Monday, October 1, 2012

Video - Nigeria turns 52

In the world's largest black democracy and fifth largest federation, civilisation remains a work in progress. The usual state rituals of celebration and pomp must not mask weightier considerations on how Nigeria can be made a better place in sync with the vision of its founding fathers: Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, Obafemi Awolowo, Herbert Macaulay and a host of others. Clearly, the Nigeria story represents a compelling national journey at once defined by crisis and hope. For sure, there have been lucid moments of nationalistic pride when the founding nationalists subsumed the primeval tugs of tribe, tongue and faith and forced a British retreat.

These venerable folks also cobbled an egalitarian road map to guide the national journey. But all these almost came to naught when the lurking forces of regression kicked in. Linked to this have been the moments of infamy which traverse the political, socio-economic and religious spheres. The Biafran revolt, Western Nigeria crisis, the military coups, puzzling poverty and successive bloodletting that have swept and is still prostrating northern Nigeria and pockets of extreme violence in the south over the past 52 years border on loss of faith in the polity. We recall that the first military intervention in 1966 derived its impetus from the perception by the young, idealistic military majors that the social contract between the ruled and rulers was being brazenly rubbished.

Unfortunately, subsequent interventionist coups provided pretty little contrast from the impunities of civilian regimes. Over this period under review, informed consensus has put corruption was responsible for over 80 per cent of our national problems. The champions of reform are many and varied. But they tend to lack the resources commanded by beneficiaries of the status quo. But while we point to the negatives of this journey, several events in other parts of the world suggest there is good reason for hope. We recall that, under the period of review, the former Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own internal contradictions. Crises in India, Czechoslovakia, the Sudan and several others produced split-ups and new states. But Nigeria holds firm. To the credit of its people and leaders, Nigeria remains one entity despite powerful forces that have challenged its growth and severely tested its resilience.

But we believe Nigeria can be better. Under this period of review, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has held power for the past 13 years, needs to be appraised. Within this period, instead of strengthening democracy and promoting good governance, the party has been bedeviled by indiscipline and a compelling failure to exercise power to the benefit of Nigerians. The PDP has, with a strange consistency, violated the constitutional primacy of free and fair elections as the only way of choosing a leader. Under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan, little appears to have changed. Though often controverted, the assessment of international election monitors who participated in the last general elections point to a slight improvement in the process. Today, the focus areas for reinventing Nigeria are clear, urgent and demand action. The key sectors include employment, power, education, security and physical infrastructure development. President Jonathan must define his presidency around these critical theatres. He has a chance to determine how he would be remembered.


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