Monday, October 1, 2012

NIGERIA @52; THE HAPPY SAD STORY OF THE REPUBLIC

Nigeria, the giant of Africa (as some people call it), gained her independence from British Colonial Masters on the 1st day of October, 1960. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, from Northern Nigeria, headed the executive council as Prime Minister. Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, from Eastern Nigeria and a pioneer of West African Nationalism, became the first Governor General of the then three (3) regions of the country. They were the Northern, Eastern and Western Regions with Lagos as the federal capital. The regions were headed by Premiers with Governors as ceremonial heads. The Office of the Governor-General was later re-designated as “The Office of the President” under the 1963 Republican Constitution. Other prominent Nigerians like Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Chief Obafemi Awolowo worked tirelessly for Nigeria to gain her independence from our Colonial Masters and became what it is today. Despite their religious and tribal differences, these leaders put the interest of the country first before their personal, regional and tribal interests. All they had in mind was to make Nigeria a greater country that can stand on her own and compete with other world economies. They provided infrastructures and social amenities for the masses. They worked for a true and united Nigeria. Indeed, it was a rough journey for them. They were able to succeed because they were focused and had a sense of positive thinking. They were also united whenever it comes to issues that have to do with the development of the country. Nigeria at that time depended largely on farming. It was the major source of revenue for the country. The production of groundnuts from the Northern Region brought a lot of income to the country. This was because the region is endowed with vast fertile land for farming. That was when Nigeria had good leaders with vision of transforming the country, not minding which part of the country the income-generating resources came from. They were indeed heroes and role models worthy of emulation. The good journey started deteriorating in January 1966 when the Premier of the then Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, together with other prominent Nigerians were brutally killed in a coup d’état led by Nzeogu Kaduna. This was the first military coup in Nigeria and General Ironsi became the first Military President of Nigeria. Shortly afterwards, Nigeria experienced her first civil war (Biafran war). It started in 1967 during the military regime of Colonel Yakubu Gowon. The motive was to divide Nigeria and create the Republic of Biafra. It is on record that foreign powers like America, Israel and their allies supported the Biafran succession that was led by Colonel Ojukwu. However, Ojukwu lost the battle after thirty (30) months of fierce fighting. Thousands of innocent lives were lost and properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed. To harmonize the country, states were created by General Gowon and the policy of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (known as 3 Rs) was formulated. The compulsory National Youth Service (NYSC) was also enacted. There were counter coups by other military officers before the country returned to democratic rule after thirteen (13) years of military rule. In 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was elected as the first Executive President of Nigeria. However, hunger, poverty, economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, election fraud and general lack of focus characterized his government. This prompted the military to overthrow his government in December 1983. Major General Muhammadu Buhari was installed as the Head of State. Buhari’s tenure was short but most remembered for its War against Indiscipline and Corruption. A bloodless coup in August 1985 brought Major General Babangida, the then Chief of Army Staff, into power. The misuse of power, violation of human rights and the government’s failure to deal with Nigerian’s deepening economic crisis were the justification given for the overthrow of Buhari’s regime. Babangida restored freedom of the press and released political detainees that were held without charges. Statistics and opinions of the people suggested that Babangida recorded a lot of laudable achievements. The country turned into turmoil when he annulled the June 12 election of 1993. Most observers said that the election was free and fair. The result showed that MKO Abiola, a wealthy Yoruba businessman, won the election. Babangida’s Government was forced to hand over to an Interim National Government (ING) that was led by Chief Earnest Shonekan, a prominent non-partisan Yoruba businessman. But after three (3) months in power, the Minister of Defence, General Sani Abacha took control of the government and forced Shonekan to resign in November 1993. General Abacha dissolved all democratic political institutions. He replaced elected governors with military officers. Abacha’s regime was somehow peaceful. The “No Non-Sense General”, popularly called “Dodon Turawan Yamma” (The Monster of Western Powers), did not condone indiscipline and misbehaviour. His government was focused and determined to deliver at all levels. Abacha hardly left the country in the name of the so-called “World Summit”. The security of the country was very tight. Hardly will you hear cases of robbery, kidnapping, or violence. Indeed, Abacha’s Government recorded a number of achievements that made meaningful impact to the lives of Nigerians. Can you remember the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) Program? General Buhari was appointed the chairman of PTF by Abacha. It is a well-known fact that PTF recorded huge success in the areas of education, road construction and other infrastructural development. Abacha also tried to pay Nigeria’s foreign debt before its due date, but the Western Powers refused to accept the payment. As usual, “the monster of western powers” did not bother about them, and did not give them any room to influence his government. Abacha promised to return Nigeria to civil rule. He also publically showed interest to contest in the election even though he was criticized by civil societies. All registered political parties, with the exception of the then Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJ), adopted him as their Presidential candidate. However, Abacha did not live to actualize his dream. General Abdulsalam Abubakar became the Head of State following the death of Abacha in June 1998. In the eleven (11) months of his government, Abdulsalam is best remembered for handing power to a democratically elected president after sixteen (16) years of consecutive military rule. But something worthy of mentioning here is that, the billions of dollars saved by Abacha to pay the huge foreign debt of the county got missing during Abdulsalami’s tenure. 29th day of May 1999 saw the return of democracy to Nigeria. General Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military Head of State, became the President of the country. Violence and insecurity confronted his government shortly after its inauguration. Despite the dictatorship of his government, he took bold steps to end the communal violence that married his early days in office. The discovery of more oil wells during his administration put the Northern and Southern parts of the country into a “war of words”. This was due to the agitation of Southerners for increase in their monthly allocation and what they call resource control. Shouldn’t this prompt you to ask if such preferential treatment was given to the Northern Region of Nigeria when farming was the major source of revenue for Nigeria? What will they say now that oil has been discovered in Sokoto and Kogi States? For the first time in the history of Nigeria, a civilian government successfully handed over to another civilian in May, 2007 after a controversial election that was strongly criticized by both national and international monitoring observers. President Umaru Musa Yar’adua was sworn into office. He admitted that the election that brought him to power was full of irregularities, but he promised to reform the electoral process. He then proposed a Government of National Unity in which two (2) opposition parties, ANPP and PPA, agreed to join the government. Yar’adua’s Government lasted for about three (3) years before his death in May, 2010. However, he recorded remarkable achievements in a short period of time. Yar’adua was able to address national issues hindering the development of Nigeria. He created the Ministry of Niger-Delta to address the crisis in the region. Also, he reduced the prices of petroleum products, and recognized the autonomy of the Judiciary and other arms of government. His death caused a vacuum in Nigeria that is yet to be filled. Goodluck Jonathan, who was the Vice-President, was sworn into office as the President of Nigeria in May, 2010. However, the insecurity in the country increased beyond our imagination when he assumed power. Kidnapping, bombing, robbery and killing of innocent people on our high ways became the order of the day. Bombings in Northern Nigeria, kidnappings and shootings in Southern Nigeria are no longer news. From 2009 to date, thousands of people have died and many have been rendered homeless. People are no longer enjoying the benefit of the so-called democracy. We have no clue what the future holds for us! How will you think for a future when the security of your life is at stake? The insecurity of the country mainly affects the poor masses that are powerless. But despite all these, President Jonathan and his cabals always jet-out of the country for summits when their attention is most needed. Nigeria is in a sorry state of insecurity! Similarly, corruption in Nigeria is so common that it is no longer an issue. The recent Subsidy Investigation Report revealed that most of the indicted people are relatives and children of top government officials in Aso Rock. There is no doubt that corruption has eaten deeply into the government. It is no surprise that the Jonathan Administration is insisting on the introduction of new currency bills. Surely, this will pave way for them to loot from the treasury. The controversial #5,000 bill has continued to generate heated debate. But the Presidency has finally told Nigerians that it is not backing down on the policy. What a pity! Nigeria, the once vibrant and powerful black nation is 52 years today since independence on the 1 October, 1960. But ask yourself: “is there need for any celebration?” What are we celebrating when eighty per cent (80%) of the citizens cannot afford three (3) square meals a day? How can you celebrate when ordinary Nigerians cannot pay for medication when hospitalized for minor injuries? Do we celebrate when we live, speak and sleep in fear? Why should you celebrate when fellow Nigerians have become orphans and widows due to insecurity? Are we celebrating the pathetic condition of our hospitals, fallen standard of education, increased unemployment, or the closure of our industries? What dividends of democracy do Nigerians derive in the thirteen (13) years of uninterrupted democratic rule? Shouldn’t you wonder what we are celebrating for? The bitter truth is that President Jonathan must be focused and must have the interest of Nigeria in his mind. His cabinet members should be sincere when carrying out their responsibilities. Nigerians have to sit and think on how they can meaningfully contribute to the development of the country. Otherwise, Jonathan, you will continue to be the “most criticized president in the world” just as you always claim. A word is enough for the wise!

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