Tuesday, 03 October 2017 08:35

Knocks, hope, optimism as Nigeria celebrates 57 years

The Guardian (Nigeria) —

A flurry of mixed messages were heard as Nigeria celebrated its 57th independence anniversary on 1 October. While some said celebrations were in order, in view of achievements recorded, others focused on the litany of opportunities the country has squandered over the years.

Though many stakeholders still see a lot of hope and optimism on the horizon, the cry for restructuring the country from across different parts of the country is becoming deafening as well. That, perhaps, explains why former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, is lending his voice to the restructuring issue. In his independence day statement, Anyaoku said: “We should of course celebrate our 57 years of existence as a sovereign country but at the same time must resolve to deal effectively with the challenges, some of which are existential, facing the country.”

The statement added: “The undeniable reality of the current state of affairs in Nigeria is that the country since the civil war has never been as divided as it is now in the face of armed insurgency in the North East, a threat of secession by some elements in the South East, rampaging Fulani herdsmen wreaking havoc in parts of the country, militancy in the Niger Delta, an economy just recovering from recession and incalculable damage being done to the country’s development by massive corruption. To effectively tackle these challenges and put our diverse country on the road to political stability and its deserved development, we must move from our present nominal to a true federalism, in other words, we must restructure the country’s present governance architecture.”

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, in his message, admitted that in 57 years, the country “has faced many challenges, but we have overcome many of those challenges and made progress in multiple spheres of human endeavour.” While commending the country’s decision to remain as one entity, Abubakar said, “On October 1, 1960 when we gained independence, there were many nations in existence alongside Nigeria in the comity of nations. A number of those nations have ceased to exist as a single entity, but 57 years after the fact, we are still one and waxing stronger. That is a cause to celebrate.”

He added that a lot of work “still has to be done to overcome the many challenges we still face as a nation, including terrorism, the national question, sluggish economic growth, youth unemployment and a huge out of school population amongst our youths. However these challenges are not insurmountable. Thankfully, the prevailing sentiment is that we as Nigerians would rather remain together even as we
make positive efforts to build a more perfect union along the lines of the vision of our founding fathers.

The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) attributed the country’s poor economic and political growth since independence to the military intervention in governance, and the civil war, despite the solid political foundation laid by the leadership of the First Republic in the country. The ACF, the socio-cultural organisation of the North, said “the journey over the years, considering our diversity and complexity, has been full of challenges in the areas of national security, peaceful coexistence, political and economic development.”

In a statement signed by its spokesman, Alhaji Muhammadu Ibrahim Biu, ACF declared: “Although Nigeria as a nation at 57 is yet to realise its full potential and deliver on the expectations of its citizens, we cannot ignore the fact that, despite the upheavals due to shortcomings, we have been able to sustain the unity and stability of the country. We have also recorded and witnessed some progress in many areas that include education, infrastructural development, economy and relative political stability. Our 18 years of un-interrupted presidential system of democracy has placed Nigeria as one of the developing economies with high potential for greatness, if properly managed.

“We should not allow the temporary challenges to redefine our collective destiny or set our national agenda. We salute the governments and people of Nigeria for their determination, perseverance, patience and hope in our nation, and urge most especially our leaders-both elected and appointed- at all levels to re-examine their social contract with the electorates and do the needful.

But for Second Republic lawmaker, Junaid Muhammad, with poor standard of living and the level of backwardness in the country, Nigeria has no reason to celebrate its 57th independence anniversary. Muhammad in an interview with The Guardian, blamed the political elite for their inability to learn from past mistakes, stressing that the standard of living of ordinary Nigerians since 1963 has remained the same.

While saying that  “a country is as good as the leadership it gets,” the former lawmaker pointed out that the Buhari-led administration has failed Nigerians, who earlier invested their trust in him, over his inability to fulfill all his campaign promises.

“Nigeria’s leadership today under Buhari is nothing to write home about. It is clear that the government is corrupt and incompetent. Despite all the noise they make about fighting corruption, the reality is that those, who are in government now are behaving as if they came through a revolving door.

They believe they have the divine right to be corrupt, and when evidence of corruption is brought against a selected people, who are close to him (Buhari) nothing happens. “We are celebrating independence of been a country for 57 years, but clearly Nigerians expectations have been dashed,” he concluded.

Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, is charging Nigerians to work against violence and all threats to the corporate existence of the country, insisting that the country will surmount present challenges.

While saying it is a day to “celebrate our glorious state and great nation; and to pay tribute to our countrymen and women who sacrificed so that we can celebrate this day,” Okowa added, “we should never forget the sacrifices of our heroes past.

Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, urged Nigerians to rekindle hope in a greater Nigeria, and not despair despite present challenges. Like his counterparts, he believes that challenges confronting the country are surmountable. He said he remains very confident that if everyone works together as a people, Nigeria will rise again, adding, “if Nigeria rises again, Africa will, as well, rise again.’’

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has reiterated his call for dialogue as a means of resolving all developmental, economic and political challenges facing the country. He called for better security and justice for all federating units in order to give all Nigerians a sense of belonging and de-escalate tension across the land.

Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Governor of Oyo State appealed to Nigerians not to allow their differences and the challenges confronting the various ethnic nationalities to divide them as members of a united country. “It is quite unfortunate that at 57, Nigerians are more divided along ethnic and religious lines than we used to be at independence in 1960. The drum of separation is being beaten now more than ever before.

Ekiti State Governor, Chief Ayodele Fayose, has said Nigeria could grow faster and advance better if those in positions of authority would stop using their positions to intimidate and oppress others. In his independence message, he noted that fairness and equity in the treatment of all sectors, groups and classes were important to taking the nation to a higher level.

Fayose stated that a situation where some people were hounded needlessly for voicing their dissent to some policies, or for having different political beliefs was not in the best interest of the country.

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