There are divergent views on celebrating Nigeria’s independence. I believe that what we need is a reflection on what the country has become in these 63 years. However, there are a lot of people who feel Nigeria is worth celebrating. For instance, in 1960, there was no Abuja, the federal capital, and the road linking it to Kaduna and Kano. We had only a few universities in the 1960s, but today we have over 70 public universities with hundreds of private ones. We had few public broadcast stations owned by the states and the federal government, today we have over 500 TV and radio stations scattered all over the country owned by both the state and individuals. With these achievements, they say the anniversary is worth celebrating.
On the other hand, there are those who argue that independence celebration should come with gratitude and excitement of achievements; that we should not be celebrating insecurity, NLC/TUC strikes, ASUU strikes, CBN governor in DSS custody, an accountant general who was accused of stealing N109bn, etc. What they want to see is upward mobility, progress, improvement, growth and development in all ramifications of socio-economic and political wellbeing of Nigerians.
However, looking at the condition of the poor today, the level of infrastructural decay, hyper-inflation, insecurity, unemployment and poverty, the indices are enough to scare any right thinking Nigerian. The scariest part is the attitude of our political class from 2015 to early 2023. These are people who came with a promise of “change”, but in 2023, when they were leaving, they left the country worse than they met it.
While from 1999 to 2015 we were complaining about decay in infrastructure and stealing of public resources, what we saw from 2015 to early 2023 was a group of people in the corridors of power, with access to state resources, whose idea of governance was just contestation for personalised unaccountable power – from the president, members of NASS, governors to other elected officials, they behaved like emperors. We saw a clear lack of real capacity for leadership.
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Our fear is that after 63 years of independence, the Nigerian state’s capacity to defend its territory and provide internal security for its citizens is being challenged by non-state actors. For over a decade now, a ragtag militia is terrorising Nigerian citizens with the government at the centre looking more and more helpless.
Added to this was the political class’ nonchalant attitude towards delivering administrative services and public goods like health and education.
As we celebrate our 63rd anniversary, we need to focus our attention on working for a country that can accommodate the poor and the rich by ensuring that we provide internal security for our people to live in peace without threat from terrorists. We have to make efforts to address the out-of-school children that are daily growing with our population. We need to “renew” our hope in the government’s ability to provide public good, especially health and education, for no nation can grow when the majority of its citizens are sick and uneducated.
Happy 63rd anniversary.
Kabiru Danladi Lawanti, Department of Mass Communication, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria