Celebration of Nigeria’s 59th years of nationhood has attracted reactions across the country, with some saying that nothing is visible in terms of development while some maintain that the nation has something to show at 59. Some believe it’s uneventful and unworthy of celebration and others feel otherwise. But a nonagenarian business executive, Chief C. U. Mbaji of Lake Petroleum Ltd presents a different view. He holds that the country hasn’t fared badly; that under the present circumstance, some progress has been made and points out two fundamental factors, love and mutual co-existence among Nigerians, that are vital for progress. He spoke to RAY UDEAGBARA. Excerpts:
ON THE position of the country now in terms of development and progress since independence. It’s funny, ludicrous to see some Nigerians dismiss the country as having nothing to show in terms of development and progress since 59 years ago when it got her independence.
This class of people forget that what obtains today wasn’t obtainable in the 60s, 70s and even 80s. Since 1960 to date, one can rightly say that Nigeria has witnessed what I can call population explosion.
It’s not wrong to say that in the 60s, the country’s population was around 100 million plus. This was during the time of our founding fathers, the country’s nationalists like the Zik of Africa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Herbert Macaulay, Tafawa Belawa and Mazi Mbonu Ojike, as well as Akintola, Michael Okpara, Awolowo and their likes. While the country’s population today has increased to say 200 to 250 million plus, the land mass remains fixed. There has not been any expansion, and there can never be increase.
And this increased population is struggling to live on, share the fixed land mass and other resources like water, economic trees and minerals. Thanks to advancements in science and technology that brought development, better ways of harnessing these scarce, limited resources to meet increase in demand.
One important factor here is love and mutual co-existence among Nigerians. The country lacks love among her citizens and this makes mutual co-existence difficult, untenable. There is bitterness and rancor among Nigerians unlike the time of our founding fathers when everyone was his brother’s keeper.
That time, you can travel to anywhere and live where you like; in the North, in the South West, South East and South South without any fear. We saw ourselves as brothers and sisters then, and we were ready to help one another.
There were even interstate, inter-tribal marriages. In fact, the country was one. Now things have changed. There are divisions, segregation, bickering here and there. Unless we imbibe that spirit of love, mutual co-existence and good neigbourliness amongst us, the much sought after, long awaited meaningful development and real progress will continue to elude us.
Here we are today with 36 states and the FCT Abuja unlike in the colonial era and the 60s, 70s when we had regional settlements like the Eastern, Western, Mid Western and Northern regions and later 12 to 18 states.
In fact, I can state here and unequivocally too that if we’ve not achieved anything since independence, oneness is great development; in fact, an achievement. Today we’re the giant of Africa, and the most populous black nation in the world.
This is a plus in our quest for growth and greatness. And gradual transition from regional structures to the current 36 states is yet another plus, another progress and development. So, one will not just dismiss the country as one that hasn’t achieved anything. We have to eschew bitterness and rancor, see all of us as Nigerians who are working assiduously to build a better future for ourselves and our children.
We must be willing to see ourselves as one and willing to help one another. Leaders of our country must strive to work hard, shun corruption, focus their attention on the welfare of the masses, those they govern and do whatever they do with the fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom.
Let Nigerians work together to build a truly great and egalitarian nation where everyone, no matter his or her class, state, tribe or religion will live happily and contribute his quota to nation building.
So far, developments have been made in various sectors of the economy- in transportation and infrastructure, in education and commerce and industrialisation. And there is nothing to lament for. The future is bright. Let us face it, tackle it with hope and courage, imbuing that spirit of unity and oneness.
Today, Nigeria has registered its name in the comity of nations. This nation is respected everywhere in the world. Even at the United Nations, Nigeria has respect. It would seem that any insult and assault on Nigeria is insult or assault on African continent, Nigeria being the most populous country in the continent and the Giant of Africa. Never mind what some say about us, about Nigerians, our youth, that they are this and that, cyber criminals money launderers, 419niners etc.
We are not worse off. An x-ray of youths in other countries paints gloomier pictures. This is not to say that Nigerians are okay, that our youth are excellent. No, but our youths being our future leaders must stand up, stand their ground, face future challenges, learn to be self-reliant, shun all negative tendencies and contribute their quota to the greatness of our nation. They must not be wanting. They must imbue the virtue of integrity and hard work.
On how far Nigeria has fared in various sectors spread or concentrated in particular areas. This particular aspect of the discourse is very crucial and I better concentrate more in my own State, Anambra, Light of the Nation. Nigeria has 36 states. Nigeria operates Presidential system government, with three tiers, the Federal, State, and Local governments with of course greater, stronger power at the centre.
The President presides over the affairs of the nation while the governors administer their states and local government chairmen oversea the affairs of their various local governments.
Here in Anambra, our Chief Executive, Governor Willie Obiano, to my mind is equal to the task, governing the state, dishing out programmes and policies, robust ones as such for the good governance of the state.
Same is seen in other states and the FCT. Here in Anambra, the government sees quality education, health care and infrastructure as some of the indices to measure good governance, and a lot of development has been witnessed in these vital areas. We’ve witnessed here value-driven leadership with adequate and watertight security network.
It believes that all sectors are anchored on security, hence it has paid great attention to this sector. With its development-oriented programmes, the government is meeting the needs of the people, their welfare, including providing quality health care delivery, all to advance the pace of development, and this is going on in all sectors.
Local government administrations are working to support the people in their areas. This very system of government is witnessed in all the other 35 states of the federation. Hence we see developments in all the nooks and crannies of the countries by the three tiers of governments.
And we see roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, including tertiary institution-universities, polytechnics, colleges of education scattered across the country. Who says Nigeria has not witnessed meaningful development from Independence Day to date?
Much has really been done in terms of development under increased population. I say here that we must be happy with our country first, be patriotic, be ready to make sacrifice in our quest for its development.
And for the country to achieve greater heights, Nigerians must indulge in those things that will keep us together, united so we can live, work in harmony and unity. There can be no meaningful development in an atmosphere of rancor and bitterness. Government must pay attention to those things like all Nigeria Games, All Universities Games, Big Brother Niger which has just ended.
All these bring Nigerians, especially youths together irrespective of one’s tribe, religion, state, political affiliations, language and even class. Other developed economies witnessed the same problems we are passing through. And remember, we are under depressed global economy where inflation is high, businesses at their lowest ebb, white collar job almost extinct and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) too poor.
Ours is a blessed country because we are endowed with abundant human and material resources; so abundant that in the midst of global economic meltdown, when many countries like Libya, Tunisia, Syria, etc witnessed real revolution by irate and restive youths who had nowhere to lay their hands on, Nigerians are working hard, making do with our resources to live on and move the nation forward.
A cursory look around Nigeria now and a picture of what it was some decades back will definitely prove that some measure of development has been achieved in virtually all areas. Some suggest we shift from the present presidential to parliamentary system of government where we were before, during the time of Late Prime Minister Alhaji Abubakar Tafewa Belewa, that it is cheaper and easier to run and that it makes things happen faster. In this context, I believe it is not the kind of governmental system we adopt that matters. The issue here is how we see ourselves, fellow Nigerians; how we believe and how we relate with one another.
Once we see this country as one, ourselves as brothers and sisters, and get ready to work together and selflessly with patriotism, I think the sky is our limit. For Nigeria to achieve meaningful development, we the citizens must work harmoniously and government at all levels must imbibe the tenets of equity, justice and fairness and embrace the principles of rule of law in all they do.
We don’t need to return the country to regional groupings like Eastern, Western, Mid Western and Northern regions as it was before to achieve progress. No, this is not the solution or catalyst for development. The country was much less populated when we had these regions. In fact, nothing is wrong with our present state structure presently 36. We can even increase the states to 50 like the U.S which form of government we’re operating. T
he solution to our problem is in ourselves, in us. A change of our mindset, how we see, view, value things; how we see this country, Nigeria as our own collectively, and all of us, her citizens as one has clue to the solution. We must work, believe, think and do things as one Nation.
On the way forward
Nigeria’s future is bright. There is hope. Our hope lies in the abundant human and material resources in the country – man power, oil and gas, solid minerals, economic trees, vast arable land and waters. Efficient harnessing of these resources and prudent management is what we need.
Thank God the present administration is beginning to realise the need for good management. It’s not the amount, quantity of wealth that matters but how it is utilised. Government’s war against corruption is yielding fruits.
The economy is bad though Nigerians have learnt a great lesson from it as the time for extravagant life, wasteful spending is over. We’ve various challenges- challenges of terrorism (Boka Haram), challenges of herders-farmers clash, that of cyber crime. Mass unemployment and its attendant ills like youth restiveness, for example are equally great challenges.
Although this particular unemployment problem is a global challenge, Nigerian governments at all levels have taken adequate measures to solve it through the establishment in various states of skill acquisition centres, entrepreneurship studies to inculcate in our youths necessary skills to enable them become self-reliant.
To further enhance this, entrepreneurship study centres are established in all universities in the country. Today, self-reliant graduands are turned out from various institutions and they set up their own businesses, become employers of labour instead of job seekers and contribute meaningfully to nation building.
With the harsh and stringent economic conditions in the country, everyone has learnt to sit up. Businesses are springing up here and there and each tier of government takes its own measures to protect and promote them through the introduction of necessary policies to ensure ease of doing business and good security as we have here in Anambra.
Therefore, with the present governments’ programmes and policies in various states in the country and increased efforts by the citizenry to contain the harsh economic conditions, I’ll say that Nigeria is faring better.
There’s strong hope. Thanks to advances in science and technology as I mentioned earlier in this discussion. Our vast arable land is now better utilised. Efforts are geared towards agriculture, farming, animal husbandry and fishery. The current global economic meltdown is never a permanent phenomenon.
Governments all over the world are battling to contain it. Here in Nigeria, our governments are working assiduously to contain it also and I think they’re succeeding. Our major problem- that of unemployment, is being successfully tackled.
Thousands of our youths, male and female, have taken to agriculture, farming which is moving away from subsistence to mechanization. So, all in all, Nigeria has a bright future. Surely by next year, 2020, when the country will celebrate her 60th independent anniversary, she will be richer, more stable and prosperous. Let’s join hands together to make this achievable.
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