Fifty six years in the life of a nation is, indeed, a milestone worth celebrating. Within this period, the country, Nigeria, and her people passed through many phases of ups and downs and survived the heat of a desiccating crucible. The immediate post-2015 election process presented its own challenges as the leaders and the citizenry grappled with the demands of nation building. The initial false steps were, at first, dramatic resulting in upheavals that not only scared us in what seems not only to truncate the democratic structures, but threatened to dismember the nation. Yet, the country survives still. Though not without its democratic experiment. It was a testy time for a nation that survived 16 years of democratic misrule and struggling to pick up the gauntlet of self-governance.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we are living through troubling times. After 56 years of independence, Nigeria remains a story of false starts, a nation on reverse gear. With all the huge human and natural resources that God has endowed us with, there is absolutely no reason why we should be where we are today. Many years of bad government and failed leadership gave rise to an entrenched system of corruption, mediocrity and impunity.
There are hundreds of people who die every day in this country because they are simply too poor to stay alive. They have no jobs, therefore, no means of sustenance for themselves and their families. When they are sick they cannot afford to go to the hospital or to procure medication. A lot of Nigerians cannot afford to pay the school fees of their children. These are not numbers; they are human beings whose dignity have been bruised and battered because of the burdensome weight of life’s unbearable challenges. In virtually every sector of our economy, the indices are at an all-time low. Social infrastructures including schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, water supply, and even prisons are at their worst state than at any other moment in the history of this country.
While the independence anniversary for many nations of the world is a privileged time to celebrate progress and prosperity, for Nigeria, it is always a sober moment for lamentation. After the last general elections that brought a new government to power, Nigerians have once again expressed their resilient hope and undying optimism that things will be better this time around. However, we are yet to see an overwhelming commitment from the generality of Nigerians that we are really prepared for the sacrifices that change entails.
We are still living with warped values, from things as minute as obeying traffic rules, proper sanitation, and respect for decency, order and protocol in public places. We are yet to shed all manner of brazen wrongdoing from corner cutting, queue jumping and rule breaking that have made this country a republic of organised anarchy. We are still living with a culture of militarisation where the security agencies of the state continue to terrorise hapless citizens with the might of their guns, sirens and uniforms.
After 56 years of independence, Nigeria has no single world-class university, airport, tourist attraction site, industry or product. How can a nation rise on the ladder of social prosperity without these trappings of modern economic development? All we see on a daily basis are ethnic rifts, political polarisations and religious divisions. Is this how a nation becomes great? According to Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, “A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people, and the quality of their leaders which ensure it an honourable place in history.”
I believe that at all levels of government and society, Nigeria needs an ethical leadership to inspire, articulate and drive change, an individual who will echo the rallying cry and hunger for substantial dialogue and justice; a leader who has a soul, who is committed, competent, and courageous; with a core vision and sense of mission and willing to sacrifice for them by taking on vested interests and anti-democratic forces.
For the country and the people, it has been 56 years of hard work, fears, anxieties, hopes, aspirations, successes and failures. Most importantly, it has been a period that gives everyone reasons to believe in a bright and prosperous future.
Certainly, we have not reached our final destination as regards our march towards growth and development but we have made significant gains and cannot afford to destroy what we have toiled to build.
Looking into the future, we must continue to focus our attention on having a cleaner government by voting for a less corruptible leader. Nigeria is where we are because of incompetent and corrupt leadership that has governed us for far too long. We, as active citizens, must endeavor to get involve in electing incorruptible leaders to govern the affairs of the country.
While some may disagree that there were no reasons to celebrate, it cannot for one minute be lost on us that we as a nation have come a long way and have had a lot of experience, good, bad and ugly. The pace of growth and development may actually lack some sense of determination and urgency, the results so far may be mixed, but the HOPE that is in the horizon which engulfs our nation as the pride of the entire continent after some 56 years of numerous challenges is what I choose to celebrate.
After all is said and done, the only way to shut those naysayers, will be our resolve to remain hopeful and believe in the course we are charting. Hence, in spite of all, I celebrate our achievements in the past 56 years, because I believe they are the foundational blocks of our development.
Therefore, above all challenges, I choose to remain hopeful. Nigeria will join the league of great nations someday, a day not too far from now.