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Knocks as Nigeria celebrates 60th Independence for 365 days

•50yrs after Civil War: We’re scared as pre-war indices are here again

 

Sixty years after Nigeria’s Independence and 50 years after the country’s Civil War, Nigerians are scared, even more worried that the indices that plunged the nation into the Civil War of 1967- 70 are prevalent, even more at the country’s 60th independence. Yet the government plans to celebrate for a whole 365 days amid scarcity, hunger, senseless killings, kidnappings, corruption, injustices and marginalisation among others. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

 

“Every Independence Day brings a sense of foreboding for Nigeria and Nigerians. You look everywhere for a sign of something to smile about, something to hope for, something to find encouraging, and something to cling to and you are looking for a needle in a haystack,” says Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Diocese of the Catholic Church.

 

“The frustrations mounts, the criminal political and bureaucratic classes get more daring in their exploits, stealing the country blind and leaving an entire nation bleeding.

 

Yet we had a joke called fighting corruption and we even set up a Commission,” he continued. “But guess what, from its inception till date, not one of its Chairmen has finished his or her term. The current Ag Chairman whom the Presidency has continued to build a moral world around is now facing massive corruption charges,” he lamented.

 

He said it’s a case of what happens when the hunter becomes the hunted, saying, “Yes, our anniversary is here, but Ali Baba and his 40 friends are still in charge. Nigeria’s internal conflict is ‘a Molotov cocktail of anger,’ frustration, religious extremism, toxic politics, corruption and deep rut.”

 

The fiery Bishop Kukah, who spoke in Crux’s interview ahead of the country’s 60th Independence Day, planned to be celebrated for 365 days spanning October 1, 2020 to October 1, 2021, said Catholic bishops have called for a period of 40-days prayer in preparation for the anniversary, which began on August 22, calling for peace.

 

Kukah continued: “The bishops have called for an end to the killings and several other Nigerians have made the same call, including the leadership of the Muslims which has, rather strangely been harder hit.

 

“Nigeria has suffered from attacks by the Boko Haram terrorist group in the Northeast and Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, where the Muslim north meets the Christian south.

 

“The walls of Jericho fell not by gun fire but by prayer. The walls of Communism crumbled not by nuclear power but by, among other things, prayer. “We, in Nigeria, are quite at home with what prayers can do and have done for us. For us as Christians, we have no standing army, but it is the most powerful weapon we have.

 

So, it is a call to prayer, and it will achieve what God plans for us.” Speaking on the security situation in the country at 60, he said the Catholic bishops have told the president to resign if he cannot lead or secure the country, but that has not happened, saying they only have a moral voice which they have used very well.

 

He said: “Stalin mocked the Pope, wondering how many divisions the Pope had. Today, we know better. I cannot describe the security situation; neither can anyone in an interview of this sort.

 

But Nigeria is literally caught in a vortex of violence and every segment and section of the country is feeling it in different ways. “It is just a matter of scale and where you are looking. It is, however, significant to note that the theatre of war is northern Nigeria and the key actors and most destructive forces are those fighting for an Islamic caliphate.

 

“A northerner is in power, northerners are in charge of the security apparatus, and so on. So, this is where we are. Nigerian conflict is a Molotov cocktail of anger, frustration, religious extremism, toxic politics, corruption and deep rut. “I think this government has honestly done its best.

 

This is all it can do and this is the hand that fate has dealt us. If you challenge Mike Tyson and you are knocked out in the first few seconds, you may have done your best because that is all the strength you have. “This is why we said if your best is not good enough, please step aside.

 

However, the President himself has told the Service Chiefs that their best is not good enough but as you know, it has all become a joke. That is why prayer is the best approach in this truly dangerous place. “You sow corruption, you reap poverty. No two ways about it.

 

The day the political elite decide to play by the rules of politics and try to manage pluralism better, we will see its impact on poverty and safety in Nigeria. There is a correlation between economic conditions and people’s predisposition to violence. “Politicians were meant to build bridges, but they only build bridges to steal votes or the commonwealth.

 

If the political elite are not prepared to do their job, they make it easy for violence to continue and the persistence of violence knocks on the door of those who control the stock exchange of violence-the military! And we do not need that because they have often been worse than the diseases they have come to cure.”

 

A Professor of History, Banji Akintoye, who is vociferous in the way and manner Nigeria is being run since independence in 1960 and 50 years after the end of the Nigerian Civil War said every good and right thinking Nigerian has a first-class reason to be scared that the indices that plunged the country into 1967-70 civil war are still alive, and even more today.

 

He said: “We have good reasons to fear today that the character of the affairs of our country and the prevailing mood among us Nigerians are chillingly similar to the character of the affairs of our country in the months leading to our Civil War.”

Prof. Akintoye observed that 60 years after independence and 50 years after the Nigerian Civil War, the government of the country  is being managed in ways that make it look like the exclusive preserve of a particular minority, which has triggered other regions feeling of insecurity in ruling clan. Akintoye was quoted in an editorial of one of the leading national dailies of January 24, 2020 titled, ‘50 Years after the Civil War.’

Speaking on the planned 365 days independence celebration, an elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, an Afenifere chieftain, said President Muhammadu Buhari and his party are joking and unfortunately toying with the destiny of the country. He said the only reason someone can tell the rest of the country that he wants to spend a whole year to mark the anniversary of a nation that is in a crisis for one whole year is lack of respect for the entire citizens of Nigeria.

 

He said: “Before, we are talking of restructuring but today, each of the ethnic nationalities is clamouring for secession and to stand on their own due to this feeling of insecurity. All regions are seeking for right to self-determination. “Nigerians no longer trust the Buhari’s government. As we speak, there is killing in Katsina, the home state of Mr. President, there are killings in Kaduna, Ekiti and the rest and some group of people want to mark Independence anniversary for a year? It’s another avenue for corruption.”

 

A former Commissioner in Kaduna State and the current spokesman of the Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Isuwa Dogo, said: “If Buhari truly meant to unite Nigeria what he should do is to simply adopt the report of the 2014 National Conference and implement it. “Instead of spending 365 days to mark Independence, he can as well spend three months to study the contents of the 2014 National Conference report and use it to restructure the country.

 

The unity that has escaped would return immediately.” Dogo, advise the president to remove the face of ethnicity and religion from his various appointments just as he said he should change the incumbent security chiefs, who  were bereft of ideas regarding how to save the country.

 

Dogo said the exercise would not only amount to a waste of resources and time but also would achieve nothing. In another reaction, the Secretary General of Yoruba Council of Elders (YCS), Dr. Kunle Olajide said it was good that Nigeria still remained united but that all the indices of progress and development were no longer intact. “I don’t see what the one year sensitization will achieve if the needful is not done.

 

We need to go back to all the conference reports and government should immediately set up a committee to look at them and think of how to implement them in collaboration with the National Assembly.”

 

The Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Chido Onumah said insecurity has steadily worsened, stating that terrorists, bandits, gun and machete-wielding herdsmen and kidnappers have become unstoppable, turning the country into a massive graveyard.

 

According to the Nigerian Security Tracker, 25,794 people were killed between 2015 and 2019. More than 100,000 persons have been killed by Boko Haram while 1.9million people have been displaced since its murderous campaign began in 2009. Former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, said in a report in February 4, Nigeria’s northern land borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon are major suspected routes of the inflow of illicit arms and ammunition into the country, which fuels the orgy of bloodbath.

 

Onumah said Nigeria’s abysmal failure in security has forced some states and regions to consider self-help, as well as moved the two houses of the National Assembly to pass a resolution calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to sack the security chiefs. He noted other indices of growth and development, are also progressively on the decline. Population is growing at three per cent while economic growth is just about two per cent. Life expectancy rate is 55 years, the third lowest in the world.

 

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the life expectancy of an average Nigerian is only better than those of the people of Sierra-Leone, Chad and the Central African Republic. UNFPA noted that even war-torn Afghanistan and Somalia have a higher life expectancy, at 65 and 58 respectively, saying that electricity consumption is at a meagre 3,500 to 4,000MW. It noted that unemployment is rising, reaching an all-time high of 23.10% in the third quarter of 2018.

 

Onumah continued: “There are 13.5m outof- school children and the number is growing. Politically, the electoral process is still largely being manipulated and there seems to be no solution to the endemic corruption in the country. “And most embarrassing of all, in June 2018 the World Poverty Clock indicated Nigeria had overtaken India as the poverty capital of the world.

 

The country now has the largest number of people living in extreme poverty with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, said to be living on less than $2.00 or N700.00 per day. “Most Nigerians hold the view that six decades after independence, the country has failed to work for them in a way that is satisfactory. Based on current reality, there are citizens who think a bloody revolution, as it happened in Ghana under Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, is the only solution to the country’s problem.

 

“There are also those who argue that the fundamentals of nationhood are flawed, that Nigeria as presently constituted is not a workable union and, therefore, cannot deliver national security, peace, justice and development. These issues and more are what will be addressed in the proposed book.

“The new decade will be a defining moment for Nigeria. Sixty years after independence, fifty years after a civil war, and at the beginning of a new decade, it is important that a new generation of citizens is challenged to reposition the country. “The future of Nigeria is in the hands of the youth. The youth are the social forces that would bring change to the country. How they handle it will determine where the country goes.

 

“This project challenges them to chart a roadmap that outlines a future that works for the good of the greatest number of compatriots; one that will put the country on the path of growth and development.”

 

A historian, Professor Yakubu Ochefu, has described Nigeria as a country on its “third missionary” journey to a truly democratic nation. Ochefu notes that the corporate existence of the country has been tested twice. It was formally broken once (1967-70) and pronounced broken once (April 1990). It took a horrible civil war to restore the entity when it was broken and an equally brutal attempted coup when it was pronounced.”

 

The New Nigeria Collective (NNC), a nongovernment organisation, in a communiqué signed by its Chairman, Adeola Adewunmi and Secretary, Olutunbosun Osifowora, challenged the government to as a matter of urgency, address some low points in the administration such as constant borrowings, allegation of lack of transparency in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, insecurity challenges and the redundancy of Vice- President, Yemi Osinbajo.

 

While pondering some of the downsides of the administration in the last five years, the NNC noted that the government must address the allegation of lack of transparency in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, which is tantamount to irresponsibility to let it slide. It urged the government to be wary of its constant borrowings for projects that do not have commercial values or that can adequately guarantee a smooth repayment plan, including the cost of servicing the loans.

 

It reads in part: “The NNC noted with disappointment, the constant rivalry amongst some of the inter-governmental agencies, citing the recent drama that attended a disagreement between the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami and the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

 

“The NNC noted the unceasing insecurity, particularly, the unabated killings in the northern part of the country. While noting the efforts of the security agencies to stem the tide, NNC noted that the situation requires more deliberate actions to stamp the scourge out of the system.

 

“The NNC observed as a low point in the life of the administration, the seeming redundancy of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The NNC is of the view that the Vice-President has a lot to offer and should be deployed to better use. The group also alluded to the alleged nepotism of the administration and advised an appointment spread that typifies Nigeria’s differences as a social entity.” Recall that Nigerian Government on Wednesday said that Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary celebration will be observed for a whole year, ending September 30th, 2021.

 

This came as President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the logo and theme for the 60th independence anniversary celebration. The brief ceremony was conducted just before the weekly virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Buhari said the anniversary celebration would be held low-key this year, attributing the development to the scourge of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

 

The president, who spoke after the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, gave insight into how the logo was adopted and the modalities guiding the anniversary celebration, adding that his administration would henceforth ensure inclusiveness. According to the President, the theme of the year’s anniversary: ‘Together Shall We Be,’ has been chosen in order to forge a more united and cohesive Nigeria.

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