At 60, Nigeria must be restructured

TODAY, against all odds, Nigeria attains the Diamond Age as a corporate entity. It has been a perilous, thorny and fractious journey paved with civilian charade and military mischief, but there is no doubt that the country’s continued existence as a sovereign entity is worth acknowledging. The country fought a civil war and seems to have overcome one of its major albatrosses: military rule. It is now 21 years since since the return to civil rule. Over the last 60 years, some progress has been made in virtually all sectors, from sports to the economy and from the health sector to the works and housing sectors. In the education sector, the free education policy introduced by the Obafemi Awolowo administration in the Western Region prior to 1960 was able to achieve social engineering, long afterwards and in a way that not many countries can dream of. Again, it is a fact that in the global academic community, Nigerians are no pushovers. In the literary world, a Nigerian, Wole Soyinka, won Africa’s first ever Nobel Prize in Literature and while it is quite distressing that the country has been unable to replicate the feat achieved in 1986, there is no doubt that it occupies a place of pride in Africa’s literary and artistic world.

With names such as Amos Tutuola, Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, Ben Okri, Niyi Osundare, Femi Osofisan, Duro Ladipo, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Sunday Adegeye, Bisade Ologunde, Ben Enwonwu, Zulu Sofola, Chimamanda Adichie, Helon Habila, among many others, it can be said without any hesitation that the country has over the years simply taken the literary, creative and performance arts world by storm. In sports, to take football as an example, the country has since independence won the Under-17 World Cup a record five times, and neither has it done very badly on  the African Cup of Nations stage, where it has three trophies to its name. The country has dominated women’s football in Africa, with the Super Falcons having won 11 trophies and being the only team to have reached the quarter finals of both the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Olympics football tournament.  The country has also produced phenomenal names in other sectors, names such as Chike Obi (Mathematics) and Ayodele Awojobi (engineering), and no one who means to be taken seriously would today ignore such names as Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga in the world of business.  But not even the most generous critic would fail to admit that the country could have done much more in the areas where it has achieved modest successes, and it is a fact that the most potent problem that the country faces at 60 actually revolves around its very existence.

Indeed, no less a personality than the country’s vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, recently acknowledged the potent threat posed to the country’s continued corporate existence by internal strife. Speaking in Abuja at an interdenominational church service to commemorate Nigeria’s 60th Independence anniversary, the vice-president, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said efforts to mend the cracks in the nation’s wall might be opposed, but such opposition would be defeated with focus and consistent prayers. Referencing the biblical story of Nehemiah who spearheaded the rebuilding of the broken walls of Jerusalem, Osinbajo said: “It’s only that kind of Nehemiah’s love that will make us, as Nigerians, to rebuild the cracks we have in our walls today. For us in Nigeria, Nehemiah should be taken as a metaphor for those Nigerians who either reside in Nigeria or outside, to cry to God to use the abandoned opportunities in Nigeria to address our challenges of nation-building. Fortunately for us, our walls are not yet broken, but there are apparent cracks that could lead to a break if not adequately addressed.”

Tellingly, foremost socio-political organisations such as Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum and the Pan Niger Delta Forum backed Vice-President’s position.  While we have no objection to prayer, we think that the country risks outright dissolution if the government does not embrace the restructuring imperative. There is no better demonstration of the fact that Nigeria as presently constituted is not fit for purpose than the fact that it is the global poverty capital, and the world’s third most terrorised country. As we noted in previous editorials, the demand for secession by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), the various agitations for resource control from the South South zone, the demand for equitable federalism by elements from the South-West and the North Central zones; the seeming opposition to the tenor of the demands and the actual demands by groups from the North-West and North-East zones are all reflective of dissatisfaction with the current processes and structures of Nigeria, and there is a genuine need to harvest and put all these demands on the table and come up with some workable agreements for better running and management of the country.

Today, as the country clocks 60, we have not been persuaded to change our opinion. In fact, recent developments across the country, including the unfettered reign of terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and other felons across the landscape and the abject poverty that has made the lives of millions of Nigerians completely miserable, nasty and brutish, have strengthened our position that the country must return to its federalist origins, using the report of the 2014 National Conference as a guide. Failure to do that, and fast enough, will simply confine the country to utter retrogression and degradation. As the country clocked 58 two years ago, we lamented the widespread poverty among the populace. As we noted, the very fact of being a Nigerian—with sham elections, a boastful but morally perverse leadership, stagnant manufacturing sector, widespread insecurity, widespread hunger and deprivation and a return to the police state—had become virtually synonymous with a curse and there is, unfortunately, no telling when the drift towards anomie would be arrested.

We cited damning statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), including the fact that between January and September 2017, 4.07 million Nigerians became unemployed. The 2018 figures indicated that the economy remained fragile as GDP growth slowed down in the second quarter of this year.  In March 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) averred that despite the recovery of the economy from recession, more Nigerians were sliding into poverty, even as the Federal Government itself said that no fewer than 80 million Nigerians lived in poverty,  and that only about 455,857 (0.57 per cent) had been captured in the National Social Register (NSP) being used for its National Cash Transfer Programme. Of those captured, just 297,973 (0.37 per cent) of the identified poor actually got the monthly support. In 2018, the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organisation in the United States, asserted that Nigeria had become the poverty capital of the world. Today, the situation has worsened, and it is no wonder that the country is now the global capital of under-five deaths, reaching the ugly milestone faster than the projected 2021 date.

It is time to restructure the country. Opposition to restructuring can only strengthen the demands by separatist elements, some of them now springing up in the South-West geopolitical zone. It is time to arrest the drift.

 

 

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