At 50yrs, where is Nigeria heading?

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The first day of October this year will mark the day Nigeria turns 50 years old.

That is half a century since it kicked out Great Britain as a colonising power.

Nigeria is a great African nation, and is home to the largest number of black people. It has a population of over 150 million people.

That is half the population of the US, and twice that of the United Kingdom.

The result of that huge number?
Reportedly, one out of every four black people in the world is a Nigerian. So in Africa and across the world, Nigeria is a potent force to reckon with.

But through much of its 50 years as a nation, Nigeria became synonymous with fraudulent activities, popularly called “419.”

The number “419,” originally refers to an article in the Nigerian criminal code which criminalised, among others, “obtaining property by false pretences…”

What most of the world knows as “confidence tricksters” from Nigeria has been around since the 1980s. Their dubious way is to persuade (gullible) people to advance sums of money in the hope of realizing larger gains in a short time.

As technology advanced, the get-rich quick,“419” scamming advanced as well, to include email and phone calls from phony origins, promising unimaginable wealth to recipients.

But the country has produced some other citizens who have made their compatriots proud. They include two intellectuals of repute: Africa's first Nobel Laureate in literature, Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe who wrote the thought-provoking book, Things Fall Apart.

At the precipice of its 50 years of independence, it would be unfair for Nigeria to be seen just through the lenses of the country's “419” gang.

Nigeria: in the heart of Africa
Rather, it is an opportunity for reflection for a nation with a rich history, a country both poor and wealthy, filled with a dynamic human resource, whose full potential is yet to be realized.

Nigeria, just like much of Africa is rich, but most of its people are terribly poor, a situation generally attributed to corruption, ethnic violence and poor leadership.

Never mind that the country is still the third largest economy in Africa. Truth is, on a continent rife with poverty, even the best performing economy is significantly backward.

One of the big dents left on the country's conscience was the three-year Biafran war that claimed about a million lives.

For decades too, numerous governments were overthrown by military adventurists, halting progress, or in some cases, reversing it altogether.

Today though, Nigeria remains a confident and forward-looking nation.

But looking forward is not the same as moving forward. So where is Nigeria heading, as it turns 50?

President Goodluck Jonathan, who took over power in May this year after the death of Umaru Yar'Adua will be presiding over the celebrations.

And what the country has to show for 50 years of independence is a question for some good old debate.

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