President Muhammadu Buhari’s October 1st independence visit to troops fighting Boko Haram in the North East was a big boost to our national pride. In the midst of the confusion in that part of the country occassioned by terrorism that has refused to go away, it is hearty and significant that somehow, the commander-in-chief got round to visit with his officers and men in the line of battle.
It was becoming embarrassing that the country’s leader, in spite of promises made during electioneering, could not visit the epicentre of the fight against insurgency. Happening at the celebration of our coming to age as a nation is very well timed. We hope that this gesture made lasting impressions in the minds of the soldiers and their commander who are staking their lives to make all of us safe and secured.
Although the visit by the president did not quite show what promises or hopes he shared, it would have made alot of sense had it been that Mr. President made serious policy statements regarding our military and the nation’s integrity. Also, some kind of goodies would not have been bad, especially shared in a way that Nigerians will see how the country takes care of those who give their lives so that we may live. This is one of the drawbacks of our country. As we marked our 57th independence this week, there are visible shifts that should mark our path going forward.
Nevertheless, we join millions of Nigerians all over the world to wish our country well as we remember the sacrifices of our forefathers. Although we often pride ourselves as having secured independence on a platter of gold, it must not be lost, especially for the younger generation that our forebears burned midnight candles, lost lives and businesses in other to save us from colonial control. Surely, there are areas that give us hope, even though we know we have not quite met our expectations.
Demographically, we have moved from a country of less than 33 million people to a population of nearly 180 million; from a country of a dozen cities to that of hundreds. This offers a huge market for trading partners. In educational development, we have moved from two universities – the University College, Ibadan, and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to more than 150 universities, and hundreds of polytechnics, technical colleges, and tertiary teacher training institutions. At the primary and secondary levels, we have gone from a few choice secondary schools for the children of the elite to universal and compulsory free primary education and a reasonably affordable public secondary education system. Whether what we have meet the quality we deserve is open to debate.
There are certainly many other areas we have made progress yet there are still a lot to be done. Our economy has not grown to full capacity. We can tell that by statistics from other countries that were just about to take off at the period of our independence. For example, China and Nigeria had around the same amount of money in their foreign reserves. This was just about $10 billion each. Today, while Nigeria is struggling with $30 billion as reserves, China has over $3 trillion. A country like South Korea is doing over $400 billion. This is not inspiring at all.
We have simply relied too much on crude. Even so we have not managed the proceeds properly. The oil industry in Nigeria is so opaque, no one can tell for sure what goes on there. The situation is worsened even presently by the recent allegations by the Minister of State Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu that the Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Mikanti Baru awarded contracts worth over $25billion without following laid down rules. This happening under the administration of President Buhari does not inspire hope. However, we are positive that as the senate has waded into the crises, something good will come out of it.
It is allegations like that, that has blurred lines of possible progress. In other sectors, be they infrastructure, it is one scam after another. While our roadsare dilapidated, those put in charge to tend them drive in big SUVs or fly over our problems. The thing is, we still need patriotic and inspiring leadership. We need creativity at all levels of governance. Our leaders if not lame are selfish if not selfish, are roughish. This has stunted our march towards finding the pedestal that suits us at the global stage. Citizens must unite and stop listening to leadership that group us into ethnic groups or one religious affiliation against the other. We need to unite to focus on what will set the country on irreversible progress.