By Khalifa Musa Muhammad
On 1st October 2020, Nigeria will mark sixty years of independence. Sixty years since our colonial masters left the leadership of Nigeria to Nigerians. Initially, a part of Nigeria wanted the independence by 1957 while the other section wanted a later date. The reason of the latter was that Nigerians needed time to bridge the gap. They deemed it necessary to gain more experience and training in order to sustain governance. As fate will have it, Nigeria became independent in 1960.
In 1962, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, published his autobiography “My Life”. Amongst others, he highlighted how they struggled for independence and set the ball rolling afterwards. Sardauna was passionate about education-for all including the girl-child and handicapped-and also optimistic on industrialization. His lamentation on exporting raw materials and importing the finished products was unequivocal.
Fast forward to 2020, have we really moved forward? On education, we have 13.2 million out of school children. Some of the schools are out of shape. Our pupils still sit on the floor. Quacks pose as teachers. We have learning environments that are not conducive. The little allocation for education is not just meager but paltry.
It is said that only ten percent of applicants gain admission into tertiary institutions yearly. Out of this ten percent how many get jobs? Tertiary institutions churn out graduates yearly. You find first class students with no jobs. Their schools do not absorb them neither do they offer them scholarships to further their studies. The system finds no space to accommodate them. So, we waste their skills and they get rotten – the sad reality. Education is crucial to development and we have actually just scratched the surface. To satisfy the wants, wishes and desires of 200 million Nigerians we have to do better and move at a quicker pace.
Today, we export raw materials and import finished products. What sense does it make to export crude oil and import petrol? In 2017, Ibe Kachikwu, the then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, announced that he will resign if Nigeria keeps importing fuel by 2019. He did not resign and we still import fuel. Also, tomatoes in our farm and market get rotten while we are busy importing tomato paste. This is what happens to our natural resources, minerals and agricultural products; we export the raw materials and import finished products – misplaced priorities. The sad reality!
On basic amenities, our politicians still use water and electricity to campaign. According to statistics by UNICEF, lack of access to clean water leads to the death of about 70,000 children annually under the age of five in Nigeria. According to USAID, only 30 percent of the population in northern Nigeria has access to clean water. In addition, lack of potable water can worsen health conditions through water borne diseases.
Works on electricity started around the 17th century but today in Nigeria power supply is incessantly erratic. The PDP once stated that they had spent $16 billion on power. Where is the power? The Mambila power project that has a capacity of 3,050 MW has been in the pipeline for about fifty years. This project is still not ready – the sad reality.
The sad reality is that we pride ourselves as the “Giant of Africa” yet supply of electricity in Nigeria is insufficient and inadequate. The distribution hovers around 5,000 MW across the 923,000 sq km which 200 million Nigerians occupy. Without intensive efforts to have adequate power supply, sustainable development will be beyond our reach.
The road network in Nigeria is deplorable. The conditions of the roads lead to ghastly accidents. Man-hours are wasted on traffic gridlock. The state of the roads is very poor that it hinders the efficiency of transporting goods and services. Bad roads have negative economic effects. The sad reality is that in Nigeria, road construction or rehabilitation is very expensive and it takes time.
Despite all these pressing issues, scarce resources to the tune of 37 billion naira will be used to renovate the National Assembly complex. I believe Nigerians would not mind if the legislators move to the National Stadium or Eagle Square to conduct their legislative duties. Besides, this will bring legislative activities closer to the people. The amount is too much and the priority should be on enhancing human capital development of Nigerians not some white elephant project.
As the saying goes “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” In Nigeria today, we elect people that have no plans. They assume office confused, disorganized and disoriented. This is evident as ample time is being wasted in understanding governance. Sadly, we have lost the patriotic drive and quite a number of elected officials are more interested in embezzling and looting than serving Nigerians. This is the sad reality.
The sad reality is that: nowadays, most Nigerians or residents of Nigeria are directly or indirectly vulnerable to the pervasive insecurity in the land. The rates of crime, banditry and kidnapping have swelled. Furthermore, shortly after we were famously dubbed as fantastically corrupt by the former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, we are now the poverty capital of the world. The economic indices and statistics are not favorable to us. Yet, we seem to have not executed a feasible and viable plan, simply because we have none – the sad reality. But there is a way out.
Our leaders should be men and women that will build strong institutions. Our leaders are meant to serve us not rule over us. It is in our interest to hold them accountable for their actions and inactions. For the past sixty years we have made achievements that are far below our expectations. Achievements that are not commensurate to what we require to be a force to reckon with.
This is unfortunate and should be unacceptable for a country with promising potentials, like Nigeria. Our inability to gain grounds is surprising. Considering independence had to wait till we were more skilled to handle the affairs of state, will it have been worse if our independence came earlier?
Khalifa Musa Muhammad wrote in from Kaduna.