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Nigeria @ 50: What happened to the ‘Giant of Africa’?

By: Ahmed Dodo

Published October 15th, 2010

I am a Nigerian and always proud to be one , a citizen of an area that covers approximately 924,000 sq km, with an exploding population of about one hundred and forty-five million people and blessed with about two hundred and fifty ethnic tribes. A very rich nation blessed by God with human and natural abundance. Membership of almost all the major International organizations around the globe, the likes of the all powerful United Nations (UN), The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organization (WTO),ECOWAS, the Africa Union, OPEC, the Commonwealth, Food and Agricultural Organization, (FAO),International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU),International Labour Organization (ILO),International Communication Union (ICU), International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IFRCS), the INTERPOL among others, including the famous G groups: G24,G15,G77, and other various International bodies too numerous to mentioned.

A great adventurous nation Indeed, but what has all these international adventures contributed to the transformation of this ‘giant of Africa’ and its people. A salient question begging for answer is: what happened to Nigeria my beloved country, known for its rich groundnut pyramid, vast cocoa land, rich palm oil trade and the other numerous rich agriculture products found in all the corners of our spacious fertile land? I mean that Nigeria reputed to be rich in Bitumen, Petrol, Tin, Coal, Iron ore, Lead, Zinc, Gold and the other numerous discovered and undiscovered rare metal pegmatite scattered abundantly across all the seven hundred and seventy-four local government councils across the country.

The reality is that one does not really need the assistance of a soothsayer or modern day consultant, for one to know that God indeed has blessed this great nation with ‘almost everything’ on earth. What then could be said to be the factors militating against the proper development of this ‘great nation, with great people’? Under a reasonable circumstance the membership of Nigeria in some of the above listed International bodies, should have placed it as one of the most organized countries not only in the Africa continent, but as one of the well organized and developed in the world. Unfortunately, the scenario we have today has not really tallied with our international reputation.

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The Nigeria I see today is totally different from that Nigeria I used to know, hear and read about back in school, that rich country with solid educational infrastructure, efficient rail system, effective health -care sector, reliable power supply and a vibrant economy. This Nigeria that had just celebrated its fifty years as an independent nation, to be honest, is different from the one promised us by our patriotic and nationalist leaders, the likes of great Nnamdi Azikwe, the amiable and visionary Ahmadu Bello and the erudite Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory, and the other nationalist leaders who fought diplomatically for the attainment of independence from colonialism. Could this be the same Nigeria with patriotic sport-men and women, the likes of Garba Okoye, the famous Thunder Balogun, Dick Tiger, Hogan Bassey, the Odegbamis, the Okalas, the Owolabis, the Dahiru Sadis, the Mary Onyali, Innocent Egbunike, Power Mike and the others too numerous to mention.

I am finding it hard to believe that this is the same sport loving nation with some of the best sport facilities in sub-Saharan Africa that had competent sport administrators and athletes that could compete boldly anywhere in the world. What happened to that country called Nigeria that proudly hosted one of the world spectacular International cultural festivals (FESTAC 77)? Could this be the same country now unattractive to tourists and foreign investors? This largely due to infrastructural decay and lack of maintenance culture.

What happened to that Nigeria that had so many surpluses that it thought it wise to raise wages of its then vibrant civil service with the mouth watering ‘Odoji’ windfall? Could this be the same Nigeria with an efficient corrupt-free civil service, laced with visionary and God-fearing men and women drawn from all the regions irrespective of tribes and religion? Is this present country that has just won the tag of an unquantifiable golden medal as an independent sovereign nation really moving forward or taking more steps backward, behind some of its Africa neighbours and indeed far behind its counterparts in its various International membership organizations?

Funnily, our membership of most of these International bodies has done nothing to alleviate or reduce the daily biting of poverty among our countrymen and women, neither has our position as one of the sixth largest oil producing nations and a bona fide member of OPEC reduced the sky-rocketing price of petroleum products or cut down the unjustifiable price of kerosene to our towns and villages. What has our membership of the Commonwealth or the United Nation brought to us? Or our membership of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Confederation of Trade Union (ICFTU) done to tackle the high rate of unemployment across the country or help resuscitate most of our collapsed industries? Has it changed the daily exploitation of Nigerians by our so-called ‘foreign partners’ in most of the few foreign dominated companies still operating in the country? Again what has our membership of the International Communication Union (ICU) done to the daily exploitation of Nigerians with high call tariffs and exorbitant price of assessing the Internet?

Our visionless leaders have sold their conscience to greed, forgetting that the strength of our population should naturally make us one of the most competitive business nations in the world. Instead Nigerians are daily blindfolded with ‘ cheap raffle promos’ and other loud promotional self-serving promos, that hardly add any value to the society in terms of corporate responsibilities, as obtained in other prudent nations. Here the service providers are happy and daily smiling away with huge capital flights, while we are daily conned into expensive talking.

Could this really be the same serene Nigeria with safe roads, world class infrastructure, clean environment and creative people? No! – Someone should wake me up from my chimera. This can’t be the same place now ravaged by death trap roads, armed robberies, kidnappers, assassins, cultists, corruption, religion intolerance, extremism, fatalism, nepotism, hypocrisy, unpatriotism, political mediocrity and blander disregard to the rule of law and respect for individual creativity, economic freedom, maladministration and mismanagement of various government agencies across the country, left behind by our visionary past patriotic leaders. Someone should boldly tell me this is not the same Nigeria that spearheaded the formation of the Organization of Africa Unity (Africa Union), now swimming disgracefully in politics of regionalization and division. What happened to that country that made us proud as a people, with a vibrant leader like the late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, who was not only an efficient Nigerian leader, but a strong voice from Africa that made us believe that indeed “Africa has come of age”. A patriotic soldier who effectively demonstrated the reality that leadership is not all about khaki or ‘Caftan’ but commitment, principle, vision and the fear of God. He came in and did in six months what many of our past and present leaders are still stumbling blindly to do in the past thirty four years after his death. And today our hitherto vibrant respected voice in the competitive global stage has continued to shrink, drowning helplessly like a drowning man on a high sea.

Today Nigerians are branded with different aliases: from 419ers, drug pushers, terrorists, kidnappers, corrupt people, yahoo men and women, human and body traffickers, ’ojoro’ people and what have you. Worst our membership of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has done nothing to interfere or assist Nigerians in the Diaspora, daily deported like sheep from various countries across the globe, especially from Britain our so-called ‘Colonial Godfather’ and head of the commonwealth, including America the land of ‘equal opportunity and freedom’. Again, what has been the contribution of the rich Nigeria Diaspora population to the effective development of the Nigeria project over the past thirty years, like their counterparts in India, China, Ghana, South Africa and other nations with large intellectual capital in the Diaspora?

What happened to that Nigeria that had patriotic politicians, with political ideas, eloquent speeches, and nationalism as their trademark? Are the current crops of ‘siddon chop’ politicians purported to be representing the ‘people’ really doing what they are supposed to be doing in the states and national assemblies? What single bill have they proposed since the past ten years that has made any impact in the lives of the ordinary Nigerians that anyone of them can boldly come out to pinpoint to the world? Why is the Nigeria of today practising one of the most expensive democracies in the world shrouded in political assassinations, lack of political ideas, political corruption and imposition and election ringing? Could this be the same country that had eloquent politicians and leaders like Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Mallam Aminu Kano, Chief Anthony Enahiro, Chief Michael Okpara, Hajia Gambo Sawaba,Ladi Kwali, Madam Margaret Ekpo, Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and the many others who came, saw and conquered?

Where is that country that had some of the best entertaining artists in the globe, the likes of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Mamman Shata, King Sunny Ade, and the rest who were a strong brand in the musical world? Is this the same country that brought out some of the best literary minds in the world, the likes of Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, and Abubakar Imam? Could this now be the same Nigeria that once had a vibrant cinema, patriotic actors and actress like Ogunde, Kassimu Yaro, Chief Zebrudaya, Chief Eleyimi, Baba Sala, Jaguar and the rest? What has happened to educative and enlightening national TV programmes the likes of the Village Headmaster, Cock-Crow at Dawn, the New Masquerade and other screen presentations that bonded us as a prosperous nation? Today they have all been forced out of our mind set, with foreign movies and culture, and our celebrated but not too successful Nollywood, left in the hands of mediocrities.

Fifty years is a golden age, and Nigeria as a nation has passed through some trying periods, largely man-made problems that could effectively be tackled by its over 145 million people, but the ship seems to be sinking under visionless leadership and maladministration by its ‘selected captains’ and one question that would keep rising today and tomorrow from generations of born and yet unborn Nigerians would be “What happened to the ‘giant of Africa? Unless we all come together to rescue our big rich ship from sinking into that dirty mouldy water, some of our greedy leaders are blindly and greedily navigating us towards a dangerous and violent storm as the next year elections approach.

God bless Nigeria our beloved country.


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