On October 1, 2012, the drums sounded again to celebrate Nigeria’s 52nd independence anniversary without commensurate development. The three tiers of government are fond of celebrations. From the local government level to the federal level, elected politicians celebrate 100 days, one year, two years in office etc, without bothering whether they have achieved anything or not. Though, the Federal Government engaged on a low-key celebration but at the end of it, billions of naira might have been spent. But what is there to celebrate in Nigeria after 52 years of independence?
Before independence, there was regular supply of electricity that was provided by the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN). Today, electricity is now a scarce commodity as a mere 3500 megawatts is being generated by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), for 150 million Nigerians! At independence, Nigeria inherited a vibrant education sector from the colonial administrators. In 1948, the colonial masters established the University College, Ibadan. It was a campus of the University of London and the premier university in Nigeria. The foundations of other three universities were laid by the colonial administrators before they left. These were the University of Nigeria, Nnsuka, University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University and Ahmadu Bello University which is also the second largest university in Africa after the University of Egypt. At present, the standards of these universities and others established after them have fallen tremendously. Now, the education sector churns out half-baked graduates annually that cannot compete favourably in the international labour market.
Agricultural Products like cocoa, groundnuts and palm oil were the lifeblood of the economy and the main sources of revenue in the country before independence but all these have been abandoned for crude oil. Before independence, our hospitals were viable as they were stocked with drugs and had enough medical personnel to attend to patients, but now, our hospitals are mere glorified clinics. Then government officials were not travelling abroad for medication as it is today. Before independence, there was provision of potable water for the masses but now there is no potable water for the citizens to drink that is why preventable diseases like cholera and diarrhea are killing people across country.
At independence in 1960, there was security of life and property in the country, but at the moment, human life has no value as people are being killed in an unprovoked manner. At independence, the country attracted many industries as the three regions – North, East and West had industrial estates which were built by our founding fathers. In the Northern region, there were industrial estates in Kaduna, Kano and Jos. In the West, there were industrial estates in Apapa, Ikeja, Ogba, Ilupeju, Ikorodu etc, all in Lagos. It was the same in Aba, Enugu and Calabar, all in the Eastern region. But some of the industries had closed down while other had relocated to neighbouring countries due to lack of electricity. At independence, Nigeria attracted the best brains from all over the world to work here but today, Nigeria is experiencing brain drain. All the best brains in the country have travelled out in search of greener pastures; leaving the few existing social institutions barren of professionals to man them.
In the early seventies and eighties, Nigeria built four refineries but at present, non of them is functioning. We now export crude oil and import the refined petroleum products from other countries and yet, Nigeria is the 6th producer of crude oil in the world. What have we achieved within the past 52 years that we want to celebrate? India got independence from Britain in 1947, that was 13 years before Nigeria got hers in 1960. On her 50th anniversary in 1997, India had become one of the top ten industrial powers. She started generating 80,000 megawatts of electricity and the electricity equipments were manufactured by an Indian company, the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited. In 1969, at 22 years, India launched an indigenous rocket into the space. In 1980, when India was 33 years old, India became the 6th member of the World Space Club when she successfully launched an indigenous satellite, the Rohini from its own satellite launch vehicle, the SLV- 3. India detonated her own nuclear bomb in Pokhran in 1974 and another in May 1998. At 50, India had developed an advanced computer industry which is exporting computers and computer software. India is a major manufacturer of orthodox medicine which she exports to other countries including Nigeria. India has also gone into ship making at her 50th anniversary. In Nigeria, Indians own major textiles, polymer and some pharmaceutical industries. This is the type of a country that should celebrate her independence and not Nigeria.
Now, let us see another country that has a reason to celebrate. Malaysia got independence on August 31, 1957, that was three years before Nigeria got hers. In 2007, at her 50th anniversary, Malaysia has transformed into one of the strongest economies of the world. At independence in 1957, Malaysia was an agrarian state with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of RM12.8 billion with one per cent growth rate and RM788 per capita. In 1970, that was 13 years after independence the poverty rate was 50 per cent of households. All that changed for good in 2004 when poverty was reduced from 50 per cent of households to 5.7 per cent! From a mainly poor agrarian country, Malaysia has been transformed into a diversified and relatively prosperous country. The GDP in 2006 grew to RM277.3 billion with about 6 per cent of growth and a per capita of RM 19, 739.
When Dr. Mohd Annas was commenting on the achievements of Malaysia within 50 years of her nationhood, he said, “Meanwhile wide spread advances were also made in education, health, infrastructure, communication, transport and industry. In terms of the corporate sector, we have become a global player in oil and gas, plantation sector especially palm oil as well as real estate”. This was the same Malaysia that came to Nigeria in the early seventies to buy palm oil seeds for planting. Today, that nation is a major exporter of processed palm oil while Nigeria cannot even produce enough palm oil for her own citizens. At 50, Malaysia’s manufacturing sector was contributing 30 per cent of the GDP and more than half of the total exports. At that period too, Malaysia made history by launching her own MEAST satellite and Insya – Allah. Her own Astronaut was also in the Orbit the same year. This is a third world country like Nigeria that has left Nigeria behind as she is moving towards a developed nation.
Also, commenting on the achievements of Malaysia in her 50 years of independence, Dr. Ahmad Mustaffa Babjee said, “These achievements do not happened purely by chance or luck, instead it was shaped by the vision, strategies and efforts of many of the country’s great leaders and thinkers. We have been blessed with having the right leader at the appropriate time to further realize the vision into reality”. We can see the importance of effective leadership in the development process of Malaysia. No nation can progress without committed, dedicated, visionary and honest leaders. Malaysia had nine development plans which they executed judiciously that translated to the developmental achievements within 50 years of nationhood. She had three National Policy which included the New Economic Policy, National Development Policy and National Vision Policy. Nigeria has had so many National Development Plans such as Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution, Structural Adjustment Programme, Water for All by the Year, 1990, Housing for All by the Year 2000, Vision 2010, Vision 202020 and many other plans that were never executed.
Nigeria is in a retrograde state after 52 years of nationhood. All the achievements during the colonial era are in dilapidation now. Nigeria has not achieved any significant thing since independence that will justify celebration. Those clamouring for celebration each year, are contractors and government officials who will benefit immensely from the money budgeted for the celebration. The downtrodden of the society who are hungry, jobless, homeless, unprotected, illiterates and have no access to potable water do not support this yearly ritual that is costing huge sums of money.