[email protected] still entrenched among ordinary people

By daily Express- Nii Kwaku Osabutey ANNY

--High level of intellectual and academic opportunism abound
--Ethnic tension still hangs in the air
--Ghost of military intervention haunts civilian administration

Nigeria is today marking 47 years of independence as a nation state. In 1960, Nigeria, currently Africa's most populous and oil rich nation severed the umbilical cord of colonialism from Britain.

At independence the country, based on her oil wealth, was seen as one of the few African countries that could fairly be in a position to compete favourably with its former colonial power when it comes to economic issues.

But the reverse is what is being experienced by majority of Nigerians who continue to see their poverty status deeply entrenched each passing day. Most of them live below the poverty index, making it difficult for them to educate their children let alone hold on to any meaningful income earning activities.

This is however contrary to the affluent posture that the few elites in political power continue to display around the political corridors, both home and abroad.

Though Nigerians have had to live under military regimes with Abacha's reign regarded by many as the most brutish, a civilian administration handed over power to another in elections that was docked with allegations of massive fraud.

The Peoples Democratic Congress under Umaru Musa Yar dua, the hand picked successor of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, will be expected to lead the pack of Nigerians to observe the country's 47th independent anniversary.

But not all Nigerians are upbeat about the government going ahead with today's celebrations. Affiong L. Affiong is a Nigerian Pan African activist resident in Accra. She is among the lot who are not too enthused about today's celebrations.

She told dailyEXPRESS in an interview that “I don't think there is anything to be proud of in terms of economic achievement because I think the people have been at a loss.”

According to her, a large majority of the Nigerians are still struggling to lift themselves from a situation of abject poverty that continues to stare at them. She said people are unable to feed themselves let alone raise the needed money to either start a business or educate their children, despite the presence of huge oil reserves in the delta areas of the country.

Madam Affiong who rubbished her country's so-called independence as nothing more than dependency on western countries said those who have benefited much more from the so-called independence are the Nigerian elite.

The ever smiling Affiong told the dailyEXPRESS that the country's elite have been the ones who have become the biggest beneficiary of the country's independence.

“… I think they don't believe their luck about the fantabulous amount of wealth they've been able to accumulate over these years,” she said.

She said the tragedy of her country is that with so much natural resources available, a handful of the elite in the country have become like leeches, sucking the blood of the people till they run out of it.

Touching on the numerous military takeovers in her country, Affiong told dailyEXPRESS “the interesting thing about the military rule in Nigeria is that it doesn't manifest in such a physical and oppressive state as it does manifest in other countries.”

She said military regimes have often solicited the help of intellectuals and academics whom they have consistently used to cover up their illegal reign.

“... as soon as the military take over political power you see people sending their CV's in for appointment… So these are some of the things that have sustained military regimes in Nigeria.”

Describing the intellectual and academics societies as serial opportunists, Affiong said most of them have become very opportunistic, pursing their personal interest at the expense of the rest of the populace who add up to the swelling population of over one hundred million (130m) majority of who live on less than a dollar a day.
“Even till today there is no principled, ideological politics. We have no politics of conviction in Nigeria; it's rather politics of convenience.”

She alleged that most of the conflicts in the country such as the ethnic tensions in most areas have been fuelled by the professional elite who have found it convenient to knock the heads of the population against each other.

Affiong also says one of the things that the intellectual class in Nigeria have used to their advantage is to exploit the issue of ethnicity. She expressed her indignation at the current level of negative exploitation.

The Accra-based Pan-Africanist however paid tribute to the majority of Nigerians especially the media and civil society groups for their resilient resistance against both democratic and military regimes.

“Nigerians haven't allowed the military to be as tyrannical as it usually is. So people have fought and there is a history of fighting and standing up against the regimes as undemocratic as they were”, she explained.

She ended by saying that “the next 47 years will be led in the interest of the masses where our resources will actually be divided amongst our people. So for me anytime we're approaching independence these are the issues one thinks about- that we are able to raise the level of development to the comfort of our people.”