Nigeria at 60: Diamond in the rough

By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi

Way back in the late 80s and the early 90s, when the Nigeria Television Authority’s (NTA) programme content was rich with educative and infotainment material, I was stuck to a particular theme song for a military parade that was aired regularly. I memorised it and still remember some of the very profound words and messages embedded in it. ….. “you laid your lives, for a truly just cause, Nigeria remembers you. We salute you, your courage we adore that Nigeria may be one, strong united sovereign states, Nigeria remembers you.” It was put together to celebrate the 15th January, Army remembrance day, and from then on, it aired on and on, on NTA. Thousands, of Nigerian soldiers have laid their lives for Nigeria to remain one. From the coup d’etat of 1966, to the civil war of 6th July, 1967 to 15th January, 1970, Nigerians have fought on. Various forms of conflicts like the Ife/Modakeke wars, the Tiv Jukun crises, the Fulani/Berom crises, the Fulani/ Southern Kaduna crises, and the communities of Ebonyi and Cross Rivers’ border wars, as well as the Fulani and Sayawa conflicts in Bauchi state all account for thousands of lives of soldiers and law enforcement personnel of the different security agencies in our country. The Maitatsine crisis of the 80s, the Boko Haram war that has lasted 10 years, the Kidnappings scourge, and the war against banditry of late, continue to claim the lives of Nigerians, both civilian and military/ para military. A brief summary tells you that in our 60 years of existence, we have had approximately 15 years of conflict and war.

Juxtapose our 60 years old Nigeria with a 300 years old America of today, headed for the polls in November, and you will appreciate that yes; we are indeed a diamond in the rough. Who would have ever thought that the US would be engulfed in so much racial, ethnic and religious tensions over their elections? Who would have thought they would have food queues at food banks all over the country? Didn’t we believe that theirs was a utopian society and ours was a failed state? Now we have a sitting United States President, backed by his Republican party, pulling all the ethnic and religious strings, stirring up and appeasing his base of supporters, so he and his party members can be re-elected. 200,000 lives have been lost in the US, due to his poor leadership, in handling the corona pandemic, but all he is up and about, is winning the November polls. Americans were tear-gased and dispersed, just so President Trump, could take a picture holding a bible infront of a church near the Whitehouse. What a year!

So at 60, Nigerians are well aware of the intrigues, games and manipulations of politicians, as the games start early ahead of the elections. Politicians know their bases well, and play to the gallery of riling up their bases and mopping up sentiments in their favor, or that of their party, or their candidate. As it is, when they make inflammatory and insidious proclamations to drive up tensions especially against the government of the day, the Nigerian public space is no longer surprised, nor excited by them. We know just where they are headed and that is starkly 2023 and nothing more or short of that. Their remarks and snares are all about the appropriation of power and the resources that come with it. 

Politicians from the South East/ South South, and those of the South West, have been at the forefront of making statements that touch on the future and sovereignty of Nigeria as a nation going forward. By 2023, PMB would have exhausted the North’s share of an unwritten agreement of power sharing between the North and the South. So when OBJ says, “I do appreciate that you all feel sad and embarrassed as most of us feel as Nigerians, with the situation we find ourselves in. Today Nigeria is fast drifting into a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.” He said this to a panel of groups that are notoriously at the front table, when it comes to the struggle for power to their zones, and what comes with it for themselves. If you are still second guessing, they are no other than your usuals; Afenifere, Middle-Belt forum, Northern Elders forum, Ohanaeze-Ndigbo, and Pan Niger-Delta Forum. Prof. Wole Soyinka threw his weight behind OBJ, while distancing himself from OBJ’s antecedents, as he said that OBJ is a co-architect of the crumbling edifice that is still generously called Nigeria. Prof. Soyinka said the country was a contraption teetering on the edge of total collapse. These two goliaths who are always at opposing polls whenever it comes to national dialogue cannot be on the same page, other than a voicenote to power shift to the South, most glaringly, the South West. Stalwarts in the APC like Gov. Elrufai, have stated that APC intends to honor its ‘agreement’ of power shift come 2023. What remains to be seen is what the PDP will be up to.

Countries in recession include Austria, Belgium, Canada, UK, US, Spain, Germany, France, Japan… the list is almost endless, containing the world’s super economic powers. Nigeria has not made it to that list. Aside dwindling oil prices, a pandemic that has ripped the world apart, and various domestic challenges of terrorism and banditry, Nigeria has survived that list, despite the very calamitous circumstances. Kuwait has warned its citizens that by October, it would not be able to pay salaries if the prevailing economic conditions persist. Saudi Arabia has doubled its VAT and taken out monthly stipends to its citizens. The previous govt in Nigeria earned over 350 billion dollars and has nothing to show for it. This govt has earned less than half of that, but has dotted the whole country with infrastructural projects. The previous govt was borrowing to pay salaries for 3 months prior to its departure, but this government has been able to pay salaries for 5 months to workers, while they sat at home during the lockdown. The food prices that had skyrocketed are coming down, and so is the dollar rate. We are now producing gold in large quantities to boost forex and provide jobs for the populace.

As Prof. has rightly said, OBJ is co-architect of our condition. So in my opinion, now is such a time when a builder is in the building, struggling with the architectural damages done to project Nigeria. I do not see how we are an embarrassment in the comity of nations as we have weathered the storm, and are on our feet as the most prosperous black nation in the world – overtaking South Africa in GDP and Egypt as the largest rice producer. OBJ says Buhari has done well in supporting Adesina as he won his second term as AFDB President, with Ngozi Okonjo Iweala set to win the WTO job. Nigeria is a rough diamond and a very precious stone in the making, despite the challenges we are confronted with. So when politicians speak, we all know it is double speak and we know where they are headed, because it is about time for them to play dirty. As for us, our fallen heroes will not go in vain, amen.

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