Nigeria At 55: Between Buhari And A New Nigeria
Christened Nigeria, on perhaps that calm and cold night of 1914 by the soon-to-be wife of Lord Frederick Luggard (then Colonial Governor-General of Nigeria), Flora Shaw; after the River Niger, bringing about 923,768km2 of landmass, that is bounded to the South by the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean, Chad and Niger in the North, Cameroon to the East and Benin Republic to the Western border, bringing about 500 ethnic groups together who speak over a thousand (1000) dialects, yet Nigeria has managed to stay together for over a hundred (100) years.
Popular ethnic groups are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, other major Ethnic group includes the Kanuri, Fulani, Efik-Ibiobio, Tiv, Ijaw, Edo and Idoma. Nigerians share strong and deep religious beliefs mostly in Islam which is more popular in the North and Christianity that dominates in the southern part of the country, the practice of the Traditional system of worship is also very popular across all parts of the country.
Nigeria, with its Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja (moved from Lagos in 1993) has been ruled by fourteen administrations that is split between twenty seven (27) years under military rule and Twenty five (25) years between 1960 and 2015 with leaders including Nnamdi Azikwe (1960-1966), Agunyi Ironsi (1966-1967), Yakubu Gowon (1967-1975), Murtalah Muhammed/ Olusegun Obasanjo (1975-1979), Alhaji Shehu Shagari (1978-1983), Muhammadu Buhari (1983-1985), Ibrahim Babaginda (1985-1993), Earnest Sonekan, Sanni Abacha, Abdulsalam Abubakar, Olusegun Obasanjo(1999-20087), Yar’adua (2007-2010), Goodluck (2010-2015) Jonathan, and again Muhammadu Buhari, gaining independence from Britian in 1960 with a 2015 estimate of about 174 million people, and the largest in Africa and seventh (7th) most populated country in the world. No wonder it is called the most populous black nation. Nigeria is a member of the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS), African Union, Common Wealth, United Nations and the organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) among others were it plays dominant and active roles.
Between 1967 and 1970, Nigeria battled with an internal secessionist movement that led to a civil War. The embattled Biafra movement led by Odimegwe Ojukwu that agitated for a forceful removal from the Nigerian State emanating from the aftermath of the Military coup that overthrowed Agunyi Ironsi, leading to the killing of Igbos all around the North and Nigeria.
Nigeria, boasting of an economic capacity that prides it as the largest economy in Africa based on the April 2014 rebasing effort of the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS) of $515.431 billion (2015 estimate). Abundantly blessed with an array of Natural resources from Crude Oil, lead, zinc, iron ore, Limestone, Gold, Marble, Uranium, and coal among many others, its economic experience started with initial dependence on agriculture in the early parts of its independence that lasted till the late 1960s where attention was shifted to the commercial exploration of crude oil and crude oil has been the main stay since then. Before this shift, Agriculture accounted for more than 85% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, and main cash crops exported included Cocoa, Timber, Groundnut, Palm Oil. It is popularly held that the first oil refineries in Nigeria were built from the proceeds from Agriculture. Also, a university like the Obafemi Awolowo University prides it magnificent structures from the proceeds gotten from the Cocoa in building them.
The Nigeria government has tried series of policies at riving the agricultural spirit from operation feed the nation, green revolution, yet the sector has perpetually remained inactive and subdued by the petroleum sector. Nigeria in the past 50 years of its independence has grappled with a myriad of problems, it has a weak manufacturing base, perpetual political instability caused by the thirst for power and lack of need for accountability among politicians, high poverty rate as about 71% (2011) still live below the poverty line of $1.25/day against the world standard, high illiteracy rates, high child and maternal mortality rates.
Terrorism, a major problem, which has cost the death of about thirty thousand (30,000) people and displaced over one million, five hundred (1.5m) individuals in the North East Nigeria due to the BokoHaram Insurgence between 2009 and 2015. Also corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of ethics and code of conduct in the country, especially in the civil service. Corruption is manifested in the processes involved in the awards of contracts, the shroud dealings in the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC), even the common man on the streets is also corrupt, they give and receive bribe which is tagged “tip”.
The Nigerian Educational sector is largely underfunded, as the state of infrastructure in the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are mostly in bad shape. The educational sector is faced by the incessant taste for certificates without the need to be educated, and young graduates are described as unemployable in the corporate sector.
The roads both Trunk A and Trunk B roads that connect major parts of the country are largely not motorable and account for a major cause of accidents that occur on the roads. The whole transport network is in a state of dilapidation, the railways are not fully functional. The state of power supply is largely epileptic and largely unavailable in some parts of the country, hereby hampering manufacturing and industrial activities in the country. The demands for power in the urban centres are way above its supply and there is constant unavailability of transformers in helping to convert and distribute power for retail consumption in rural areas.
In the words of Hilary Clinton, a former secretary of state of the United States of America was once credited with a statement about Nigeria as a nation and said, “too rich to be poor and too poor to be rich”. Her statement illustrates the state of Nigeria but the question is, is it correct to agree that, there lays no prospect for Nigeria?
Of course not, Nigeria in the past 54 years as a country has continually shown that it has the capacity to stand up its rightful place in the world both economically and politically. The 2015 general elections is a clear pointer to the fact. As all over the country we heard the change slogan obviously arising from the frustration and the rising political consciousness of the youths towards participating in the electioneering process. The election witnessed the largest turnout of people across the country, with Muhammadu emerging the winner after a long weekend of collations of results. Nigeria and Africa for the first time witnessed the handing over of political power to an opposition and even the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan calling the winner Muhammadu Buhari over the phone before the final results was out to congratulate him. Its indeed a new dawn for Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari in his inaugural speech on the 29th May, 2015 had stated that his administration will tackle head on the problems of the Nigeria has highlighted above. With just a few weeks into the new administration, the United States of America whose relationship with Nigeria severed under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan recently invited the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari to a meeting at the Washington D.C, the capital of the U.S.A so as to improve the relationship between both countries. Also, Muhammadu Buhari was invited to a meeting at the G7 meeting that held in Germany, a priviledge not granted to just any country. This clearly shows that in the international community Nigeria is gradually taking its pride place and increasingly being recognised as a nation serious about tackling its problems.
Also in tackling the issues of rehabilitating the people of the North-east that have been displacved by the Boko-Haram insurgence, the Nigerian government recently secured a loan of $2.1 billion from the World bank which has a repayment period of Forty (40) years and the first ten (10) years will be interest free with the interest rate for the next thirty years (30) years at rates lower than the capital market rate.
It will also be important to add that the Nigerian government is increasingly getting cooperation from neighbouring states in the fight against Boko-Haram. Countries like Cameroon, Benin republic, and Chad have stated their recommitment into sending more troops to guard their borders against the insurgents and hence preventing the insurgents from escaping into their regions after being pursued by the Nigerian army. The fight against the insurgents intensified in months that built up to the 29015 elections, that saw the Nigerian Army ravaging the camps and the annexed territories of the book haram and also reclaiming them. The search for the over 200 Chibok schools girls that were captured the Boko-Haram sects has reintensified. The Nigerian government has shown increased vigour in its commitment to re diversify the Nigerian economy, this is manifested in the document of the report of the national Conference held in Abuja last year. Issues as regards Resource Control was reviewed and the Buhari Administration has stated its resolve in implementing the implementables.
Also, the oil refineries in Nigeria have began to start work, although their capacities is still below optimum, it is believed that The New Nigeria will be achievable in this aspect has more refineries are built and it is believed that in the nearest future, Nigeria will stop the importation of refined oil and be a major exporter of the same. The campaign promises of President Muhammadu Buhari of providing aboput three million jobs every year is hoped to solve the issue of unemployment which has render about about 40% (according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics 2014) unemployed.
Also, the recent announcement by the Buhari administration to increase the allowance of National Youth service Corps from nineteen thousand, eigth hungdred naira (N19,800) to forty eight thousand naira (N48,000) is expected to improve the living conditions of the serving youths. The need to teach and motivate entrepreneurship among graduates must be encourage by this administration so as to reduce the level of unemployment in country The power sector in recent time is showing promises of a renewed discipline as the capacity of the country is at a new high of 4545 Megawatts.
It is expected to reach 6000 megawatts by the end of 2015 as the Generating Centres reach higher capacity. The Buhari Administration is also showing that it is way better at committing itself to fighting corruption. Even his candidacy was more accepted on account of his personality known for Integrity and Discipline. The recent vigour of the Economic and Financial crimes Commission is widely applauded has they have charged big names to country on account of fraud and embezzlement of public funds.
To conclude, it is, indeed a new dawn is here in Nigeria. 2015 is indeed the beginning of new things in Nigeria. We are achieving new things and greater heights and the attitude of the government is a serious one. All hands must be on deck in sustaining this vision and its starts with me and you.
Abiola Ayodeji Gbemisola is a final year student of Economics at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He tweets via @biolagbemisola