HE was born on October 1. He also got married on October 1 and had his third child and only daughter on the same date. His family ought to be celebrating every October 1 but Babs feels funny every passing year as the date approaches. It appears the date is set aside to mock him.
His birthday coincided with the celebration of Nigeria’s independence on October 1. It also coincided with the day he got married but strange circumstances have separated him from his family who are resident in United Kingdom where he also sojourned for 10 years before he was repatriated.
Separation from family
That also meant he could not celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife or share fun times with his daughter who shares the same birth date with him.
Today, Babs is 54 years and lives in Lagos. He has no regular job after graduating from the university several years ago. His dream to live and work overseas was crushed. And he has been separated from his family.
Since he was repatriated to Nigeria, he tried to sustain himself as a self-employed businessman but his business at Tincan Island suffered from excess custom duties and multiple taxation. Babs had since jettisoned that business.
He no longer has a regular means of livelihood despite his B.Sc. degree in Business Administration and a Masters in two other disciplines. He has no home and has traversed between being an kabu-kabu driver and property agent. Over the years, the finesse he acquired through education has given way to a crude, frustrated, middle-aged man.
But Babs is not the only Nigerian who has been battered by fate. Across the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, there are many Babs but only few were able to make a success story from the school of hard-knocks.
…the journey so far
On October 1, 1960 when Nigeria attained independence from Great Britain, she had all the trappings of a democratic state and was regarded as a beacon of hope for democracy. The constitution guaranteed a large measure of autonomy first to three and later four regions which operated parliamentary democracy modelled along British lines that emphasised majority rule.
But certain fundamental and structural weaknesses frustrated these democratic trappings and therefore led to the death of the republic.
One of the greatest problems that plagued the First republic was power domination by the North made possible by the colonial masters who had hoped that developing national politics would forestall any sectional domination of power. But it did not reckon with the effects of a regional party system in a country where political power depended on population.
The First Republic paraded regional parties whose main aims were to control power in their regions. There were the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and the Action Group (AG), which controlled the Northern Region and Western Region, respectively. Then, there was the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), which controlled the Eastern Region and the Midwestern Region. The NCNC which ab initio began as a nationalist party was forced by the pressures of regionalism to become an eastern party, but with strong pockets of support elsewhere in the federation.
Regional parties then derived their main support from the major groups in their regions: NPC (Hausa/Fulani), AG (Yoruba), and NCNC (Igbo). Later, there was a more ideologically-based political party which never achieved significant power and that was Aminu Kano’s radical Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), which opposed the NPC in the north from its Kano base.
Along the line, several political movements formed by minority groups to press their demands for separate states began to spring up. These minority parties doubled as opposition parties in the regions and usually aligned themselves with the party in power in another region that supported their demands for a separate state.
During the general election of 1959, the major political parties won majority of seats in their regions, but none emerged powerful enough to constitute a national government. A coalition government therefore became necessary with NPC and NCNC leading the fray and providing a measure of North-South consensus that would not have been the case if the NCNC and AG had formed a coalition.
Nnamdi Azikiwe (NCNC) became the Governor General and later President after the country became a republic in 1963; Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (NPC) was named Prime Minister, while Obafemi Awolowo (AG) had to settle for Leader of the Opposition.
The regional Premiers were Ahmadu Bello (Northern Region, NPC), Samuel Akintola (Western Region, AG), Michael Okpara (Eastern Region, NCNC), and Dennis Osadebey (Midwestern Region, NCNC).
Collapse of First Republic
Problems that led to the collapse of the First Republic started when the NPC, the senior partner in the coalition government, began to use the federal government’s increasing power to favour the Northern Region.
The balance rested on the premise that the Northern Region had the political advantage deriving from its size and population, and the two Southern regions had the economic advantage as sources of most of the exported agricultural products. The NPC sought to redress Northern economic and bureaucratic disadvantages. Many of the federal government’s projects and military establishments were allocated to the North under the First Economic Master Plan.
The government began to recruit and train many northerners and this resulted in the appointment of less qualified northerners to federal public service positions, many replacing more qualified southerners.
Naturally, this did not go down well in many quarters.
The First Republic also collapsed as a result of other factors which included the split in the leadership of the AG that led to a crisis in the Western Region, leading to a state of emergency being declared in the region. The federal government invoked its emergency powers and administered the region directly. AG was removed from regional power and its leader, Awolowo along with other AG leaders, were convicted of treasonable felony.
The civil war that followed wreaked havoc on the polity. The civil war broke out on July 6 1967. There were immediate and remote causes. The civil war was identified with the coup and the counter-coup of 1966 which altered the political equation and destroyed the fragile trust existing among the major ethnic groups. Attempts to stall the war failed after the Biafran Republic was declared. In order to hold the country together, it was divided into 12 states from the original four regions in May 1967.
After almost two years of bloody and destructive war, the quick victory anticipated by the federal side eluded it and the Biafran enclave had been drastically reduced in size but the rebels still held on. More peace conferences were held but none achieved a cease – fire and an end to the war.
But with more pressure by the federal government, the war came to an end when the self – acclaimed Head of State of Biafra, Lt. Col. Ojukwu fled with his immediate family members on January 10, 1970 to Cote d’Ivoire while the Commander of the Biafran Army who took over surrendered to the Federal Government on January 14 1970, bringing an end to the war and bloodshed.
No longer the same
Since the collapse of the First Republic and end of the civil war, Nigeria has never been the same.
Subsequent governments messed up the system, battering the pride of the people and the country. The military reigned supreme with fiat. The lifestyle of the people became more divided along ethnic orientations. With each passing day, the lines got thicker. Nigerians are highly opinionated and self-critical and therefore, conversations at vendor stands, commercial buses, beer parlour and homes among the people inevitably are about the country’s underwhelming accomplishments and disastrous mismanagement.
Self-flagellation became a national obsession and despite the penchant of the people to voice out their opinions when it comes to national failures, they become reticent when it comes to recognizing national accomplishments.
The leaders have failed Nigeria in many ways. They carry on with impunity in total disregard for the people. The leaders have failed to provide the basic necessities of life for the people as they promised. Corruption has destroy practically all sectors of the economy and the perpetrators are going scot-free.
Nigeria’s leaders both in the past and present carry on as they want and this spreads across government agencies: the telecommunication system, the power sector, the roads, the education sector, the health sector, the railway and what have you. Corruption is reigning supreme across these sectors without anybody being punished for anything.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been the party in power since 1999 when civilians got reprieve from the military and took over power. If things were bad at that time, they have gotten worse since 1999.
The fraud being perpetrated in Nigeria’s oil sector has defied competent description. The whole structure has been eroded by corruption thereby leaving the government at the mercy of corrupt marketers, fraudulent staff and corrupt government officials.
The brains behind these shady moves are friends and members of the ruling class and many of these have received national honours. Many more will receive this year. The chief executives of some of the companies involved in the fuel subsidy scam that blew open recently are party men. They are the ones that obtain PFI (Pro Forma Invoice) to import petrol into Nigeria.
The country has been milked for years by members of this “oil cabal”but the scandal only blew open when the N1.3 trillion figure was quoted as subsidy and the Federal Government could no longer cope with the burden.
It is an open secret that Nigerian roads are death traps and claim lives every year across the states due to lack of maintenance. Highways are in dilapidated and deplorable state. Some portions of these roads are washed out, riddled with big potholes and in some cases, are impassable. Abandoned projects have contributed immensely to the state of these roads.
The hospitals are now mortuaries due to lack of infrastructure and personnel to man them. Nigeria’s health sector is in shambles and something needs to be done as quickly as possible by the PDP-led government. Doctors are always on strike and in many places, hospitals especially primary health centres are far away from where people live. Some operate in dilapidated structures, corrugated roof covered with cobwebs and in many places, have become habitats of domestic animals.
In some tertiary and secondary health centres, water supply is not available. Patients resort to buying water in jerry cans and health workers have to wait endlessly for essential drugs and disposable gloves and there is also irregular power supply to contend with.
Nigeria over the years has been losing it’s experienced health workers to developed countries as a result of neglect of the health sector, mismanagement of resources, lack of priority, lack of respect for human lives by our leaders , low wages, poor motivation, persistent shortages of basic medical supplies, poor working conditions, outdated equipments, lack of efficient and effective coordination, limited career opportunities and above all, economic reasons are among the most important factors responsible for this brain drain.
The power sector is another thing altogether. Lots of funds have gone into the sector but there is no concomitant development to show for it. The Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations invested heavily in the sector but power supply has remained epileptic.
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So much has been heard about on-going reforms in the power sector but Nigerians are still living in darkness.
The steel industry does not exist any more and there seems to be a loud silence about it. The Ajaokuta Steel company has been abandoned in the relics of history just like the refineries and about $1 billion will be required to revamp the moribund multi-billion dollar rolling mill.
The education sector is on fire. The ruling party has completely failed in this regard.
The primary and secondary schools have been known for poor performance in external examinations especially in Secondary Schools Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the General Certificate Examinations (GCE).
Education is everything. The all-pervading system failure across all sectors is based on the failure of the education system. The poorly-trained engineers construct bad roads just as the ill-educated medical doctors are not doing well in the health sector.
For Nigeria to survive, a radical and urgent overhaul of the education system is needed. Stake holders have been calling for an immediate declaration of a state of emergency in the education sector. They believe that if emergency is declared, there would be no crisis in other sectors any more.
The government should sit up. It is impunity in all ramifications when a ruling party has not been perceived to have achieved much and corruption pervades the entire system without punishment being meted out to corrupt officials.
It is obvious that Nigerians of today never heeded the wisdom of the sages. In today’s Nigeria, deceit holds sway. Almost every year, the people lament their situation, wondering if achieving nationhood is such an unrealistic and unworkable project.
From all indications, many have come to accept the reality that Nigeria is a society where the morons are the barons; where thieves are chiefs;where the monkey works and the baboon chops; where might is right and injustice the order of the day.
Today, Nigeria is a kingdom against itself. Things are falling apart and the centre can barely hold. Anarchy appears to have let loose upon the nation. Insecurity, corruption in high places and other vices are building strongholds. These are felt in every facet of the peoples life.
Affairs of modern Nigeria
For years, Nigerians have been wondering where things went wrong with the country but each year, the questions increase but there are less answers. Nigeria is forever preoccupied with how to redesign the Nigerian project after 54 years of self-governance because of the folly and greed of those who took over the affairs of modern Nigeria.
Beginning from 1966, the country recorded eight military regimes. The final military regime left power on May 29, 1999 in between interjections of civilian regimes.
Celebrating Nigeria at 54 to many is to fulfil all righteousness. The country has been able to sustain civilian government without the interruption of the military since 1999.
With her avalanche of social economic-cum political challenges, the country is still rated as a major key player in the global economy.
Every October 1 in Nigeria is observed with unmatched nationalistic ardour throughout the country. It is a very significant day in the life of the people because it is the day that binds all Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora into one chord.
And today is not different..