Nigerian nation is captured in the celebratory mood of her diamond anniversary. However, it is pretty difficult for the nation to visualise the future without reflecting even briefly on the past.
Nigeria is unarguably a nation that is positioned for greatness by God Himself going by human and natural resources that the nation is massively endowed with. Nonetheless, the southern elites, the political and military class are bound to take responsibility for what the nation eventually became in post- independent Nigeria.
It is necessary to clarify that majority of the southern leaders retreated to their home bases and inadvertently abandoned the central political stage for the northerners having lost control of the central government from the very beginning. The retreated southerners resorted to pursuing regional and personal agendas by leveraging the advantages of their beneficial western education and acquired professionalism.
Meanwhile, a handful of the southerners felt it was better to associate with the northerners contrary to the wide expectation of dissociation. Sadly, however, a number of daring southerners like my humble self that chose to align politically with the mainstream northern ruling class were regrettably compelled to play second fiddle since we lacked the requisite political backing from our home bases notwithstanding the political constituencies.
Since the military left the stage in 1999, we have had two southern presidents and two northern presidents. If the truth must be stated therefore, no significant change has been recorded till date. Truth is that Nigerian nation and her people are yet to derive the desired significant benefits from democratic rule till date.
In our 60 years of existence, we have not been able to overcome our primordial and primitive features of religious intolerance, tribalism,nepotism, prebendalism, greed, selfishness, disregard for law and order as well as lack of commitment to equity and social justice.
Indisputably, bribery and corruption have now become norms at all levels including private and public sectors. Religious organisations, educational institutions, corporate entities and family circles are not excluded from the scourge of bribery and corruption. Without doubt, we need to change our perspectives and review our strategies in confronting these societal ills.
We must all agree that strong leadership, draconian laws and circumstantial legislations have all failed us. Without mincing words, the only realistic way forward for us as a nation is to come together and reason together publicly, honestly in a non-partisan manner to address key issues.
We need a new constitution that must be truly borne out of honest reappraisal of our journey so far and our collective vision for the future.
Before we attend to the birth of a new constitution, it is necessary to come together on a national forum and settle first the issue of corruption in our society. Meanwhile, the suggested national forum should not be an avenue for blame games and “scapegoatism.’’ Efforts should be geared towards promoting willingness to forgive and the readiness to redirect our energies towards national as well as the cleansing of our institutional systems.
The suggested institutional cleansing should encompass administrative, law enforcement, justice and acceptable financial practices.
At the heart of the suggested national cleansing should be the need for vigorous address of issues of hate, hurt and pains of past unforgiveness in our polity. We have too many issues that are related to unforgiveness in our land.
The citizenry must be prepared to forgive the rulers as well as the plunderers. Most importantly, individuals that have acquired wealth at the expense of the nation must be given the opportunity to restitute without fear of annihilation or prosecution.
There can be no better time for us to heal this land before our collective anger, frustrations and resentments would kill this glorious land of our birth and collection patrimony.
Happy 60th anniversary to our great Nigerian nation that is full of hope pregnant with a protruding great future.
Doyin Okupe is former Senior Special Assistant to the President