Independence: When celebrating is burdensome
By Ubaka Okofu
For a country like Nigeria, allocating fleshy budget every October in a wild spree and thrill of celebrating independence when the unity and continuous existence of the country is in a brink is not only preposterous but holds out those saddled with the affairs of the nation as either unpatriotic, incompetent or championing the cause of ethnic politics. There is no doubt that the unity and the soul of this country is fast ebbing away. From Maiduguri in Borno state to Calabar in Cross Rivers, from Osogbo in Osun to Ikot-Abasi in Akwa-Ibom, the twin problems of insecurity and economic impoverishment are unimaginable.
The identitarian dimension to the state of organic mistrust and misrule under President Muhammadu Buhari can only point to years of playing to the gallery by those entrusted with the responsibility of leadership. The prognosis of the Nigeria situation reveals that the nation is being afflicted by corruption, nepotism, mediocrity, ethnic madness and outright disregard for the rule of law. Hence, crooning the monotone of restructuring among progressives couldn’t have been out of place. Although, the call for restructuring may be louder among those from the Southern part of the country than we have seen in the North, the need to restructure the country is beyond any personal or ethnic aggrandizement. It’s the only way going forward with the Nigeria project.
Pertinent, and more importantly, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) must first be overhauled to give room for fairness to every nook and cranny of the federation. Topping the list of issues to be looked into are the twin issues of resource control and the hegemonic character of the federal government over almost every issue which is considered paramount to the existence of the country. For instance, the question of educationally disadvantaged states has thrown up more questions than answers. Yearly, intelligent students are being denied admission opportunities in our unity schools and tertiary institutions. This alone is a regression of a nation in search of scientists.
Historically, the month of October is significant to Nigerians. It was the month in 1960 when Nigeria was granted autonomy in the form of partial political and economic control from the imperialist British government. Therefore, it’s axiomatic that most colonized nations of the world including the United States of America celebrate independence. Nigerians, especially school children back in the 1970s and 1980s looked forward to the month of October, and were usually ebullient during the period. But, all that has changed now due to bad leadership. What we now have in place of Independence Day celebration is the celebration of incompetence and ethnic overlords. And this is at a time when disillusionment and mistrust have taken centre stage in the affairs of the country? Since 1960 when Independence was first celebrated, none may have been as plastic and sombre as the one to mark the country’s 60th year of independence.
Apparently, there is no reason to celebrate a nation which has been ranked as the poverty capital of the world. It’s no longer news that 10 Nigerians uncharitably drift into poverty each passing hour. A Washington post piece puts it that 86.9million Nigerians live in sordid poverty and this is about 50% of the entire Nigerian population. Corroborating the report is data from the National Bureau of Statistics which says in a report that Nigerians, since 2015, have been “regressing deeper and deeper into unrelenting poverty due to poor economic management and sheer ineptitude”
It is not only for the above reason that Nigeria is in world map. In the wake of insurgency in the northern east of Nigeria, the World Health Organization (WHO), in a report puts life expectancy in the country at 54.7years as against 52.2years by the National Population Commission of Nigeria. The WHO outlined leading causes of death in Nigeria to include violence, hypertension, suicide, road traffic accidents, drug use, inter-tribal wars etc. This means that over hundred Nigerians die every passing minute. Why this is so points to the systematic failure of a country that also doubles as a world class producer of crude oil and other minerals of immense economic values.
The question begging for an answer is, for how long shall we continue to celebrate independence at October 1st when the unity of this country is being asphyxiated, and led slowly to a coma? The need to restructure is to resuscitate the being or soul of this country. Without mincing words, those who are not in support of restructuring are simply saying that all is well with Nigeria.
Pundits do not believe less. With the growing executive excesses in the country, indications are that the 1999 Constitution has become obtuse and can no longer provide the needed fair and just structure our past heroes intended it to be. If not, where does the Governor of Zamfara derive the power to mine and appropriate the proceeds from such mining to itself when the crude oil in the Niger Delta still remains a commonwealth of the entire country?
It won’t be totally correct to say that the bad shape of the economy had fuelled the agitation for restructuring. Let no one makes a mistake about it, the agitation for restructuring has been there even before the rebirth of democracy in early 1990s. Postponing the evil days and suppressing the all important issue of restructuring might put the unity and continuous existence of this country in jeopardy. Honestly, there is nothing to be afraid of with restructuring. It’s better to restructure and remain indivisible than continue with the present un-federal arrangement with its’ attendant packets of agitation and chaos across the country.