Looking forward at 55, the spirit of nation building and the agenda for a new Nigeria should go beyond the renewed fight against corruption and we must begin with a national rebirth mechanism that is built on authentic truth and reconciliation that would stimulate participation, consensus building and inclusiveness.
Today marks the 55th anniversary of our great country. As we celebrate this historic day of nation building, there are still many questions begging for answers and painfully where did we go wrong or can we truthfully say all is well with the nation.
Since independence in 1960 many emergent political leaders including the treacherous military regime had hardly gave the country the chance of survival and the British legacy of divisive colonialism, the civil war and indeed the mismanagement of the crude oil resources had deprived Nigeria of its glorious future.
The clear-headed question we need to answer is what have we, as a nation, achieved at 55 years? The simple answer is that Nigeria is not in any good shape yet. Nigeria is where we are because of incompetent and corrupt leadership.
That is why the new government under President Muhammadu Buhari must insist on institutional changes in our governance structure. The fixing of our immediate problems must be hinged on addressing the core values of fiscal federalism, value system re-orientation, local governance autonomy and corruption.
Therefore, the call for separation of the Attorney-General’s office from that of the Ministry of Justice to have an independent prosecutor that would deal with issues of corruption should be uppermost in the mind of the government. Furthermore, the end product of the fight against corruption must reflect the purging of the political elite and their collective of their excesses and a deliberate mechanism for the redistribution of wealth will set the nation on the path of progress.
At 55 years of political independence, we still have difficulties with our financial discipline as many states have signed a bailout agreement with the federal government to pay salaries. The country is enmeshed in deficit, which is causing a lot of socioeconomic hardships to the citizens with strong indications of the economy becoming bleak a result of the declining oil revenue in the international market.
It is expedient for the Buhari government to avoid political complacency and distractions from critical economic issues. Additionally, from deliberative democratic practice, president Buhari appears to run an assertive government in principle, but it lacked great attention to the demand side of his key strategic reforms agenda, including building partnerships and maintaining communications with stakeholders. The real accountability lies in paying greater attention to the demand side, which is listening to the people.
What is our dream as a nation at 55 years?
Our nation building efforts and mechanisms for genuine nationalism are in despair and regrettably, we are moving towards bigger division and polarisation particularly with the events that preceded the 2015 general elections and the recent happenings in the legislative arm of government. It is time for us heal those wounds and unite as a people in diversity with a common destiny pursuing a common dream and vision. The most critical concern in this year independence celebration, in my view, is for us to stay united in diversity and there is no better time than now.
We must never allow ethnic or political differences to divide us if we really desire change a people and indeed a nation. The government must up its game of communication management and strategy by encouraging on how patriotic Nigerians can contribute towards the development of the country and a national aspiration template to counter the negative narratives being propagated by the two major political parties by clarifying genuine concerns and debunking falsehoods that are disruptive to peace and national cohesion. The most important thing to do is to support the President to achieve his programmes and the programmes must be communicated in a manner that inspires the unity of the nation.
Undoubtedly, Nigeria has made some modest gains. It has enjoyed some political stability after long treacherous military regimes but it is also regrettable that these gains if not managed well, will be eroded. The political leadership over the years seems to view national issues with parochial lenses; hence we are unable to provide objective contributions for national development and economic progress, which has resulted in the blame game syndrome between the contesting powers at the centre and at the state level.
Also, Nigerian citizens’ inability to elect their own leaders at the local government levels is an impediment to sustainable development and it has served to drag the government at the grass root under the weight of state governments burdened by massive corruption and stealing from the local government funds. Additionally, the current nebulous arrangement of picking national assembly leaders by the self – styled kingmakers and godfathers will also undermine the ability of the Parliament (National Assembly) to be an effective check on the executive arm of government notwithstanding the emerging Buhari effect (body language) in our democratic experiment.
Indeed a constructive citizen’s engagement with all stakeholders particularly at the states will stimulated national cohesion. Therefore, citizens should feel more strengthen in their resolve that the blinkered and self inflicted obstacles to nation- building are not insurmountable and that they can be overcome by working together and playing a catalytic role in persuading relations, friends, associates and even adversary to pursue the Nigeria dream for the betterment of all and it is on that basis that a true nationalism can be advanced.
Interestingly, nations tend to assume the personality of their leaders, but it is important to recognise the restoration of merit by ensuring that excellence is not sacrificed at the altar of political representation of constituent parts. It is in this regard that the country’s leadership must provoke national conversations that promote the spirit of togetherness while adhering to a national moral code that uphold the greater Nigerian dream. Looking forward at 55, the spirit of nation building and the agenda for a new Nigeria should go beyond the renewed fight against corruption and we must begin with a national rebirth mechanism that is built on authentic truth and reconciliation that would stimulate participation, consensus building and inclusiveness. We salute our great country at 55.
*Orovwuje, is founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos. Orovwuje@yahoo.com, 08034745325.