AGENDA FOR 50TH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY

By NBF News
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Three and a half months from today, Nigeria will be rolling out the drums for the celebration of the nation's 50th independence anniversary. Arrangements are already in top gear to ensure that the 'giant of Africa' gets a befitting birthday. The celebration will be complete with calisthenics, parades, exhibitions etc. A tidy sum has been set aside to ensure that nothing is left to chance in celebrating the August event.

I wish Nigeria a happy birthday in advance. It is good that the nation has stuck together as a single entity for fifty years. The fact that we have remained one and still engaged in the quest to improve our nationhood is worth celebrating.

But, Abuja must not make the mistake that the euphoria over the celebration is music to the ears of everyone. For the Nigerians who scrounge for a living in disparate communities blighted by poverty across the country, those without jobs and the ones who have to carry begging bowls in the media to access life-saving healthcare, the coming anniversary may not be worthy of celebration.

As a matter of fact, the anniversary presents, for many, another opportunity to rue the things that might have been, and the heights that the nation might have attained only if it had been blessed with good leadership for a reasonable period of its 50-year existence.

President Goodluck Jonathan is again at his luckiest on this matter. He has the good luck of being the man in charge during the celebration of this important landmark. He will personally receive the accolades due to all our past leaders for keeping 'the nation one.' He will also, however, be at the receiving end of flaks from those who think the nation could have done much better.

Many Nigerians simply love anniversaries. There is really nothing we do not celebrate. When we have babies we throw a party. When a loved one dies we throw another. Birthdays of toddlers gulp a huge amount of money, as it will be discovered if anyone ever conducted a survey to determine how much is committed to such ventures. We celebrate one year, five years, ten years, twenty years anniversaries of passage of loved ones. We close 'roads' and declare a surplus at every opportunity. How much more the anniversary of our dear country!

However, as Nigeria meticulously plans how to celebrate the 'greatest independence anniversary of all times,' Abuja should also be thinking hard and working harder to increase the number of the items that we will be celebrating on October 1.

It will not be enough for the president to just mouth intangible and esoteric achievements on October 1 and expect applause from Nigerians. There should be concrete things to 'wash', to justify the huge sums that will be spent on this anniversary. This government must bring out its thinking cap if it wants to see the generality of Nigerians gyrating behind it in the anniversary orchestra.

The period between the anniversary and now is short. But, not too short to take some decisions that will show that the nation is headed in a direction that can take our people to the Promised Land.

The coming celebration should not be an occasion for giving promises on what this government, or Nigeria, intends to do for the people. Fifty years of failed promises is enough to make even the most patriotic Nigerians give up on the Nigerian project.

It should be a day of celebration of tangible things that have been done. In this regard, the government should begin an immediate review of programmes that are not yielding the expected dividends, with a view to revving them up.

Abuja should rethink the initiatives that have become paper tigers and come up with practical ways to tackle challenges facing Nigerians. It should forget the recent pass mark that it awarded itself for implementation of the 7 – point agenda and come down to reality.

There are a number of policy initiatives of the immediate past governments that Abuja should review and, replace with more credible alternatives.

The N10 billion Poverty Alleviation Programme is one of these. Managers of the programme have to demonstrate a lot more ingenuity if it is to be seriously viewed as attempting to tackle poverty in the country. The education sector is another area that seriously needs the attention of the government. The performance of students in the Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations is appalling. Some direction should be given on this issue to show that the Federal Government appreciates the magnitude of the problem.

Job creation is another aspect of the 7-point agenda that appeared dead on arrival on the list and has not been resuscitated since then. The government can do something significant and positive in this area before October 1, 2010.

What can the nation do without electricity? It is the magic wand with which any leader can worm its way into the hearts of Nigerians in every part of the country. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Nigerians can have much to celebrate in this regard on October 1, no matter what the government tries to do between now any then. Sincere efforts, however, should be seen to be made towards taking the nation to the Promised Land on electricity supply.

The National Assembly, on its part, can pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill. The bill on violence against women before the Senate should be passed.

What is happening on the expansion of the Lagos/Ibadan expressway? The news of its concessioning to Bi-Courteny Limited was well celebrated by the government, last year. Since then, nothing has been heard of the good news. News of a plan to construct a 2nd Niger Bridge has become an annual ritual. Let work begin on the project in earnest, now that the contract has been awarded.

Let something serious be done for once on the problem of kidnapping for ramsom that has now spread from the Niger Delta to other parts of the country. Let the country be made conducive for Nigerians so that our youths don't end up in jails and on death row all over the world.

The time is short. But a lot can still be done to show that the government is on the right path and that we, as a nation, are on the way out of Neverland to the land flowing with milk and honey that our politicians have always promised us.

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Sorry fate of Nigerian immigrants
In as much as I believe with you that the Nigerian government has done relatively little towards bettering the living conditions of Nigerians, I cannot align myself with the view that most of our youths, especially those behind bars, were forced out of the country because of government's insensitivity towards the citizens. Most of the youths join drug barons order to Make fast money and enjoy life like their western world counterparts whose flamboyant lives they watch in movies. Think about this, can't the money they spend on procuring fake visas be used to start something here? Are there no works to learn in Nigeria? What about agriculture? The media should, while alerting government on its duties to the public, be bold enough to tell the youths to imbibe positive virtues. The writer is also unemployed but does not believe that getting involved in vices is the solution.

P.O Uba, Onitsha
0802472244
It was your smiling fare that attracted me before I saw your article, 'Sorry fate of Nigerian immigrants' after which tears took over. The issue is how many of your type do we have in Nigeria of today? Go around the world, the highest in detention are Nigerians.

08035326519
Madam, I just finished reading your article 'Sorry fate— Thanks for such an advocatory write-up for international prisoners. I have been in that shoe

Eze, 0803376211
On our youths, IBB was right but there is a joke for it. A fat man met a thin man and said: 'you look like famine.' The man replied: ' you look like what caused it'

Idemil 08033336053
What age bracket doe Babangida refer to as youths? How old was he when he overthrew Buhari's government and ruled Nigeria for eight years? Whether his answers fall within the age bracket or not, IBB should note that Nigeria has youths that can lead better and more corruption-free than he did.

Chike Hart,
Rivers State