The founding fathers of Nigeria such as Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Osita Agwuna, Anthony Enahoro, Mokwugo Okoye, and others never envisaged that Nigeria would become a laughing stock and butt of jokes among the comity of nations given her abundant natural and human resources. They thought that successive Nigerian leaders would harness our natural and human resources to build a virile, economically prosperous, technologically – advanced, and a united nation. But their dream as well as vision for a great Nigeria has become a mirage.
But why has Nigeria been retrogressing instead of progressing since October 1, 1960, when the British Union Jack was lowered and Nigeria’s green and white flag hoisted to signify Nigeria’s attainment of political sovereignty? Ethnic animosity, which has existed among the peoples of Nigeria, is one of the causes of Nigeria’s disunity. And our disunity hinders the development of Nigeria.
In the first republic, our politicians, who were acutely conscious of their ethnic origins, promoted ethnic nationalism rather than our national unity. Where the political parties in the first republic not formed along ethnic lines? The AG was to the Yoruba what the NCNC was to the Igbo people. And NPC existed for the promotion of the northern interests.
It should be noted that the January 15, 1966 coup and the July 1966 counter-coup, which disrupted our democratic growth and halted our national development, were caused chiefly by the ethnic distrust, which existed among Nigeria’s ruling political elite. So the political troubles of the 1960s snowballed into the fratricidal Nigeria-Biafra civil war, which caused the ruination of our economy and the destruction of human lives and properties. Millions of Igbo people were needlessly killed in that war.
But corrupt political leadership and the military incursions into our politics had dealt a severe blow to our country. We still remember how the army of occupation misruled Nigeria from 1966 to 1978, and from 1983 to 1999. General Muhammadu Buhari as the Nigerian Head of State between 1983 and 1985 trampled on our fundamental human rights and enacted draconian and retroactive laws to punish law-breakers. And Gen. Babangida (rtd) gained infamy for institutionalizing corruption in Nigeria and cancelling the June 12, 1993, presidential election, which was the freest and fairest presidential election in our political annals.
His military successor, after Ernest Shonekan, head of the interim government, was shoved aside, was Sani Abacha. Abacha possessed sanguinary proclivities and unbridled kleptomania. His loot is still being repatriated to Nigeria many years after he had died, a measure of the magnitude of his pillaging of our financial resources.
President Shehu Shagari was Nigeria’s first executive president. Shagari, who led Nigeria in the second republic between 1979 and 1983, was an exemplification of an inept political leader. Under his watch, corruption thrived, and the country was going to the dogs before the beret boys staged a military coup and installed Gen Buhari as Nigeria’s head of state.
It should be noted that since 1999, Nigeria has had uninterrupted democratic governance with one civilian government handing the baton of leadership to another, seamlessly and peacefully. The PDP led Nigeria for 16 unbroken years until APC, which was a merger of some political parties, dislodged it from its perch. Soon, the APC will mark its eight years of political reign.
But has Nigeria fared better in this fourth republic than in other political dispensations? Have the living conditions of Nigerians improved under President Buhari’s democratic government? The answers to the above questions are categorical no. The fact is that the APC-led government has failed to shore up our economy and create employment opportunities for millions of Nigerians. And in many states of the federation, workers, who are in the employ of state governments, are not paid living wages.
More so, the education sector is so neglected that the quality of education obtainable in public schools has plummeted to the lowest depths. The federal government-ASUU endless face-off aptly depicts the quagmire into which the education sector has sunk. And millions of children of school ages are out of school because their parents cannot afford to keep them in schools. Yet, education is the bedrock of national development.
But more worrisome is the fact that insecurity of lives and property pervades the entire landscape with people being killed on a daily basis by terrorists, Boko Haram insurgents, unknown gunmen, and other deadly non- state actors. Death is so commonplace in Nigeria that victims of terrorist acts do not elicit sympathy from us, anymore. And the federal government’s inability to stem the tide of killings portends grave danger for the sovereignty and integrity of our country.
It is saddening that our political leaders, who cannot tackle the issues threatening to tear Nigeria apart, are jostling to contest for elective posts and making insensitive pronouncements. Not for them is the issue of solving the security challenges besetting Nigeria; not for them is the issue of transforming Nigeria to a technologically and economically advanced country; not for them is the issue of instituting a variant of democratic culture that will ensure that the presidential seat rotate among the six geopolitical zones in the country.
The vision of political apocalypse, which many people have about Nigeria, should be treated as an apocryphal tale at our own peril. The fact is that Nigeria is in great danger of implosion based on the festival of bloodletting. And when millions of unemployed youths are further oppressed and marginalized, they will start to seethe. The outcome and scenario should better be imagined.
Chiedu Uche Okoye writes from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State.
The opinions in this article are solely those of the author.