By Augustine Omilo
One of the most popular debates in Nigeria today is whether or not the country has done well as a nation at 57. While some agree that we have made progress, others are quick to state that we are a failed nation.
As the debate continues, many people are of the pinion that for the nation to make real advancement, it has to be restructured along regional lines and possibly return to the federal system of government as it was in 1960. Before delving into the merits and demerits of the Federal Democratic System as compared to the Presidential system which we have presently, there are a few pertinent questions that need urgent answers.
First of all, is Nigeria actually 57? Secondly, was the 1960 system so successful that we want to go back to it?
To answer the first question, Nigeria is not yet 57. This submission is so for many reasons. It is true that the country got her independence on October 1, 1960. It is equally true that we did not succeed as a federation beyond six years as a republic. By 1966, the republicanism of the country was brought to an end by a military coup and Biafra broke out of Nigeria in 1967. The cessation caused a civil war that lasted for three years (1967-1970). Within this period, it will be grossly unfair to refer to Nigeria as one nation. The country was reconciled to itself in 1970 and thus became once again an entity made up of the North and Southern Nigeria.
Although with wobbling military administration, the nationhood of Nigeria began again in 1970. But then, she was no longer a republic until 1979 when the second republic came into being with the introduction of the Presidential system of government as practiced in the United States of America. This was not sustained beyond 1983 when Buhari terminated it. The third republic was never allowed to take-off. Whether third or fourth republic, today’s Nigeria, as a political entity has survived for eighteen years without interruption by the military. This has given every one of us the opportunity to really evaluate our presidential system of government. This is unlike the Federal system that was so short-lived.
To answer the second question, if the system of government was so fantastic, why did it not ensure the comfort of all the federating regions? If it did, there could not have been reason for the Biafra war. To say the least, that era only brought out the best in individuals like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Tafawa Balewa who were more or less like one-eyed fellows leading the city of the blind.
The 21st century Nigeria is so sophisticated to be returned to the 1960 methods of doing things.
According to the late Obienwon-iwe of Owa-kingdom “if a child in L.A. primary school dreams seeing himself receiving tutorials in a classroom at Ika Grammar school, he will be celebrated by his parents the next morning. But if a teacher at Ika grammar school dreams of himself receiving lessons in L.A. primary school, his children will join him to appease the gods of the land. Of course he said that at the time Ika Grammar School was a foremost ground for breeding highly intellectual minds. But then, the statement is enough to illustrate the dreams of those who are clamouring for regional government in the name of restructuring the nation.
For those who believe in re-incarnation of life or resurrection to life, Nigeria can be likened to one who died in 1967 and came back to life again in 1970. This is why one feels that the country is just 47 and not 57 years old. Indeed if the country was a person from Ikaland or Yoruba land, her name would have been changed to Obiazikwor or Omotunde respectively in 1970 .Arising from this humble submission, the country has done so well.
The sustained political climate of the nation had brought out the best in many Nigerians like Mr. Jim Ovia who was recently recognized globally as an investor and philanthropist per excellence. And Jim Oviacan be used as a case study of Nigeria being a land full of opportunities for focused minds. When Jim Ovia resigned his appointment from Union Bank in the late 80’s to found Zenith bank International, it was not certain what the future held for men like him. In fact, it was recently reported that a Lagos-based socialite used almost the same amount with which Jim started Zenith Bank to build his personal house in those days and made the house a tourist center of sort. While that building is highly dilapidated now, Jim’s Zenith Bank has become one of the largest providers of highly paid employments in Nigeria.
That Dangote is presently the richest man in Africa can be attributed to the success story of Nigeria, even as one recalls that the nation has produced a couch in the person of late Stephen Keshi who led Super Eagles to an-away win of the African Cup of Nations in South Africa about five years ago.
Within the period under review, especially since 1999, the country has successfully prosecuted four general elections by the civilian governments.
The electoral reforms by former President Goodluck Jonathan few years ago are note-worthy. Though not yet at where we ought to be, our electoral system is getting better by the day as a result of PDP’s efforts.
In the early days of our nation-hood, it was unthinkable for a politician from the minority areas of the country to aspire to certain political leadership positions. But due to increasing political awareness among the populace has caused minority ethic nationalities to produce a president of the Senate, vice President of the country and the President.
What has caused endless wars in many countries of the world is small compared to what we have gone through since the rebirth of the country in 1970. For these and many more, God deserves our thanks just as we all deserve kudos for being patient for our nation grow.
The achievement of Nigeria so far not withstanding, a lot still need to be alone in the areas of education, electricity power supply, employment opportunity creation and so on. Buhari, our leader must not also continue with his style of favouritism to the detriment of the Southern Nigeria. He should address the issue of the rift between his brother-Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Kachikwu did so much to add credibility to the present regime. It can only be fair for him to be respected.
Now These: congratulations to an illustrious son of Ika land, Mr. Jim Ovia on his recent global award for Entrepreneurial Initiative in Africa and Comrade Cletus Ifeanyi on his recent appointment as a Senior Special Assistant to the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly. The same goes to our DESIEC commissioner, Mr. Fred Oduje Ulakpa. More grease to your elbows.