Nigeria: A Toddler at 60! - Prince John Adegbola - AMEBO ONLINE NEWSPAPER


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Nigeria: A Toddler at 60! - Prince John Adegbola

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Today Nigeria celebrates 60 years of being independent.

On that date, October 1st, 1960, Nigeria’s flag was raised at the Tinubu Square, Lagos. That day, the United Kingdom flag - the Union Jack was lowered, replaced with the green-white-green. That unique ceremony was performed by the late Commodore Taiwo Akano, then a Navy sub-Lt. The huge green-white-green Nigerian flag, sturdily mounted, the folds of fabric blazed colours in the morning sun. 

The Nigeria flag depicts fertility, peace and progress. The design was chosen through a nationwide design competition in early 1959. The winning designer was Taiwo Akinkunmi, who was 25 at the time.
It became a symbol of pride that day, fluttering in the air. In an average street of small houses, the Nigerian flags were noticed in windows, strings of small pennants fluttered from garden shrubs and along roof guttering. Our fathers watched and witnessed different activities to mark this anniversary, and saw in them the inherent goodness of our people, their simplicity, and their sense of marking a day of importance in their lives.

That day our people paid homage to our cultural heritage, the source of our strength. Nigerians pledged to build a democratic society based on justice, equality, respect and prosperity for Our People. They pledged to stand together as one people, one nation, one Country.
Nigeria is a great land of beautiful mountains, of sunlit palms and coral sea. While the drums were beating, our people were singing that our land is strong and free, little did our people know that the baby they were rejoicing over would be a disappointment. Now a toddler at 60. Yes, a toddler!  
As this toddler clocks 60, some continue to rejoice with government leaders and policies, but I can feel that depth of feelings of despondence shared by many Nigerians. Rather than the usual family celebrations that was the order of the week in different towns and villages in many states, across the country, one hears cries of anguish, self-pity, hisses and curses.
The general perception is that of political failure, broken dreams and socio-economic injustice and suffering amidst of plenty. 
Shocking numbers of children in Nigeria are out of schools; many of these leave primary school unable to read properly, not to talk of write.

Just like many other African or developing countries, Nigeria’s development challenges are huge. With the current population of about  200 million and growing at more than two per cent annually, a consistently falling growth rate now in the negative (-6.5), inflation rate at 13.5 percent, mass poverty with 85 per cent of the population living below poverty line, of less than $2 a day. Many live in  hard-to-reach isolated areas due to bad roads, health indicators are below neighboring countries of Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroun.

In my view, of these challenges, providing basic amenities such as power, healthcare, education and food are critical and urgent. Providing literacy is at the heart of human development and lifelong learning to alleviate poverty by building and empowering capacities of individuals and communities to achieve many development goals. This means we must begin to elect right leaders with understanding and creativity, the two key attributes of distinguishing people from robots. It also means that political leaders need to  cut out the window dressing, and get to the heart of the problem and tell the people what impacts them most and what really matters.

The path of the country’s journey to development seems plagued with desire to significantly worsen issues and damage opportunities for the masses. And the ugly trend started with the brutal military intervention in its affairs in January 15, 1966 coup.
Compared to its contemporaries in terms of development, Nigeria is only a toddler! Many countries that had political independence from the British at the same time with Nigeria such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore are doing far, far better than Nigeria by all standards. Even African countries such as Rwanda, Botswana, South Africa and Ghana are doing better than us in terms of organization, discipline and leadership commitments to making people safe and secure, progressive and prosperous.
Nigerian leaders continue to waste opportunities for development in different spheres, due to lack of institutional checks. Rather than do things right and serve the people as servant-leaders, those at the helms of affairs see themselves as demi-gods and rulers. Unfortunately, the people ignorantly worship them! Why will they not continue to pursue wrong priorities and keep the masses in poverty chain and do nothing to enhance their lives?

One does not have to be a rocket scientist to see that we have squandered many opportunities to build strong foundations for sustained national development on all fronts.
Travel around the country and we come face-to-face with rundown schools, non-functioning hospitals and health centres, and ruined district centres that are no longer business and commercial hubs for rural communities.

Programmes designed for poverty alleviation, efficient services delivery, maintenance and upkeep of vital transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges, airstrips and coastal jetties have not been properly and successfully implemented or maintained.

Lack of good governance, poor implementation of numerous development budgets and programmes over the years and middling public administration have robbed this nation of progress and higher living standards that it deserves.

Our poor national development can only be attributed to a general lack of selfless servant-leaders, ignorance and docility of the people, low productivity in the economy, corruption and lack of accountability in government, unrealistic development priority setting, poor implementation of development projects and inefficient spending, misappropriation and theft of development money. Billions of dollars borrowed across the world. This borrowing put heavy burden on even unborn generations without any meaningful development. Huge money is reportedly put in infrastructure while little is put at developing the human resources that will use the infrastructure.
The story of about a 242 kilometres rail from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic falls into the realm of inefficient spending. Why going for a foreign loan of $1.9 billion for such project with little economic returns? Sad!

Over recent years the shortage of funds has been our problem in terms of effective development spending on infrastructure projects. Nigeria  does indeed have a poor track record of successfully translating development funds into effective infrastructure.
Such a track record created the conditions for the support that ultimately led to politicians legislating for what they call “constituency projects”. Through this mechanism, they take money away from the public service and try to deliver services themselves. That itself is a high-priced lesson in corruption. This is because not all politicians have the necessary administrative backup in place to deliver goods and services and the sooner it is abandoned, the quicker we plug the public finance management leaks.

To my mind, there are no new management tactics that is lacking and needs to be gained from somewhere to change things in the country.
What might have been lacking are being spoken of today under two different headings but essentially meaning the same thing: private public partnership and inclusiveness.
Civic education of the masses and the collaboration among religious bodies - churches, mosques and Africa Traditional religions (ATR), the private sector, international agencies, resident foreign diplomatic missions, human rights groups, the civil society, women groups and the youth, together with the government will bring development to Nigeria.
Governments have often come up with plans and programmes in isolation and then tried to ram them down the throats of other players in the field, most often those with far better experience than the elements elected to government. More often than not, these programmes have failed, mostly because they have been ignored or discarded as irrelevant.
Nigeria can do far, far better than it is doing right now if  credible, compassionate leaders with capacity and roadmaps are voted into office and each and every one of us engage and willingly participate in the transformation that needs to be in place.

What a society that would be!

Of course, no one said it was going to be an easy ride for Nigeria, but no one envisaged too that she would be a toddler that she is this day.
Happy 60th Independence Nigeria, a toddler at 60! Get up and walk!

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