By Aliyu Danladi
The independence of Nigeria, granted on 1st October, 1960, was greeted with exultation and fanfare throughout and across the African continent. It had marked an important date in the history and evolution of African nationalism and global Pan-Africanism as the most populous black nation on earth had realised its aspirations for self-rule after decades of colonial rule. In addition to the fulfillment of the yearnings of Nigerians for self-rule, it had served as a catalyst for other African nations in their struggle for independence.
Three years after Independence, in 1963, the Federation of Nigeria declared itself a Federal Republic and established Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as its President and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister. Not long after its creation, the First Republic— administered through the governments of the Northern, Eastern and Western regions— started encountering problems, chiefly on the question of national resource allocation. The struggle for political power had also prompted politicians, who had hitherto been nationalists, to promote ethnic, tribal and regional differences among a population that had united and fought colonialism.
The First Republic had succeeded in providing considerable infrastructure development, healthcare, education and other social amenities. However, amidst rising political tension, it was brought to an end by a military coup on 15th January, 1966. The coup exacerbated tribal relations in Nigeria as it was perceived as a challenge to “Hausa Domination” of the Federal Government due to the composition of the coup plotters. It was executed by young soldiers mostly of “Igbo” extraction. The First Coup was followed by a Counter Coup on 28th July, 1966. A series of events followed, culminating in the Civil War from 1967-1970.
Nigeria had witnessed several military regimes after the First Coup— with short-lived republics in between— before its eventual return to civilian rule in 1999. Military rule, nonetheless its shortcomings, had played a vital role in the history of Nigeria by, mostly importantly, maintaining the unity of Nigeria even through the Civil War. Apart from that, development was recorded in infrastructure, education, health, transportation, aviation and economic growth.
Although Nigeria has recorded numerous achievements up to the current Fourth Republic— maintaining its integrity and unity as an indissoluble nation; establishing itself among the largest producers and exporters of oil in the world; advancing in industry, agriculture, education, healthcare, transportation, sports, entertainment, Information and Communications Technology and other sectors of the economy; and becoming an important entity in international trade and diplomacy— still a shadow looms over the promising horizon.
The progress of Nigeria is still hampered by corruption, economic contraction, extreme poverty, hunger, injustice, power failure, inadequate infrastructure, communal crises, incessant killings, kidnappings, banditry, insurgency and general Insecurity.
However, despite the challenges, Nigeria has retained its position as “The Giant of Africa.” By virtue of its potentials, Nigeria was listed among the 11 Global Growth Generators (3Gs) in a 2011 report by Citigroup under economist Willem Buiter. Nigeria and Egypt were the only African countries so listed.
In view of its potentials, what then is the prospect and possibilities of a better Nigeria?
Nigeria was ranked 152 of 157 countries in the World Bank’s 2018 Human Capital Index. That is why, despite having abundant natural resources, Nigeria is unable to meet the demands of its population. A large human capital is left untapped. In 2020, unemployment rate was measured at 27% and underemployment rate 28%.
For any population to be productive, it requires optimum education. Apart from promoting mass literacy, technical education needs to be included in the curricula, starting from basic level, to harness the creative energy in children. Advancement in science and technology should be pursued by establishing more institutes and donating research funds; organizing capacity building workshops and exhibitions; giving incentives to innovations; protecting intellectual property; and offering market support to products. Observing these measures, among others, will boost creativity and drive innovation.
Human Capital development is impossible without social welfare and security. It is estimated that about 40% of Nigeria’s population lives below poverty line: struggling daily for food, clothing, shelter and medication. In rural areas and some parts of cities, it is a privilege to go to school. In the present situation, banditry, insurgency, and communal crises are acting to shatter the lives of thousands of Nigerians.
In addition to physical security, financial security is required to reduce poverty. Nigeria is among the countries with large income inequality and high cost of governance. Fiscal expenditure on governance should be cut and the surplus amount could be used on housing, agricultural, educational and health projects. The private sector could be taxed and the money could be spent on improving pensions, gratuities, benefits and allowances for the unemployed and the disabled.
The case of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is becoming a menace in Nigeria. The street is filled with the disabled going round, begging. Most a times, they employ little children, who should rather be at school, as guides. IDPs, on the other hand, being poorly catered for at IDP Camps, also resort to begging, exposing women and children to danger in the process.
Through a recommended “National Directorate of Disability and Rehabilitation,” the problem can be addressed. Large-scale housing projects in destroyed communities, reconstruction of schools and setting up vocational training at IDP Camps will boost productivity. Those who can do menial jobs among the physically challenged should be empowered, while those that can’t work should be insured with allowances.
To reduce the impact of natural disasters on human lives and property, a fund should be invested into disaster prediction, prevention and management. A fund should also be set aside for reparation and rehabilitation in the occurrence of disaster.
Human development, of course, is achieved when a population has access to resources to utilise for the development of industry and economy. Being heavily oil-dependent, the economy of Nigeria had seen rapid growth with global increase in oil prices. The annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria had seen an annual increase of about 7% from 2000-2014 before crash in global oil prices that plunged the country into recession in 2016. Efforts on economic recovery have been made by the Buhari-led administration and, despite fair successes, Nigeria’s GDP had contracted by -6.1% in the second quarter of 2020.
A figure by nairametrics.com will reveal the loophole in the Nigerian economic makeup. Despite the economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic instability, the financial sector in Nigeria had witnessed rapid growth of 28.41% in the second quarter of 2020. The industrial sector, on the contrary, witnessed a contraction of -12.05%.
Thousands of Nigerians are striving for basic needs while money is on the increase. Wide income inequality, increased border restrictions, insecurity, flooding and land degradation have contributed to the worsening. A poor domestic industrial base, in the face of global restrictions enforced by COVID-19, has caused prices to skyrocket.
With the availability of a large workforce; abundant natural resources and land; capital infrastructure such as roads, rails, seaports; and a large market; an investment in machinery, equipment and enterprise will drive robust productivity in Nigeria.
Power has become a major drawback in Nigeria’s industrial effort. Hydroelectric power, the major source of power, has been unable to provide for the requirements of both domestic and industrial consumption. There are several sources of power apart from hydroelectric that have the potential to generate enough power: solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, biomass and with abundant Uranium in some parts of the country, nuclear energy.
The agricultural sectors needs to be developed and modernised. The bulk of the population, especially rural dwellers, depend on traditional methods of agriculture. Mechanising the agricultural sector will enable the diversion of surplus labour into food processing and other agric-related ventures. Providing research funds to institutes and colleges of agriculture will lead to the development in seed yield, fertilizer production and improvement in farming practices and methods.
Apart from industrial and agricultural sectors, the service related sectors require investment as well. Nigeria has a lot of potential in tourism, sports, entertainment and cultural heritage. Investment therein will boost revenue generation.
Strong institutions and policies are needed, nevertheless, in human and economic development. Nigeria, however, has all the required institutions and policies. What is needed is the enforcement of Rule of Law to bind everyone to the policies. A stronger, independent and incorruptible judiciary is necessary to ensure adherence to the Law.
A complementary relationship exists between people on the one hand and institutions and policies on the other. People create institutions and policies, and, in turn, institutions and policies affect the conduct of people. In order to have the Nigeria of our future, Nigerians must be willing to obey National institutions and policies. Only then will National interest, above any other interest, be achieved for the progress of Nigeria.
Aliyu Danladi is a student at Bayero University, Kano, where he participates in Students’ Unionism. Born in Gombe state, he writes poems, literary reviews and articles related to politics and national issues.