Nigerians today celebrate the 60th anniversary of the country’s independence from British colonial rule. For most, it is a diamond event that offers the nation an opportunity to reassess herself in retrospect. Within those years, it is pertinent to emphasise that Nigeria has had her own fair share of experiences in nation—building. Those years came with their own challenges and prospects. Six years after independence, the country had the bitter taste of political instability that resulted in coups and counter coups. The crisis that followed was badly managed and led to a 30-month civil war. The country survived it in one piece and has been able to rebuild, recording, in the process, one of her greatest achievements as a nation.
Democracy suffered under a series military administrations. Bruised but trudges on, sustaining itself in the past 21 unbroken years. For us as a nation, this is a feat that cannot be ignored in our contemporary history.
Unarguably, Nigeria is yet to realize its full potentials within this period but it is, nonetheless, work in progress side-stepping debilitating factors that impinge on its developmental strides. These include corruption, nepotism, religious bigotry and, until recently, insecurity heightened by terrorism and banditry.
The nation’s underdevelopment, to a limited extent is self-inflicted. Her greatest challenge in the view of this newspaper is the quality of leadership which had not demonstrated the kind of vision that propels a nation to greatness. The country has not been able to successfully wean itself from over dependence on oil. After the discovery of the hydrocarbon, agriculture and other sectors of the economy that had sustained the country even in colonial times were abandoned. The consequence is the preponderance of poverty in the midst of plenty. According to a 2018 report by the World Poverty In-dex, 86.9 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty. This obnoxious situation is compounded by massive unemployment among the youth with its concomitant side effect of anti-social behaviour.
Sadly, insecurity has also been an albatross. Rather than abate, this ugly phenomenon has continued to multiply in different forms. From kidnapping to armed robbery, we have graduated to a full terrorised country, courtesy of Boko Haram and armed bandits. A new report, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) has ranked Nigeria the third terrorism most impacted country in the world. Only Afghanistan and Iraq which ranked first and second respectively are ahead of Nigeria as countries that suffered most from terrorism.
Regrettably, one major impediment to growth and development of the country has been the thorny issue of ethnicity and religion. Most Nigerians first see themselves as Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba or Igbo, Christian or Muslim not as a Nigerian. It goes without saying that Nigeria has not been able to achieve nationhood and unity in 60 years in the real sense of it.
In our considered opinion, time has come to discard zoning for merit and competence to determine the presidency of the country. We believe every state and zone in the country has competent people to lead the affairs of the Nigeria. That, in our view, is the only way to achieve the quality and level of leadership this nation craves for.
However, it has not been doom and gloom all the way as some considerable progress has, no doubt, been made. After 60 years as a nation, though of disparate groups, we have remained one. Our diversity has remained our major strength. The present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is striving to complete some legacy infrastructural projects like the rail and road projects left halfway by the previous governments. Also, the COVID -19 pandemic has led to a revolution in the health sector as massive investments now flow in to rebuild and reposition the sector.
Interestingly, and commendably, this administration is diversifying the economy to wean it off the mono-cultural dependence on oil. Agricultural and solid minerals are becoming dependable as the nation strives to expand her sources of revenue.
Without doubt, democracy is taking its pride of place as the accepted system of governance. There are some hiccups here and there but it has come to stay with its potentials as a catalyst for sustainable development.
Nigerians, indeed, have a lot to celebrate as they mark 60 years as an independent nation.
All that is required is for the political class to put their act together so as to place the country on a sound footing economically. It is gratifying to note that the Buhari administration has pledged to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. We urge him to also strengthen the electoral system by leaving a legacy of free, free and credible elections, build and strengthen the democratic institutions in his remaining years in office. We congratulate all Nigerians.