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Nigeria At 59 And Promises At 59

Are Nigerians going to keep living in the same fantasy world where someday the government will lift millions out of poverty?

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Nigeria At 59 And Promises At 59
Fans of Nigeria during the International Friendly match between England and Nigeria at Wembley Stadium on June 2, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Since 1960, October 1 has been a day to remember for all Nigerians. Maybe not all find it worth celebrating as challenges abound but yet her independence from colonial masters remains the first step to self-determination.

As always, Nigerians will expect a broadcast from the president, Muhammadu Buhari, where he would assure citizens that the nation is moving in the right direction. He would promise that despite challenges in various departments – security, health, education, power, agriculture and more – his administration is on the right track.

During his 2018 speech the president stated unequivocally, “We are diversifying away from reliance on oil to increased manufacturing capacity, solid minerals development, and agriculture.” But one need not look hard to see that less than more has been or achieved in that regard.

He went on, “Efforts are on course in the Niger Delta to clean up polluted lands, restore hopes of the youths in the region and re-establish livelihoods, and strengthen their capacity to guarantee for themselves and for our country a brighter future.” One can only wonder why the youths’ future is weaponized every year whereas nothing of any concrete measure is being done to make such future less hopeless.

From assurances of socio-economic development, equality, human rights, to local and trans-border security, the promises reverberate like drum beats every year.

Government in Nigeria has become so centralized that states can barely get anything done without first paying homage to the Federal government. Very few states, if any, can truly standalone economically. That weakens growth and stifles and possibility of citizens participating actively in the process.

At a solid 59 years, isn’t it time for Nigerians to think through the promises of politicians and ask themselves why it hasn’t paid off in anyway reasonable? The often quote attributed to the great Albert Einstein reminds every thinking person that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Are Nigerians going to keep living in the same fantasy world where someday the government will be that great shepherd needed to lift 10 million or 1 million persons out of the poverty-stricken abyss, depending on whom you’re listening to? Maybe we are magically going to get to a point when we have a president, governors, senators, reps and many more whose primary aim is to provide the best roads, uninterrupted power, best health care facilities, quality schools, industrial growths….the list goes on. This false belief stems from the fact that we do not understand human nature – one that doesn’t only fail to keep its word but simultaneously twists it for self aggrandizement.

In his book, Present Concerns, the British writer C. S. Lewis described democracy as being important because according to him, “Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.” However in a nation where the leader of the legislative arm elected to specifically represent and defend the people declares that they will not fail the president but rather give him the full support needed, it is impossible to see that one arm hasn’t been amputated.

The judiciary, described as the last hope of the common man, hasn’t been left out either. The Punch recently cataloged several instances where the present government has ignored court orders. One of them being that of Omoyele Sowore, publisher of SaharaReporters, who was arrested by the DSS on August 3, 2019 in Lagos.

The Punch reports that, “The DSS obtained an ex parte order to keep Sowore for 45 days. Barely 24 hours to the expiration of the 45 days detention order, the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office filed charges of treasonable felony, cybercrime offences and money laundering against him before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

“Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana applied for his bail pending his arraignment. Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the federal high court, Abuja granted the prayer.” The court order was disregarded by the government.

This does not bold well for a government that prides itself as a true warrior against corruption, a champion of human rights and equality, and a lover of ‘due-process’. Can citizens in a democratic system freely express their grievances and disagreements against the said government without being labeled as treacherous or unpatriotic? Can’t they do this without having their basic rights stripped?

Nigerians should realize that human rights, freedom, and equality is not a partisan issue. If it were a bequest of a benevolent government, what says that the next government can’t have it stripped? Human worth is an absolute gift from God. The self-evident truth that “[A]ll men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” can only be respected by a government that knows its ultimate source.

These rights should be protected by the government, not abused or caricatured.