Celebrating Nigeria at 100 - The sun

By The Citizen

It is an elementary fact of our history that modern-day Nigeria came into being on January 1, 1914, following the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria by Lord Lugard. By this token, Nigeria will, on January 1, 2014, be one hundred years old. This attainment is, no doubt, a milestone in the life of any country. It is apparently in recognition of this that the government of Nigeria has decided to celebrate the country at 100. In recent weeks, government has been speaking on this centenary celebration.

It has rationalized the need for the celebration. Government is particularly interested in affirming, as did Lord Lugard in 1914, that 'Nigeria is the product of a long and mature consideration'. For government therefore, the centenary celebration is expected to inspire confidence in our ability and determination to rise above our present challenges in order to build a strong and united nation. It will restore hope in the people of Nigeria, arouse their patriotic instincts and reinforce their shared values and beliefs, among other objectives. For these and many more reasons, government believes that Nigeria's centenary is worth celebrating.

To give effect to these ideas and concepts, government has rolled out the centenary project to include legacy projects, commemorative events and history and heritage programmes. Some of the centenary projects include Abuja Centenary City, Unity Squares in every state capital and new Abuja City Gate, among others. However, government has said that the centenary project is going to be strictly driven by private sector initiative. In other words, government will not commit fund to the project. It will only lay the groundwork and provide the enablement that will make it possible for the private sector to take up the programmes and projects.

No doubt, the reasons adduced by government in justification of the centenary celebration are in order. Regardless of the debilitating factors which have impeded Nigeria's progress, the fact remains that the country has trudged on in spite of all odds. But then, Nigerians may not be properly disposed to such celebrations when they take into consideration the fact that certain basic necessities of life which ought to be taken for granted still elude them. The people will rather wish that government redirects its energies and work towards making life worth living in Nigeria. However, the saving grace is that government is not going to be involved in the project.

It has, instead, decided to give the private sector the opportunity to identify with its dreams by inviting them to take over the centenary project. We urge the private sector in Nigeria to take up this challenge. Since most of the projects outlined by government are enduring ones, the private sector in Nigeria will be making itself a good partner in development if it identifies with them. Besides, such legacy projects will be better managed and will therefore endure if they are private -sector driven.

While we await the expected positive response of the private sector, government must be seen to apply itself to the concept and ideas governing the celebration. It must, as it has said, not be involved in the projects beyond laying a good foundation for the private sector to stand upon. Government does not need to distract itself with celebrations of this nature at this point in time. With the formal flag-off of the event on February 4, 2013, the celebrations have effectively taken off.

The celebrations are expected to be rounded off in October 2014 with the Centenary National Parade and the commissioning of the Centenary City. The projects and programmes lined up are a mixed bag. Some are clearly ambitious such as the Abuja Centenary City project. We note government's desire to bring to Nigeria something akin to Songdo International Business District in South Korea. But then, care should be taken to ensure that the project does not end on paper.

Government must be focused on the idea so that the private sector which is supposed to give life to the concept will have confidence in the plan. For the event to succeed, there must be necessary synergy between the government and those who are being invited to translate the idea into reality.