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Toddling Nation @ 60

Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be” – John Woodenly

Today marks the 60th birthday anniversary of Nigeria’s nationhood. Nobody really is in any celebration mood. The disposition in the country since last month when multiplicity of tariffs and hike on cost of utilities were heaped on the citizens, says it all what we have become at 60 years.

Especially for a people who are still struggling with COVID-19 challenges. Attempts by the nation’s labour force to disrupt this celebration by embarking on nationwide strike in protest for the apparent insensitivity of the regime was averted last minute with some ground shifting by both parties, the federal government and the labour.

Everything about us since October 1, 1960 has been in contradiction and has made us a toddler at 60. It took just six years into our nationhood in 1966 for the bubble to burst and turn the rest of the 54 years ahead into a theatre of the absurd. Young officers of the nation’s military apparently driven by some patriotic zeal to stem the emerging wrong flow from political leaders staged a coup and disrupted the political process.

The error in the execution of the coup turned the rest of our polity upside down ever since. The coup was to be the nation’s nemeses as it laid the foundation for what was to be the continuous tumbling in our politics. The mean-well coup was turned sour following the poor and inept handling that was to underscore our ethnic and religious inclinations early in our life as a nation.

That singular action of the first military coup that turned the country’s polity on its head at such early age, did not come from the blues, it was a consequence of the failure of early politicians to harness the young nation’s rich and envious potentials.

The mismanagement cum misconstruing of the coup snowballed into what has become an unending national crisis. It resulted in what was to follow, over a dozen military coups, retaliatory and counter coups ranging from 1966 climaxing in 1993 when the then Minister of Defence, Gen. Sani Abacha, sacked the wobbly and wonky Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan.

These 30 years of military rule brought with it into our system unprecedented corruption, crimes of all kinds, various abuses and above all the institutional decay and urban dislocation. The attendant policy somersault under the military regimes made sure that the political structure was destroyed and fashioned to favour the oligarchy of the times. In its avowed mission to correct the ills of the politicians, the juntas ended up muddling the country by introducing a central government.

Ever since, marginalization and injustice have taken awful place in the nation’s politics. When democracy returned to the country after 30 years of military rule in 1999, what was left behind ensured that proper federalism was impracticable. Without true federalism under democracy, the injustice and structural imbalance continued and became so pronounced that the system is permanently put under scrutiny.

In our 60 years as a nation we have witnessed several military coups, a civil war rated as the worst human genocide in human history that lasted for 30 months and took over three million lives.

In addition, the country has been waging fratricidal war of an unprecedented dimension where a section of the citizens declares a terrorist war against the rest of the country in the name of religion. Millions of lives have also been lost in this mindless act that is still on-going as we mark this birthday. In fact, on the eve of this birthday a governor narrowly escaped being killed by the terrorists.

The tinge in both the civil war and the raging insurgence in the country is the perpetuation of injustice by successive leaders who hide under the sentiment of religion and tribe. So, at 60 we are a nation in contraction due to the moral burden arising from inept leadership over time.

This expectedly breeds many evils in society, corruption being the chief of all that has virtually brought our nation to her knees while those who directly and indirectly found their way to political power have all walked home fat milking her dry. The consequences of all these are overwhelming; at 60 years we are a retarded nation in infrastructural development. Our movement has been in a reverse gear in so many ways.

At independent we had a transportation system that was progressing from cycles and bikes to auto, but at 60 motorbikes have dominated our means of movement across the land. This is happening as the rest of the World are moving up with the new technologies. At independent, our people were being encouraged to embrace formal marketing from where it was being expected that they will progress to mall system of trading, but as we mark our 60th birthday as a nation, we are deteriorating to street and roadside trading because there was no planning that factored anybody into the system.

No wonder it’s said that anybody not planning is already planning to fail. Politically, at 60 years we have been anything but a united country. We have over the years failed woefully to harness our diversity positively. Our loyalty and passion have progressively and dangerously been rested with our tribes and religions.

This has been made more manifest by political leaders who needed the sentiment to protect their incompetence and ineptness. The true picture really today is that as this big tree celebrates its 60 years of existence most of its component branches are asking to be cut off from the main. Why because in 60 years they have not seen the gain of remaining in the main as a branch.

As a result, as Nigeria armed and paramilitary forces embark on parade at Eagle Square at the nation’s capital, Abuja, to celebrate this day, one of the three main ethnic groups that make up Nigeria, the Yoruba are in Ibadan launching their Oduduwa Republic and asking for a referendum to enable them formalize their exit from Nigeria.

The story of the other major ethnic group, the Igbo and their unending demand for secession is already an over flogged issue. Even as Nigeria tried to outlaw its vociferous group, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), by declaring it a terrorist organization in the hope that such action could downplay the agitation, but the reverse has been the case instead as ideas are hardly caged since they are in the mind. There is a sit-at-home order today from this group in that region in protest.

The minimum demand from the larger section of the country today, four out of the six geo-political regions, the South-South, South-East, South-West and North-Central is the restructuring of the country to enthrone a full-fledged federal system. So, at 60 years this country with all its abundant mineral and human resources has been toddling with no clear sign of growing past this unsteady age to maturity.

In the contest of all the issues and more raised in this narration, the question begging for answer is, should we have been a nation at all? Shouldn’t it have been better if the 1914 amalgamation had not taken place? Was the amalgamation really in our interest as a nation or in the interest of those who did it then, the British? Therefore, in conclusion, at 60 years, time is ripe for the country to sit down and take a retrospective examination at its nationhood with a view to deciding on the way forward as six decades in the age of a nation is enough to determine its own destination.

Finally, however, we may have failed in so many ways looking back at 60 years as a nation, but we must embrace America’s motivational speaker and writer, Denis Waitley who admonished in a situation like ours that “failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It’s temporary detour, not a dead end”. Happy Birthday Nigeria.

 

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