Nigeria at 56: Crawling to good governance

EVERY Independence Day affords us the opportunity to remember the struggles of our founders, their devotion and sacrifices for an independent nation. On Saturday, October 1, 1960, Nigeria became an independent nation. What follows was Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s speech, delivered at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, at the Independence Day ceremony. In his speech, he said: “All too soon, it has become evident that for us, independence implies a great deal more than self-government.” Unfortunately, 56 years on, we are yet to experience “The Great Deal” Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa talked about in his speech.

No doubt, it is a good thing to be independent- it means a lot more than just not being under the control of a colonial master. It is more than the desire and passion for self-governance — it is a journey towards good governance. Unfortunately, at 56, Nigeria is still crawling towards attaining this.

I do not mean to recount our woes and problems, but it is my intention to draw our attention to the fact that we have, by ourselves, refused to transcend from the state of self-governance to a height of good governance.

Most often in our leadership elections and selections processes, we allow religion, ethnicity and partisanship to be our judge, rather than competence, integrity and selflessness. We have given room for mediocrity to reign over our affairs. We so much cherish incompetent leaders so long our sheered greed is satisfied. We prefer to have folks remain in a leadership position at the expense of good governance in as much as members and friends of our households are happy and duly compensated.

We are people of fewer concerns for what becomes the situation of the country and the generation unborn, in as much as we have the present moment to ourselves.

We glory so much in our self-governance and care less about good governance because that is the only way we keep the cabals in power and make them idols of our society.

Fifty-six years on, we still debate on trivial issues that should not have transcended the first republic, had we moved to the state of good governance. Issues like epileptic power supplies, substandard and inadequate healthcare facilities, failing educational system and facilities, bad roads, among others.

Now, the question is, what do we celebrate? Self-governance or good governance? Unfortunately, what we have consistently celebrated in the last 56 years is self- governance but good governance should be the ultimate.

The irony is, self-governance by default provides the opportunity for a better government where our resources are well-managed and distributed without having to pay homage to our colonial master, but 56 years on, our self-governance is yet to transform into good governance.

The problem about us as a people is that we refuse to move from the state of self-governance to a state of good governance, which is the ultimate. From one republic to another, until the fourth republic, it has been an accusation of bad governance and corruption for the coup.

It is quite pathetic that at 56 years of independence, and after 17 years in the fourth republic with a relatively stable democracy, we are yet to transcend into a state of good governance because we have ignored doing what is right. We failed to teach our children the best way to make a difference in life. It is difficult teaching the older generation new ways of doing things as they are accustomed to the old ways. We blatantly refuse to hold our leaders accountable, and our political leaders show no regard for transparency and accountability, which will inspire a new wave of belief and hard work that will bring about a total transformation of our society.

Fifty-six-year-old Nigeria has a lot to boast of, in which providence has placed under its care, yet has little to be proud of regarding accomplishments. Our human power is one of our greatest assets, but we have consistently undervalued it and has failed to capitalise on it; the reason for this is not far-fetched, it is because we have not changed our mind-set from the state of self-governance towards achieving good governance.

We have numerous opportunities as a nation and should not be hungry and poverty-stricken, yet we harbour more hungry and displaced persons than any other country with equal potentials.

In the past 56 years, we have painfully witnessed leakages and corruption in our systems that have made individuals richer than the State. We have individuals that have become stronger than our institutions, breaking them down, bit by bit, to get away with their many atrocities. For good governance, accountability and transparency are important, but for us, these are virtues that are almost entirely alien to our society.

There are no doubts that at 56, we have made some modest gains, but the truth is, we could have done more had we moved to the state of good governance. At the moment, it is even fearful that if we remain in this state of self-governance and not strive more to attain good governance, these gains may be eroded.

Therefore, accountability, transparency and efficiency are the hallmark of good governance, which we must imbibe into our national lives.


  • Ogundana is a socio-economic and political commentator.