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Nigeria turns 62: Is there still hope in the face of exasperation and despair?

Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress

By LaBode Obanor

At 62 years after independence from imperial Great Britain, this African titan, home to

more black people than anyplace else on earth, armed with the potential

of becoming a formidable economic powerhouse, yet still struggles to find its footings

in over threescore years.

For 62 years, the country’s tale is a dispiriting sign of how much it has cratered mainly

in the hands of iniquitous leaders and an apathetic populace.

Mired in decades of military rule, ravaged by three years of civil war,

deluged in decades of political and economic turmoil and now squirming in civilian misrule.

With the high aptitude of becoming one of the top 10 economies in the world, this beleaguered

nation has had its share of tough times with no reprieve anytime soon.

Although endowed with stockpiles of both natural and human wealth, many of its teeming

citizens and envious admirals around the world wonder when this country will extricate itself

from its current distress and assert robustly as a global player inherent in its nature;

the wait has been arduous.

To fully understand why this country remained in a perpetual political, economic, and social

quagmire since the lowering of the British Union Jack in 1960, one need not look too far but to

its foundation, which served as a bedrock for its current hazardous state.

In the months leading to the October 1, 1960 handover, the disinclined colonist, who

in order to continue her domination of the people and exploitation of their resources spun out

of the clutter of tribes she meshed to form Nigeria, iniquitously created an illegal arrangement

and handed reigns to leaders of differing and harshly dissenting tribes.

To foster its morbid desire reminiscent of a medieval scrounger, the colonizer ensured

that the competing tribes, regardless of their distinctiveness, stayed jumbled up.

After pitching one tribe against the other in a pseudo-independence, she watched from

three thousand miles away in its capital London, as the beleaguered nation it formed roils in

bitter rivalries, ethnic quarrels, division, and instability. While it surreptitiously reaped

the windfall of its plot.

It was a well-calculated and orchestrated scheme hounding the frigid nation for 62 years.

Seven years after the imperial freeloader supposedly ceded control to an obsequious political

class, many of whom tutelage under the corrupt and greed-infested colonial system, the

distrust among the different tribes bubbles to the surface as the groups could not hold their

paranoia for the other.

So in 1967, the nation imploded.

This was very much anticipated. Because, just as expected, the southeastern region became

ostensibly suspicious of the others and the malicious intent riddled in the amalgam.

Just like a crocodile lurking below the surface, the other major tribes saw an opening to

marginalize the “rebellious” easterners, and they took it. Rather than take the opportunity

to rearrange the map, draw up fair and equitable boundaries that represent the hopes and

aspirations of the people, or design a system of equitable distribution of resources, instead,

they embarked on a holocaust campaign to rid the country of their supposed foe.

The consequence of that blunder was a civil war resulting in the needless deaths of almost

three million souls and the displacement of many more.

Since then, it has been a steady decline.

After taking down the tenuous young democracy, the country’s rapacious generals were

themselves suspicious of each other. As a result, they often engaged in incessant bloody

coups. So, between 1966 and 1993, the country experienced waves of coups and

counter-coups spanning nearly three decades.

When the juntas decided to relinquish governance to the people, all social-political and economic growth halted.

Then came the gluttonous politicians in 1999.

After over two decades of managing the country’s affairs, they have managed to

make a dire situation worse. Of course, their ruinous feat was accomplished via the help

and support of officers in the civil sector. The collaborative efforts of the duo set the country

in a precipitous tailspin so that in the period between 1999 and 2022, the country

remained in a steep fall with no visible bottom. That is on the economic front.

On the safety and security front, the country’s condition is malignant.

From rampant kidnapping and terrorist mayhem to motorcycle-driven bandits and

machete-wielding cattle herders petrifying all regions of the country, leaving no part

safe to abode.

So why have successive kingpins of this country failed to improve the condition of this

once nascent nation? If it is because they are “fantastically corrupt” as the erstwhile Prime

Minister of Britain once declared it thus means that “fantastically” used in that context

stresses a peculiar form of corruption uncommon in a very corrupt world.

Because corruption itself is not ubiquitous to Nigeria alone. Nations, including

the one of the sanctimonious Prime Minister became what it is today by and through

corruption and corrupting influence. The only difference, therefore, is in the benefactor

of the misconduct. Whether the individual or the nation. Notwithstanding, being corrupt

cannot be the sole reason for Nigeria’s underdevelopment.

However, if one adds the longstanding ethnic suspicions among the tribes to a

“fantastically corrupt” government, then you will have a toxic mixture antithetical to any

political or economic progress.

Wherefore, one can safely draw an inference that the colonial masters’ plot was masterfully

crafted that it anticipated a nation bearing such mixture would be in perpetual dearth and

penury.

But that should not be how the story ends.

Although Nigeria is a mash-up of disparate tribes determined to despoil themselves,

but the evidence still shows that there is always a coming together either to celebrate the

country’s achievement or when an excelling Nigerian is recognized internationally, or a

desire to see the country surpass even if such passion is short-lived.

Such loyalty or allegiance is apparent in an independence day celebration or a soccer

Mundial. Christians, Muslims, languages, and tribes all locked arms in a ritualized display

of jubilance in the nation’s victory. Demonstrations like these show that the country has

the potential to unite under one common hope and aspiration.

Because of these acts of nationalism occasionally displayed, the country may still be able

to reassert in this independence day patriot acts, seize the occasion, and use this period

as ingress to usher in a new era of unity that will move us away from an ostentatious display

of patriotism to a more permanent desire to fix the country once and for all.

If the leaders take the bold step to rearrange the current inequitable lopsided structure,

then the country may be able to overcome not just the present ethnic obstacles that have

been a divisive wedge to the country’s growth but have an excellent chance to be on a

path of recovery.

In this yet another year of independence day celebration, the question remains,

will this diverse nation turn the table against the force that seeks to destroy it and

transform itself from an insipid tasteless jambalaya, which was the intention of the colonial power,

or will it change to a pleasantly scented potpourri?

Only time will tell. Howbeit, the indices may still show the capability to reemerge but time

is markedly and hastily running out.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Obanor

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