As I put pen to paper for the 85th article of this weekly column, I find myself looking back to the thoughts I have shared and the outcomes I have hoped for, especially as they relate to my country, Nigeria, and the environment. For the benefit of those who may be reading this column for the first time, I have often written about Nigeria’s issues, which we can all agree are numerous. In my writings, I am constantly asking for who will fix the nation’s current failed state that’s inundated by a myriad of issues, ranging from rigged elections to inaccurate census of the nation’s population, poor and lacking infrastructure, the fallout from the civil war yet to be resolved, residue of a military past, insecurity and insurgency.
In one of my earlier articles, I shared my excitement at returning home after many years of studying in the United Kingdom. It comes up at this time as I still feel deep sadness for a nation that had and still has so much potential. It was in the ’60s and I was a young man who had just graduated college in the United Kingdom. I remember how giddy I was and very much in a hurry to return home to my beloved country, Nigeria. It was a nation that was united and emerging, a country that was getting ready to compete with the rest of the emerging nations and a country that was expected to lead the rest of Africa. The prospects for Nigeria were endless.
I recall telling my friends and mates in the United Kingdom before I left to return to Nigeria that, if there was any continent that was likely to become another America, it would be the continent of Africa, led by Nigeria, because Nigeria had everything: human capital, fertile land for agriculture, oil and gas, gold, diamond and more. It was easy to get caught up in my excitement as they wished me well and made plans to come visit my country soon.
My return home was quite the experience. I was celebrated and became the Desert Warrior known as the first man to drive solo from UK to Nigeria. This was to be the start of something great, or so I thought, as I had barely settled in when the first military junta began, following the 1966 coup d’état, which overthrew Prime Minister Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and made Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi the head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria. He too was soon overthrown and murdered in a coup in July of the same year. Then followed a long list of more military coups then a civil war that lasted three years. During that time, we went from four regions, namely, the Northern, Western, Midwest and Eastern region, to 12 states and now 36. The increasing number of regions/states was argued to be needed so as to aid revenue distribution or what we know call it in many discourse resource control. However, we cannot mention resource control without highlighting that this particular subject was partly responsible for the civil war of 1967 till 1970, lasting for 3 years. Resource control put a halt to the mediation that attempted to prevent an all-out civil war. This mediation attempt is popularly known as the Aburi Accord and was held between 4th and 5th January, 1967 in Aburi, Ghana.
The military coup, the civil war, the killings, the divisions and the bitterness that followed divided the country to a point of no return causing the nation to degenerate into one huge ball of fractured pieces that may never fit quite well together again.
In another excerpt, I pointed out that every time I talk to my children and grandchildren – biological and non-biological – across the country, they ask questions around the feasibility of Nigeria ever going back to the good old days of my time. I find that on some days I am able to make claims in the affirmative to support the notion that indeed Nigeria’s socio-economic development is possible with people willing to drive the vehicle of positive change. On other days, I am lost for words as an air of despondency surrounds me and I wonder if indeed there’s still hope for the nation. You see, the good Nigeria I grew up in gave me so much: a sound education, the ability to travel the length and breadth of the country and outside its shores, it also gave me hope. It felt like one nation and I can say this after living in almost every part of the country.
Imagine a Nigeria that had no coups, no civil wars, didn’t have to deal with fundamentalists and insurgencies. It blossomed and flourished. The sum total of these problems in the country today is underdevelopment which has resulted in the backwardness, instability, insecurity and stagnation of Nigeria.
Our dear country Nigeria is blessed with ample natural resources that can last decades, vast green lands suitable for agriculture, rivers and lakes for fishing activities and more importantly, we are blessed with human resources that surpasses any other country in the continent of Africa. Nigeria recorded a population of 185 million people in 2016 and with a 2.5% yearly growth, that number is said to rise to about 195 million people in 2018. Looking at these numbers, it can be said that we have a sizable population that can drive economic growth in any industry.
Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case. A large portion of its enviable population size is filled with unemployed and unemployable people. The illiteracy rate in this country is staggering. With an illiterate population of 65 million to 70 million people, there is great cause for alarm.
An additional point I would like highlight is our lack of innovation in growing the economy. In a world that is fast becoming a global community, it is increasingly impossible for Nigeria to become insular, giving our penchant for all that is foreign. But it is ironic that though we love so much of the good life, we cannot produce much that is good. The Nigerian internal market is such a huge one giving our population of over 185 million people. If we could concentrate on creating quality goods and services that are consumed locally and globally, our economy would be in the stratosphere. So will our social services, health care, our infrastructure, our schools, polytechnics, and universities.
The solutions are obvious and most of my previous articles touch on the many ways that the country can harness available resources in ushering the necessary economic revolution that’s needed in the country. Today’s article would be an exception. Today, I am reflecting and calling on many of us to do same. Do we believe in the mantra of a brighter future for Nigeria? If yes, are we willing to play our individual roles so as to realize that bright future? If no, then of what use is it to prepare for a future you cannot imagine?