Today, October 1 2019 marks the 59th anniversary of Nigerian independence since Britain handed over to the indigenous founding fathers in October 1 1960. Just like humans take a toll of their life at each birthday, Nigeria at 59 is on a scale to ascertain how well her citizens has fared.
Nigeria, post independence, has passed through some revolutionary periods such as the civil war, military and democratic eras. And these periods has had a fair share in the re-shaping of the country to its latest form.
At 59, the yardsticks that could be used to weigh Nigeria on a balance are corruption perception, infrastructure and security. The civil war broke out as a result of coup d’état by military personnel blamed on civilian corruption perceived among the first republic leaders. The war devastated the country due to the fact that the war theatre was the South Eastern part, which was the main economic stronghold of Nigeria and so this has a resultant effect on the country.
The military era, which spanned from 1966 to 1979 and 1983 to 1998 was also marred by corruption characterized by nepotism, money laundering and other evils. Infrastructural development was depleted as huge sums budgeted for it ended in the pockets of the military rulers and their cronies. Although there was no clear case of insurgencies during the military era but the different military juntas took turns to suppress dissenting voices.
Then came democratic era in 1999 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military head of state was elected under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), marking the end of 33 years military rule. Even though Obasanjo’s regime came with some reforms and developments which changed the narratives experienced during the military regimes, there were still cases of corruption, infrastructural decay, etc etc. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua took over from Obasanjo but his tenure was short lived due to ill health prompting his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan to take over. Jonathan’s presidency had its ups and downs even though he did one remarkable thing – the organization of the 2014 National Conference, whose reports has not seen the light of the day since it was conducted. His government was heavily criticized as clueless by the opposition and a massive support and alliance given to the opposition brought Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressives Congress (APC) to power in 2015 bringing the 16 year rule of PDP to and end.
One thing was prevalent since the return to democracy in 1999, the security situation deteriorated badly due to different uprising and militancy in the oil areas, ethnic violence and banditry, kidnapping and killings in different parts of the country, infrastructural decay due to mismanagement and looting of funds by the elected officials. There is massive unemployment and the poverty rate is at an alarming level. Successive governments come with similar manifestos laced with “sweet words” during campaigns to lure the electorates to their sides. Each campaign promise must border on the provision of constant power supply, road construction and maintenance, unlimited job creation, security of lives and properties of the citizens. However, these has not changed with any of the successive governments rather it is deteriorating in geometric progression.
The issue of corruption, sighted by the military that warranted the first ever coup in Nigeria, is more pronounced now than it was some 50 years ago. Since the last 7 years, Nigeria’s score on the Transparency International corruption perception index has been an average of 28 out of 100, considered as “more corrupt”. Infrastructure such as electricity has nothing to write home about as even some parts of the capital city still experiences erratic power supply. Comparing Nigeria with countries like Malaysia who got their independence 3 years ahead; they have not experienced any lights out for more than 3 decades, you would only hear about a certain year they had a total black out in selected cities for just few hours. Until today various major roads even in state capitals in Nigeria are in dilapidated form.
Youth unemployment is on all time high leading to massive migration of Nigerian youths abroad in search of greener pastures. This can be attributed to the high rate of the youths engaging in all manners of fraudulent money making ventures and other vices around the world. At home, the adverse effect of unemployment can be seen in the increase in banditry, kidnappings, terrorism, killings and other social vices. In the recent years, security of lives and properties of the Nigerian citizens are no more guaranteed. In this year 2019, there has been cases of herdsmen-farmers clashes that resulted in communities being sacked, women being raped, killings of men, women and children on the rise.
Nigeria at 59 can be likened to the proverbial child whose growth has been deemed ‘stunted’ due to both internal and external influences.