By Ibrahim M. Baba
Sixty-One Years after independence, Nigeria is still wallowing with a lot of problems, ranging from political, social and economic crises that cripples the nation’s struggle to greatness.
Borrowing from the words of the popular laureate Chinua Achebe of the blessed memory, indeed “There was a country”. Taking a look at the olden days when almost everything worked out well in Nigeria, the country was at peace. People live in peace and harmony with one another and security of lives and property was equally ensured.
That was when cost of living was cheap, Nigeria was the net exporter of many cash crops. Industries manufactured assorted goods. Trains crisscrossed the nation, power supply was stable, pipe borne water was flowing abundantly, medical care was adequate and education was qualitative and free.
The value of money as a legal tender in those days was stable. At that time, with little money, one buys abundant commodities, foodstuffs and engages in any form of transaction with possible return of profits.
Nigeria did not solely rely on a single commodity as a means of export in the past. Petrol was exported along with other valuable cash crops. Kano state alone produces Ten Million Sandals per annum and was a celebrated centre of textiles with its products competing with those of European countries. Transactions in groundnut, palm oil, cotton, silk, timber and other agricultural produce were carried out successfully.
Also during that time, people were highly disciplined and the rule of law was greatly respected. There was no stealing, misappropriation, debt burden, corruption, kidnapping, arm banditry, money laundering, poverty, ignorance and above all bad leadership.
The country’s politics in the past was “Politics without bitterness”, politics based on ideas and willingness to serve. The political elites too were well patriotic and people of good integrity who always stood to ensure the welfare of their people.
That was Nigeria in the past. What has then befall on us that things have completely turned upside down in the country?
The country has for long lost its prowess in the area of food and cash crops exportation. Over 500 industries have died due to poor power supply and unstable petroleum policies. This has made us concentrate more on importation over local production, thereby creating artificial inflation that is currently leading to many families putting their pots off the stove.
Poverty, illiteracy and poor living conditions have invaded the nation. As citizens of other nations look forward to more social amenities and improved livelihood, a citizen in Nigeria still strives to get amenities necessary for a better life.
In Northern Nigeria, open criminality and terrorism is now a more thriving business than farming and artisanship. In the south east, indiscriminate burning of government and public places by secessionists, killing of innocent people and kidnapping for ransom have evolved into a very lucrative industry.
With the current predicaments the country is facing, do you think we have any reason to celebrate the country’s 61 anniversary? Perhaps the only reason is to save the pride, joy and divinity of being a sovereign nation. But to me, with the 61 years of nationhood, “Nigeria is just a country of beggars living in the midst of abundance”. This is because, with all the numerous resources and growing population, the country still needs our collective patriotism.
Nations are built by the contributions of many not the ganging together to fight policies geared towards the betterment of the country.
America became the hub of civilization not by one man’s efforts but by contributions of many tribes, colours, religions and races. This is exactly what Nigeria lacks. What is common in Nigeria is the gathering of all to fight against our common patrimony.
Unfortunately most Nigerians are united in stealing or protecting those that steal our common patrimony for ethnic, religious or political advantage; especially against our National interest.
Nigeria will not grow by our decision to throw tantrums because of personal interest. Nigeria will rather grow if we are united in whatever will improve our common wealth and unity. No single person grows a nation. We can work together with one person to grow a nation but no body can survive the collaboration of all to bring him down.
Nigeria is a blessed country but our problem is our refusal to work together for National interest. Nigerians are celebrated and are the best in building other nations. So also are Nigerians negatively best in destroying every opportunity that will unite Nigeria to greatness.
We must do something urgently to build a Nigeria that will bring out that productive character of Nigerians that is celebrated the world over. We must as well unite to destroy the corruption and desperation of those that are united to impoverish us.
Nigerians must improve their sense of patriotism and National identity if we must grow out of our penury. If we want Nigeria to be like America of today, we must love Nigeria the same way Americans love and protect the American interest.
To have a good future for us and our children, we need to pursue a high degree of social order as well as interdependent goals of economic, political and cultural development.
We must exercise restrain in the use of violence, coercion, decent and fraud in our social interactions. Let us stand and uphold the principle of a true democracy and jettison any activity that would undermine the country’s democratic image.
Ibrahim M. Baba, writes from the Faculty of Arts, Management and Social Sciences,
Nigerian Army University Biu,