By Ademola Adebisi
TODAY Nigeria marks its diamond jubilee as it turns 60 years. Upon independence in 1960, Nigeria raised the hope of the world and the entire black race as a giant to watch. It is however an irony that, Nigeria has remained a “crippled giant”. Thus,the question is: is its diamond today not devoid of sparkle? To some, this ascription of the country by Eghosa Osaghae as a “crippled giant “may seem harsh.But as Criss Jami has counselled, “to share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to share your strength”.The political elite that took over from the British initially put in their best in governance, but it was not long before they faltered on the altars of corruption,ethnicity,intolerance and political violence and thus the military had to seize the paddle of the Nigerian state from the civilians in order to salvage the nation’s rudderless boat then from capsizing. Perceived as men of discipline, Nigerians had placed hope and confidence in the military’s capability in restoring order and launching the country on the path of good governance. Sadly however, the military abandoned its traditional role of defence and meeting national emergencies, refused to see its intervention as a brief and speedy self – imposed national assignment, but in lieu, got enthralled by the trappings of office, became narcissistic, turned the seat of power into musical chair and ended up becoming part of the national problems.
Between 1960 and now,it is not as if nothing has been achieved. After all, there has been expansion of social infrastructure. However, the trajectory has been toddling without giant strides. In what appears tragic twists of fate , the country’s economic wheels have been rolling in zigzag, boom today, recession the next ; a trend often fundamentally spawned by the visionlessness, planlessness and carelessness of the ruling elite and a situation not also helped by the corrupt and inept bureaucracy. The grim development indicators of the country speak volume about how a nation of sixty years of independence ought not to have fared. Today, life expectancy stands at about 55 years; the widest poverty exists; access to social amenities is at the nadir; out of school children run in millions; and unprecedented security challenges have hindered production, caused deaths and ocean of refugees and internally displaced persons with the attendant social cost. Its warped federalism and the principle of federal character, have done little to promote national cohesion hence the secessionist politics and threats. Out of 177 failed states on the world stage, Nigeria currently ranked 15th. Nigeria has lost its silver and gold. And now its diamond? Countries with which Nigeria started the journey of nation and state building roughly at the same time, have left it behind. Malaysia is one. Singapore is another. Shortly after the election of the French President in 1974, the architect of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, visited France. In the course of his official engagement with the French President, Valery Giscard d’ Estaing, the President had asked him:”why did Singapore develop and not the others,what was missing in others? Lee wrote: “I could only tell him what I thought were three primary reasons: first,stability and cohesion in society; second, a cultural drive to achieve and a thrifty, hardworking people always investing in the future, with high savings for a rainy day and for the next generation; and third, a great reverence for education and knowledge.”But the French President was not satisfied that that was the complete answer, he further wrote. Of course, the French President’s dissatisfaction was correct, for Lee, perhaps out of humility and avoidance of self -glorification,did not mention the truth that, his dream and determination to transit the country from third world to first world, was the driving force and moving spirit that recreated an enviable Singapore.Elsewhere also,Lee had acknowledged that,instilling discipline in the citizenry has helped Singapore’s national rebirth.Are all these not missing in the development trajectory of our country? Where are our men of dreams and discipline to inspire the rest? It is tempting to arguethat, Lee Kuan Yew was able to accomplish the rapid transformation of the country because Singapore pulled out of Malaysia-Singapore federation in 1965. However, methinks that, apart from the need to work on the missing links as pinpointed by Lee, if Nigeria can still rework its federal structure along the model that has enhanced American,Swiss and Canadian prosperity; and the model that has been propelling India’s progress and unity,we may be enroute a better and greater Nigeria. Yet, this is not the lasting solution. The drivers of the structures are as important as the structures if not much more important.Our country needs men of vision to leap. They abound. But the tragic question is: how do we get them on board of governance in a country whose politics has been monetized, commoditized, ethnicized; its religion politicized and its politics religionized? We just have to interrogate this dilemma at this juncture, contend with it and resolve it for Nigeria to develop in leaps and bounds.
Dr. Adebisi writes in from the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure,Ondo State.