigerians who also attended schools in Nigeria before moving abroad in search of greener pasture.
Nigeria receives billions of dollars from Diasporas’ remittances through these Nigerians.
There are many Nigerians trained in this country who are involved in cutting edge scientific research and development outside our shores.
One of such Nigerians is Dr Onyema Ogbuagu, an Associate Professor of Medicine who was part of Pfizer and BioNtech team that developed COVID-19 Vaccine. He had earlier studied Medicine at University of Calabar.
It is not only in education that we have made a lot of progress. The nation has also done well on the level of infrastructural development. Several communities have been connected by road networks, electricity and pipe borne water, more than we had in 1960. Could we have done better? Of course we could have done better as a nation in terms of infrastructural development when you compare our present level of infrastructural development to other nations who achieved Independence with us in 1960.
At independence very few Nigerians had access to communication technology. Today more Nigerians and communities are reachable by phone. The number of smartphone users in Nigeria, is forecast to grow to more than 140 million by 2025. Currently, estimates from different sources put the number of smartphone users in Nigeria at roughly 25 and 40 million. The exact number of users is hard to pin down – however, the data found shows a strong growth outlook for the Nigerian smartphone market with user numbers to at least triple within the next five to six years. This was a far cry from the telephone density back in 1960.
We are today the largest economy in Africa. Our manufacturing industry has grown to the level where Nigerian made vehicles by Innoson Motors and others can compete with those manufactured elsewhere in Europe, United States and Asia in terms of durability and quality. We have become self sufficient in cement manufacturing, as gone were the days when imported cement used to clog our ports. Today a Nigerian cement conglomerate is dominating the continent. A Nigerian telecommunication company is a major player in the country and beyond.
Our own Nollywood is the second largest movie producing entity in the world, rubbing shoulders with Hollywood of United States and Bollywood of India. We don’t only dominate the movie industry in Africa we have conquered the world music industry through Afrobeat, which has brought in scare foreign exchange and respect for Nigeria in particular and Africa in general.
In sport we are third time African Cup of Nations Champion; and the first African national football team to win Olympic Gold Medal, even as our soccer stars have become household names around the world.
At Independence our financial institutions were dominated by the British, today that is not the case. The banking and insurance companies are presently dominated by Nigerians who run mega banks with branches all over the world with some of them quoted in New York and London Stock Exchanges.
In the area of security, we have fought three years civil war. We are fighting Boko Haram for over 10 years now and the war is ongoing. We are also fighting bandits and we are still here, as one country. We must show commitment in rooting out terrorists terrorizing Nigerians.
We are Africa’s biggest economy and ironically also the poverty capital of the world, which are such an odd mix and a reminder that something is very wrong with our situation, which needs to be addressed.
We dominate entertainment industry in Africa and the world has taken notice of our prowess in that sector but all these were achieved through individual efforts of film makers and musicians without government support. The sector needs government support because of its potential in job creation and lifting of Nigerians out of poverty.
There is no doubt that Nigeria and Nigerians have endured a lot. What had broken other nations has not broken us. But how long shall we continue to overstretch the ties that bind us before it breaks? That is why as we mark 61 years of nationhood we must work to unite our country.
We must work towards peace, justice, equity and fairness, for that is the only way to sustain our unity going forward. Anything short of this means that Nigeria is living on borrowed time, and it will not be long things will fall apart.