Simon M. Otu
When Nigeria gained her independence from the British colonial forces on 1st October 1960, there were high expectations from the new crop of leaders who took over the helm of affairs of the country, among which were economic freedom and prosperity, equality, justice and greater inclusiveness (Coleman, 1967). These indices of national development were lacking because Nigeria was still under colonial rule. Thus, the poverty of Nigeria’s development found justification by the fact of her constrained freedom, orchestrated by the colonial over lords.
Ironically, after six decades of self rule, Nigerians still lament being under bondage, but this time, by their own leaders. The very same issues of underdevelopment which spawned nationalists agitations for independence since the early 1950s have largely remained the same, and even worse.
When in 1953, Chief Anthony Enahoro of the Western region, moved the historic motion in the Federal House of Representatives that the House considers as a primary political objective, self rule for Nigeria by 1956, the tone was set the nation to fully take her destiny into her hands, despite stiff opposition by the Northern legislators who stood against this motion.
Nigeria became an independent country by 1960, nonetheless.
Many leading voices in Development Economics as well as Political Economy have expressed mixed reactions about Nigeria’s development trajectory since independence. Thus,
development scholars contend that despite the claim that Nigeria is the giant of Africa, real development indices are far from realizable in the nation. Nigeria’s growing poverty, inequality and unemployment on a nation-wide scale conveniently fits into Dudley Seers indices for measuring the development of a nation.
According to a recent report, an estimated 40 percent of people in Nigeria live below the poverty line of N137, 430 ($381.75) a year.
This suggests that about 82.9 million Nigerians live on less than $1( <400 Naira) a day (National Bureau of Statistics Report, September 2018 - October 2019). This grim statistics have been well amplified by the recent report on Nigeria's Human Development Index by the 'Washington Consensus' survey which placed Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world. The irony of Nigeria's glorified Big Brother status has been lampooned and poopoed in several scholarly writings such as Eghosa Osagie's "Nigeria: the Crippled Giant" (Osagie, 2008). More vexing is the situation where the hypocritical leadership in the country often want to look beautiful abroad but remain ugly at home. They want to give the impression that, all is well in the country whereas the cankerworm of corruption, bad governance, insecurity and terrorism, religious bigotry, tribalism, nepotism etc continue fester and find expression in the nation's body-politic. Nigerian government is quick to dispatch special envoys to other countries in order broker peace among belligerent groups in crises ravaged nations. Also, Nigeria does not hesitate in sending troops to assist in restoring peace in war torn countries. These acts of 'diplomatic good behaviour' cost Nigeria huge amount of resources, in the context of human, material and financial resources. Ironically, this is the same country that depends heavily on external borrowings (foreign loans) to service her overbloated and padded annual budget. As at 2020, Nigeria's budget estimates currently stood at N10.33 trillion. As at the eve of Nigeria's 2020 independence day celebration, the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria was set to submit the proposed 2021 budget of a whopping N13.5 trillion to the National Assembly (The Guardian, September, 2020). The economic hardship caused by Nigeria's leaders have given rise to pockets of resistance. As I write, civil society groups, such as the Omowore Sowore's REVOLUTION NOW group march the streets of Nigeria, protesting against what they term, "60 years of bondage" by the country's leaders. They wonder why in a country that is blessed with abundance, ordinary Nigerians cannot have access to good roads, water, health care, power, etc, which are the enabling conditions for a minimum standard of living? Empty promises by politicians who use their positions of power to further enrich themselves while the masses remain Impoverished, is sickening. The chasm between the elites and the masses is compared to the distance between heaven and earth. It is shocking that a federal legislator earns over N30 million monthly, including other allowances, yet the government struggles to pay civil servants a paltry N30, 000 as minimum wage, given the unpalatable economic situation of the country. Thus, the Nigerian masses continue to remain slaves to their own leaders. This is what scholars have aptly described as "internal colonialism", leading to the "development of underdevelopment" (Ake, 1985). At this juncture, it is safe to conclude that, in the context of economic strangulation, insurgency and insecurity, corruption, bad governance, political crises and instability, secessionist agitations etc, Nigeria has not fared too well in her over 60 years of self rule, contrary to what some sycophants would claim. While noting some of Nigeria's laudable achievements as a nation, there is still room for improvement. In order to get us out this quagmire, there is an urgent need to address issues of development such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, insecurity etc. It will only take a dynamic, proactive and focused leadership to break the jinx of our own undoing. Foolishness is when one continues to do the same thing over and again and expects a different outcome, because like Brian Tracy observed, the most significant problems that we face cannot be solved by the "same level of thought" at which they were created". Hence, to solve them, we must "radically change" our thinking (leadership style) (Tracy, 2005) Oh God, give us leaders! Leaders with the fear of God. Leaders who have the interest of the people at heart. Leaders whom the spoils and lust of office will not corrupt. Leaders who would rise above ethnic, political, religious and sectional divide. Indeed, it is possible. Let's dream it POSSIBLE!