Nigeria at 57: Clerics on how nation has fared – Part 2
As the country clocks 57, clerics take a look at challenges of nationhood and how to make progress. CHRIS IREKAMBA and AYOYINKA JEGEDE report.
‘We Should Encourage Made-in-Nigeria Products’
(Alhaji (Amb) Nasir Awhelebe Uhor JP, Rivers State Islamic Leader/Vice President General, Rivers State Council for Islamic Affairs)
One can safely say that Nigeria has come quite a long way since independence 57 years ago. In terms of physical infrastructural development, there is a lot to cheer about. Most visible are the roads. They are not exactly in super shape today, but they are miles better than what we had as at 1960. Back then, where there were tarred roads at all, they were mostly single lanes; snaky and dangerous. So also, the few bridges there were.
Today, there are far more roads, double lanes and expressways. It is such that there is scarcely any city that cannot be reached within twenty hours from any part of the country.
Similar records are achieved in air travel. We had the Nigerian Airways and a few airports. While the airline is dead today, the airports have increased to include international and even cargo airports. Aerodromes that once dotted the country have given way to modern airports.
On the sea front, Lagos and Port Harcourt harbours were joined by Calabar, Warri, Tin Can Island and Onne Ports, even though the Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL) went the sad way of the airways. The Nigerian railway was quite vibrant as at independence and a few decades beyond. Until the last decade, the railway did not enjoy infrastructural boost. That it died like its air and sea counterparts was not surprising.
It is in the education sector that progress can be said to be spectacular. As at 1960, and a few years after, there were just four universities, one each at Ibadan, Zaria, Nsukka and Ile-Ife. Today, there is an explosion of universities and other tertiary institutions all over the country. There are polytechnics, colleges of science and technology, colleges of education and health technology, schools of nursing. Maritime and military higher institutions are not left out. Most are public institutions. But private institutions are jumping into the educational fray. The quality of their products is quite another issue. All the same, the institutions enormously helped the country resolve its manpower problems.
On the economic front, the progress is no less noteworthy. From one crude oil 60,000-barrel refinery in Port Harcourt, we now have three additional ones at Warri, Kaduna and again Port Harcourt. More refineries, including private refineries, are in the offing. There are the petrochemical, fertiliser and liquefied natural gas plants. There are far more industries and factories now than in 1960. So also the financial institutions, leading to a hundred percent domestication of internal trade on goods and services.
But the snag is that the progress in all these areas is not real. It is not rooted. This is why Nigeria has remained under-developed. The progress is not internal in origin. They are sustained by external culture and enterprise. In one word, it is import-based.
Imagine where the country would have been if 90 per cent of all the items we use in our educational, health, financial, transport, aviation, agricultural, manufacturing, military, sports and even entertainment institutions and businesses were made in Nigeria. There wouldn’t be anything like unemployment. We would have been competing or even upstaging the famed Asian tigers! It is not at all impossible.
The only reason our progress is so stunted is unbridled corruption, engineered and recklessly nurtured by sustained bad governance. When General Bad Governance appointed Brigadier General Corruption as a soul-mate and field commander and unleashed him on all sectors of the country’s economy, the catastrophic outcome was not unexpected.
In no time, he shot down the Nigeria Airways, derailed the Nigerian Railway Corporation, sank the Nigeria National Shipping Line defertilised NAFCON, knocked down all the vehicle assembly plants and turned the Defence Industries into a super table-salt producer! He gleefully reduced the universities to adversities, ensuring that the teaching hospitals remained teething hospitals.
Recall how Brigadier General Corruption clinically sliced the throat of Mighty Ajaokuta Steel Mill, bulldozed Kano’s world famous groundnuts pyramids and blocked, with refuse, the once thriving Enugu Coal mines; same with the tin and columbite mines in Jos.
The way out? Simple. First, declare a state of emergency in the education sector, including science, technology and research institutions; right from primary schools level and they must be funded beyond the minimum limit set by the United Nations.
One Dr. Linus Ogbuji bluntly put it this way: “Education is a frontiers endeavour. It should brook no groundless conservatism.” I agree with him. The funding of education should henceforth not be lily-livered.
The subjects or courses must be redesigned to give premium to practicals tailored towards problem-solving. There must be robust organic relationship between educational institutions and the commercial or business sector. There is no reason Nigeria should import any item twice. The research institutions should come up with its Nigerian version.
Secondly, it is time we invested our time, energy and money in the search for a good governance template. We must debate how to permanently lay the ghost of bad governance. Now! Until then, corruption must be tackled with all the gusto the country can muster.
‘We Should Be Determined To Make Nigeria Work’
(Rev. (Dr.) Felix Ilaweagbon Omobude, National President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN)/General Superintendent of Gospel Light International Ministries (a.k.a New Covenant Gospel Church), Benin City, Edo State)
At 57, we have something to rejoice about because we are still a sovereign state and in spite of our challenges, God has been good to Nigeria. The past few years have been rough, with the recession and all the political upheaval, but we have every reason to thank God. Slavery, no matter how prosperous, is not good. We are not enslaved to another nation and we still have our place in the comity of nations. We should thank God for that. The era of destruction and terrible things Nigeria has passed through, we have been able to overcome, which many nations are battling with are part of many reasons we need to thank God. As a people, we should be determined to make Nigeria a great nation, as well as make the Nigerian Project succeed. We must draw nearer to God and take the fear of God outside our churches and mosques to the market place. We should be fair to our neighbours, irrespective of their religion, ethnic background or where they come from. Opportunity should be given to everybody to aspire to the highest office, no matter his background, where he was born or what kind of religion he practices. That is the Nigeria we must build.
I believe government and governance is about the people. The people have been clamouring for restructuring from various quarters, so government should listen and look into it carefully. My view is that restructuring should be within the ambit of our national unity and should be aimed at giving equity to every aspect of the nation and the fair share of the federal resources to the federating unit. I believe also that power devolution should be looked into, so that power does not concentrate mainly at the centre.
Nigerians yearn for a nation, where they can be free anywhere in the country to live, practise their faith and do business without hindrance. People should have control over resources domicile in their areas and pay necessary taxes to the centre. Nigerians want government brought closer to the people, and not that decisions should be centred at Abuja. True Federalism involves people having right over their affairs. It involves them even having their own say in national issues. It involves sharing of powers, for example, the police. States should have a right to have their own police. The problems are multifaceted. There are problems with our people. Our orientation and development of our nation should be our collective effort. The people have a major role to play, just like the government. The role of government is very important. Government should lead the people and we all have to be determined to build our nation. The fight against corruption, probity, equity, fairness, hard work and faith in our national endeavour is very important. All Nigerians should join in this project. Every nation keeps growing and evolving; Nigeria is not an exception. Even nations that have lived for over a hundred or two hundred years are still improving and building on their national dreams. There is nothing static about life; we should build on what we already have, especially the positive aspect and our leaders should lead with the fear of God and be fair to everybody.
In all fairness, I don’t think we have all done enough. We still need to do more. We still need to accommodate one another and be tolerant with one another some more. We need to be patriotic and put Nigeria first before our own individual or tribal consideration.
We expect the Federal Government to do more. Why are all these agitations? Why all this clamouring? It is because the people feel there is no equity, both in the sharing of resources, employment and infrastructural development. People feel they are not well serviced. So, the Federal Government should do more, but even at the state level, there are some local governments that feel left out. I think fairness and equity should be the watchword. They should help and lead us, so that we can be fair to everybody, not that when you get into power, you satisfy only your community or those that come from your place and put them all in office. Our national interest should be the uppermost to government at the federal, state and local levels.
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