NIGERIA @60: Happy Diamond Jubilee As The Giant Moves Steadily But Surely To Greatness

Michelle Obama, America’s former First Lady and wife of the iconic former President Barrack Obama succinctly and perfectly linked diversity and the greatness of a nation in her famous quote:

‘Here in America, we don’t let our differences tear us apart. Not here. Because we know that our greatness comes from when we appreciate each other’s strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other, because in this country, it’s never been each other for themselves. No, we are all in this together. We always have been’

Without doubt, the greatness of a nation is inextricably tied to its unity. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Nigeria has arguably the best human capital any country can boast of. We have the best of engineers, doctors, lawyers, scientists and other researchers, etc. Apart from its robust human capital, Nigeria has the most vast yet untapped natural resources any country can be proud of. What is required is to blend our vast human capital with the abundant natural resources so that jobs and other economic opportunities can be made available to citizens.

Economic prosperity is sine qua non to peaceful coexistence.

There cannot be peace without justice.
In the spirit of true federalism and nationalism, the enormous wealth of the nation has to be fairly distributed among all citizens irrespective of whether they are in government or not.

Peace and tranquility are tied to economic empowerment of the citizens. The current very wide and widening income inequality between the rich and the poor cannot guarantee peace in our country. Only about 5% of the population sit on 95% of Nigeria’s wealth while the rest 95% sit on just 5% of the wealth and are on their own as they fight to secure even one unbalanced meal per day. A lot of citizens cannot feed amid the enormous wealth of this nation that has been cornered by a select few posing as ‘leaders’

Nigeria with poverty levels as high as 88% need institutional reforms that can spread economic opportunities to all. There is the urgent need for all of us in this country to continue working together towards a common goal of making our great country take its rightful place in the comity of nations regardless of our region, religion or ethnicity. We must not only speak with one voice but also think and act as one people in an indivisible corporate sovereign nation called Nigeria.

Clearly, our country with over 300 ethnic groups speaking different languages, is hugely divided not only by language but by mentality as well but there is unity in diversity. We can make our country greater only if we turn the page on sectionalism, regionalism, tribalism and all other negative isms that have held our country back for too long.

We are all in this TOGETHER.

WE MUST BELIEVE IN NIGERIA!

Just to restate the obvious:
NIGERIA’S UNITY IS NON-NEGOTIABLE

NIGERIA WILL NOT BREAK-UP. NOT IN OUR LIFETIME.

SHALL NIGERIA CELEBRATE @60?
Yes! there is so much to celebrate just as there are lots to gloom about.
On one hand, Nigeria is steadily moving to greatness especially when juxtaposed with the fact that the country has established democracy as a system of governance amid very serious challenges from misguided and disgruntled elements and renegades who continuously and unsuccessfully plot to dismember the country. The country has survived a civil war and is currently in a fierce battle with corruption and poverty. The fact that Nigeria has gone through every known challenge a nation can face and she is still standing tall means there is light at the end of the tunnel. It means our dear country is destined for greatness. Amen. Of course, there are more roads and more hospitals today than 60 years ago, more schools and better access to electricity, ICT etc. All these are indications that the nation has moved forward in the last 60 years.

On the gloom side, there is an understandable concern about the progress of this great country in the last 60 years since independence. The very high level of insecurity in most parts of Nigeria including the federal capital territory (FCT), the almost free reign of terrorists in the North East, the disruptive and distractive tendencies of wannabe secessionists in the South East, the economic sabotage and oil nationalism in the South South, the diversionary political propaganda from the South West all add to the not-so-great indices of underdevelopment of our country.

Unemployment and Inflation at double digits:,13.39% and 27.1% respectively. Infant and maternal mortality rates are not looking great: 59.181 infant deaths per 1000 live births and 800 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The number of out-of-school children is on the upward spiral as 10.5 million eligible children in Nigeria are out of school. As a matter of fact, one out of every five children of the world’s out of school children is in Nigeria. This is not good enough.

To cap it all, based on figures from the national bureau of statistics (NBS), the rate of poverty in Nigeria is 40.1%. Some states in Nigeria have poverty levels of up to 88%. This is not acceptable in the world’s 6th largest oil producing nation. Where has all the oil money gone to?

In terms of economic growth, Nigeria’s economy has been in and out of recession due partly to global realities and partly due to Nigeria’s inability to create economic shock absorbers by diversifying its economy.

By and large, it is fair to say that Nigeria should be far ahead of where it is today after 60 years of independence given its huge God-given potentials. But it is not too late. Nigeria can still achieve its objectives and be part of the league of world super powers if she really wants to.

Nigeria’s challenge can be fixed only by Nigerians. Only home grown solutions can effectively address the myriad of challenges facing our dear country. Nigeria’s global partners cannot solve her problems. They can only at best, compliment Nigeria’s efforts.

NOW IS TIME TO RESTRATEGISE FOR THE FUTURE:
Nigeria’s diamond jubilee presents yet another opportunity to take stock of its journey as a nation after 60 years, re-strategise and retool in the task of nation-building. There is no doubting the fact that if Nigeria’s problems are to fade away, the economy has to be fixed. There has to be a deliberate effort to create jobs. When jobs are flourishing, it means the economy is doing well and vice versa. Nigeria’s GDP of $250 billion should be much more if the enormous resources of the nation are effectively harnessed.

BUILDING A STRONG TEXTILE SECTOR:
Nigeria needs to prioritise it’s economic development by building a sector at a time before moving to the next one. In this regard, our dear country should apply the zero-budgeting concept to invest heavily in cotton production and resuscitation/building of new textile factories. The new textile factories will birth a sea of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to create jobs. At the end of the day, the MSMEs are the backbone of the economy that can ensure that jobs are not only in the cities but get to the grassroots communities at local government and ward levels. Indeed, Nigeria can be the hub of textile business and beautiful African fabrics in the next five years if the right measures are applied.

SETTING UP OF SKILLS ACQUISITION CENTRES FOR THE YOUTHS.
There is the need to build a fully equipped skills acquisition centre in each of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria. These proposed skills acquisition centres will train Nigerians in hands-on skills such as welding, bricklaying etc to enable them set up their own small businesses.

COOPERATIVE SOCIETIES FOR FAIR WEALTH DISTRIBUTION
Our great country should apply the noble CO-OP system to spread the dividends of democracy to all. For example, in housing, in the health sector, in poverty alleviation, etc, people can organise themselves into cooperative societies to take advantage of governments programmes such as facilities to set up small businesses from the bank of industry (BOI) etc. The CO-OP system is a recyclable model that can ensure multiplier effect of government programmes, bring development closer to the people and further connect government with the people.

REJIGGING THE WAR AGAINST CORRUPTION
There is the need for an upgrade of the war against corruption based on the following:
1. Creating special anti-corruption laws
2. Setting up of special anti-corruption courts
3. Assigning special anti – corruption judges to tackle corruption cases.

Anyone convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for corruption and abuse of trust should be banned from holding public for life. Corruption cases should have time limits just like cases involving election petitions at election tribunals.

SECURITY
There has to be a model for dealing with the current security challenges that should be tailored around building morale in our gallant troops. Only ground assaults can clear these insurgents and bandits from their sanctuaries in the bush. Air assaults are but temporary measures because these criminals can come back after air assaults. The model requires a combination of air and ground operations but our gallant troops must be given their dues and fully motivated for these operations to succeed. Troop morale is critical to achieving success in the current efforts to secure lives and livelihoods from terrorists and bandits.

CONCLUSION
Clearly, although a lot of gains have been recorded so far, Nigeria should have moved way beyond where she is today after 60 years. A lot of work needs to be done to keep the country on the path of sustainable development.

There is the need for a full AUTOMATION of Nigeria’s public sector operations to check corruption and ensure efficiency in line with global best practices. It is not good enough that Nigeria’s public sector runs manual in this digital era.

The cankerworm of corruption has to be taking off the table if Nigeria is to move forward. There is the need for Nigeria to attach targets to development programmes for proper monitoring and evaluation. For example, Nigeria should have a development plan which earmarks what it wants to achieve in the next 5 or 10 or 20 years as the case may be: in education, in healthcare, in the ICT sector, railways, dry ports etc. By and large, it is the tools and commitment that the country puts into national development that will make it happen, not rhetorics and dictions.

Happy Diamond Jubilee Nigeria!

DR ABUBAKAR ALKALI
alkalizai@yahoo.com

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