As Nigeria sets to commemorate her 50 years of emancipation from the long shackles of colonialism, 16 failed African countries are also at it as well. Cameroon, Congo, Somalia and other African nations are also celebrating their post colonial golden jubilee of catastrophe, poverty and corruption. Like many of these countries, one wonders what is golden about a country like Somalia or Congo and indeed what exactly they've got to commemorate. Talk about Nigeria and we have a ÔÇśGolden' example of post colonial failure.
What is there to celebrate when the self-determination, expectation and progress on whose basis we fought for freedom is still far from the case? As Albert Camus (1957) once put; "Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better".
Indeed, it is needless to ask whether Nigeria is better after its official independence in 1960. The truth is we are shoddier than the colonial masters left us at the occasion of our independence. Talk about transportation and you'll see that the Nigerian railway is a terrible disaster and a typical example of post colonial failure. In fact, our railways have never been in a terrible condition as they presently are during the colonial regimes. Talk about Nigerian telecommunications and you have an exemplary icon of post-colonial disaster. Thank goodness the sector was deregulated.
The most horrifying of all is infrastructure and electricity which has continued to plummet since the 1960's. By far, all development indices have shown that there is nothing to write home about after fighting to put our destiny into our own hands. Although, the ideologues of development may argue that no, we have improved in terms of indicators like: increased telephone mainlines, urban development, GDP, Per capita income, infant mortality and the rest. But hey! The rate of poverty has grown; the state of unemployment is horrendous, economic development ÔÇśNko', it has gone AWOL. Besides, all this indicators often used by development ideologues and the government most often falls short of reality.
At 50, our Polity is disorganised, economy stupid and politicians mad. More recently, we have been described as a cesspit of corruption and the African headquarter of failure. In fact, one need not be told that things are not going well with Nigeria in every ramification. Till present, majority of Nigerians are still living in dire poverty, stark illiteracy and chronic underdevelopment. According to World Bank reports; this figure stands above 70% of the Nigerian population. It is worthy of note that no government in the history of Nigeria after 1960 has ever declared the true state of poverty. Therefore, the most reliable data on Nigeria's development can only be obtained from institutions like the World Bank and its leagues. The simple reason is - most of the previous governments in Nigeria have no capacity to gather data because of their incompetency, lack of organization and corruption and this is exactly what has got us into deep troubles.
It is so absurd that about 70% of Nigerians at present cannot afford a rent of N5, 000 in a month; yet, we have men who can afford a house worth N600 million, N800 Million and over N1 billion in the most urbane cities at one go. In Nigeria of present, we have a large population who cannot afford a transport fare of N50 from Agege to Ikeja yet, we have people who buy luxury cars worth 50 million and above just by the sheet of a cheque.
In Nigeria of present, the vast majority cannot afford sending their children to school, yet, we have people who can pay N10 million and over to send their kids to the best schools in the world.
This story shows the two extremes of the Nigerian story, extreme poverty on one hand and immense wealth on the other, as well as the gaps between the rich and the poor.
In spite of this foregoing, we have a government that is insensitive to the dilemma of the people. Do we call it incompetence or lack of will? A government that has since day one missed its priority; Jonathan and his team have left urgent and critical demands of the Nigerian people to address flimsy and unwarranted calls from North to south; how do we class Jonathan, who in spite of his insensitivity has earned himself the Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCFR). What manner of a GCFR? For a commander who has been acting as though his concern is not about electoral reform? About electricity and other pressing issues; for heavens' sake, Nigerians are feeling pains under their shoes. Our health facilities are in tatters and children are dying in droves.
It is against this setting that Jonathan has gone further to present a N10 billion budget to the house of assembly as the cost of celebrating Nigeria's 50th independence anniversary. Before his demise, president Yardua had only presented N62 million as the cost to celebrate the same, but suddenly the cost had risen to N10 billion.
With 10 billion, Nigeria can create hundreds of long term employment for its teeming unemployed youths; we can have modern libraries across many states in Nigeria. If I were president, I can use 10 billion to fund the start up of an indigenous solar energy company. As small as such company may produce, it could create thousands of panels and generate tons of employment that will generate watts of electricity for homes. With N10 billion a lot of good can be done to improve the state of the country. But no, Mr Jonathan has chosen the path of merriments.
What is most disappointing is not even his bid to spend the 10 billion on this unwarranted independence anniversary but simply because there is nothing to celebrate. Our 50th anniversary should be a time to reflect on our failures, retrace our steps and put forward a coherent plan for the future.
This anniversary should be a time when Jonathan should consult with Progressive Nigerians home and abroad so as to get their views and sides on moving the country forward. It should be a time to demonstrate his dedication to the Nigerian cause. A time of solemn celebration but intense implementation; it is no time to hang around as Mr Jonathan has been found doing, it is time to implement and execute important projects that will raise the bar of development. Now is not the time to travel or such time to commission 3km roads all about states, it is a time to get his hands dirty with the mud and tars of road projects. It is a time to Move like no one has ever done. Can somebody please tell Jonathan that all it needs is seriousness, commitment, dedication, focus and tenacity? He will of course be distracted by trivial issues from South to North, but if he truly wants a good place in history, he must be active, effective and defy all these trivial issues here and there.
We don't want a servant leader as his disposition has shown to be. What we want is a transformational manager who will take us to another level. One who knows and feels the pains of Nigerians and who can truly carry the burden of our problems? As the American playwright D.H Lawrence once said, "Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves". Nigeria is inching towards this case because our freedom is fleeing us. Do we say we are free? When we have no light, water, transport, peace and progress?
For us and our children not to be trapped in this unfortunate state of economic slavery, we need a government that can deliver. An effective one that can act with the urgency of time, one that understands the plight and pains of Nigerians in all endeavours and ready to give it all it takes. But, the question is:
Can Jonathan be that person? Guess that is a million dollar question.
This addendum contains Jonathan's proposal of the said N10 billion for Nigeria's independence anniversary: Curled from daily trust: Wednesday, 16 June 2010
A breakdown of the N10 billion proposals for the anniversary party include N950 million naira for the anniversary parade including march past, fleet review and aerial display, while another N350 million naira will be expended on national unity torch and tour.
First Lady Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan will spend N50 million naira on visits to special homes, orphanages, prisons and selected hospitals, while N20 million will be used in sponsoring a special session of the National Children's Parliament and another N20 million naira will be used to organise a party for 1000 children.
The government will further spend N40 million to organise a Presidential banquet; N50 million for calisthenics performance; N310m for cultural, historical and military exhibitions while N40 million naira will go for what the government called ÔÇśfood week.' Similarly N320 million naira will be spent on secretariat equipment, accommodation, logistics and utilities while N30 million naira is budgeted for the designing and unveiling of the 50th anniversary logo.
In the same vein, the Ministry of Information and Communications will get N1.2 billion naira for insertion of special reports on Nigeria in both local and international media, whereas another N320 million naira will be spent on jingles, adverts, billboards, documentary and publicity. The Foreign Affairs Ministry will receive N105 million for undisclosed expenditure, later said to be anniversary parties by Nigerian missions abroad.
To mark the 50th independence anniversary of the nation, the government has also budgeted N700 million naira to accommodate and transport special guests both from within and outside the country. Another N450 million naira will be used to finance the production of branded souvenir, gift items for foreign heads of state and personalities and the placing of a large and coat of arms on Aso Rock. Variety Gala night and fireworks will gulp N210 million naira, an international friendly football match and local competition will also gulp N200 million naira while event managers and producers will take home N120 million naira.
Designing and publication of compendium on Nigeria gets N400 million, one on the legislature gets N150 million and another one on the judiciary gets N50 million naira, while commissioning of golden jubilee plaza gets N10 million naira and designing, construction and mounting of Tower of Unity in the 36 states of the Federation gets N540 million naira.
Debates, essays, conferences, lectures and colloquium will gulp N150 million naira, even as musical concerts and carnival in the 6 geo-political zones will cost N60 million naira. Durbar, masquerades and cultural dances will consume N100 million naira and designing and construction of 10 symbolic monuments of founding fathers of Nigeria will cost N80 million naira.
A memory tone at the Tafawa Balewa Square Lagos will consume N40 million, security and protocol will cost N500 million while only N25 million is budgeted for medicals during the anniversary