PERHAPS, the only thing truly worth celebrating as Nigeria marks her 58th Independence Anniversary today is that the nation has remained intact, though even this claim is undermined by the cession of resource-rich Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroun in October 2002. The country has survived serious political crises, which includes a 30-month civil war, about seven military coups, military regimes (that took 29 of the 58 years) and several transitions-to-civil rule programmes that resulted in only two handovers of the military to democratically-elected governments in 1979 and 1999.
Unfortunately, the presidential system we chose as a panacea for instability, coupled with our centralised federalism, have proved too expensive and extremely difficult to adjust for the benefit of good governance, despite several conferences and constitution-redrafting efforts.
The Nigerian economy had taken off in the 1960s on a highly promising note, as the three (and later four) defunct Regions engaged in healthy competitions, scoring several firsts among the then newly-independent Third World nations. In fact, Nigeria was once ranked among the so-called BRINKS emergent nations (Brazil, Russia, India, Nigeria, Korea and South Africa). Only Nigeria fell off that romantic bracket. The main reason was that the military regimes centralised the economy and tied it to our oil wealth, while the rest of the resources were neglected. Nigeria became hostage to the rise and fall of oil prices. We are still struggling with the offshoots of the latest oil-linked economic recession.
Efforts to diversify the economy have repeatedly failed. This sparked off the recurrent calls for restructuring and the restoration of true federalism to give the country a second chance to resume growth. Nigeria’s current rating as the largest economy in Africa by Gross Domestic Product, GDP immediately pales into abject fallacy when juxtaposed with our 200 million population and rapidly rising national debt. The country is currently rated as the Poverty Capital of the World, where six people are falling into extreme poverty every minute. Perhaps because of limited or rapidly-diminishing economic opportunities, there is a prevalence of high crime rate (robberies, drug abuse, kidnapping, cultism, human trafficking and banditry) and violent agitations such as the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency, periodic flare-ups of militancy in the Niger-Delta and the resurgence of Biafran separatism.
Though Nigeria lags behind in almost every index of human development and many have struggled to abandon the country for greener pastures abroad, Nigerians still hold out great hope that something good will happen, somehow, someday, to turn our great potentials into reality. Nigeria remains one of the most blessed countries on earth, with human quality (though largely unharnessed) second to none in the world. Nigerians love their country dearly. These are our greatest assets which justify the hope and confidence that for Nigeria, the future is still very GREEN!
Therefore, we should celebrate!