Nigeria @ 61: What hurts most – Nwodo – Vanguard
By Dennis Agbo
First Civilian Governor of Enugu state and pioneer National Secretary who later became National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo speaks on the state of Nigeria at 61, stating that the country needs to be rescued.
What are your remarks on Nigeria at 61 years of nationhood?
Well, if you look at Nigeria at 61, it’s really a mix bag. We’ve made some tremendous improvements in some areas compared to where we were in1960. If you are talking about the number of academic institutions we had at independence, maybe you could only count on the University of Nigeria Nsukka and Ibadan, but now I am sure we have over sixty universities. Talk about secondary and primary enrollment, there are massive improvements. On health institutions, a number of teaching hospitals have sprung up and a lot of other privately owned health institutions.
There is improvement in road infrastructure between 1960 and 2021. There are so many airports in Nigeria now and so a lot has happened. The question now is, at 61are we proud of where we are and I think that the answer is a big no. We are expected not to continue to repeat mistakes of the past or mistakes of other climes that we should have learnt from. We could have made more progress than we have done today in our country. I believe also that if we had managed our oil wells properly … There are two things I ‘d have loved to be proud of as a Nigerian, if we managed the oil wells very well: One is that the infrastructure in our country is very much below our expectation. We haven’t developed our infrastructure to have a solid foundation for the development of Nigeria.
The second one is that we wasted our resources when we should have used them to diversify our economy because if we had applied the money properly, maybe we would have grown our agriculture which was the mainstay of our economy. At independence we had grown at leaps and bounds that by now we should have been feeding the whole of Africa, if not beyond. So I think that we have not managed our resources well, particularly in terms of using them to diversify our economy and building solid infrastructure as a foundation for development of a country.
In the last few years, the standard of education has fallen so massively both in terms of infrastructure and content. There is an educational gap between those who studied in universities abroad and those who studied here and so there is a massive fall in education standard. Every military coup in Nigeria said that our hospitals are just mortuaries where people go to die and every government promised that medical tourism would end and that they would build health institutions so that nobody would need to go abroad for treatment. But these were promises that have never been fulfilled; the truth is that the quality of medical care delivery in our country is extremely poor.
In ICT, a country such as India can’t rank below third position, but where are we in Nigeria with that? Students in most universities in the world go to classes with their computers and when Covid-19 came other students in the world were having their lectures online but ours sat at home. There are many areas that we need improvement but the ones that hurt most at 61 is what we have in our coat of arms, Peace, Unity and Progress but where is the peace after 61 years? Look at the gruesome murder of Dr. Chike Akunyili for no reason. So there is no peace in the country, the biggest problem we have in our country today is massive insecurity, the violence is too much and we don’t see a serious effort by the government and security agencies to tackle this insecurity. The insecurity at 61 is a massive disgrace for all of us that call ourselves Nigerians.
Unity, where are we with unity? The clarion call by various ethnic groups in this country to secede from Nigeria has never been so loud, the gulf between the north and the south, between Christians and Moslems, between one tribe and the other, the suspicion between one group and the other has never been this bad, nobody trusts anybody any more and that is not a good epitaph to write for a 61 year old person, I think it’s a disgrace for our country.
How did we get to where we are now?
I believe that the country was just coasting from year to year, various leaders trying to do the best they could with whatever resources available to the country but as I said, from the beginning I don’t think those resources were properly managed or put into the best use for the country in terms of infrastructure and diversification of our economy. But having said so, these levels of violence, disunity just show that our government now at the federal level has failed in one of the things that have kept Nigeria.
Nepotism has been played to such a high pedestal that if you don’t come from a certain tribe and if you don’t belong to certain religion, you are not treated as if you are a part and parcel of a country called Nigeria and that has brought a lot of alienation, a lot of pressure by various groups that they can no long stay in one country called Nigeria, that they want to move on to a country of their own. But again, the majority of Nigerians want Nigeria, but they want a Nigeria that guarantees peace, equity, fairness, justice for everybody and they are not getting that and since they are not getting that, many are agitating for restructuring of the country.
If we can go back nearer to the first constitution that we had, maybe, some degree of independence will be assured by the federating units so that they can develop at their own pace and explore the natural resources that God has given to them in order to grow their economy and deal with the necessities of life. This restructuring has been resisted very robustly by the government at the center and yet it is so said that at 61 we still wait to sell crude oil and then the feeding bottle we get from it, we use it to feed 36 states, 774 local governments. Anybody looking at this dispassionately will just know that we are probably running crazy in this country because the need to have 36 centers of development where the natural resources of Nigeria are being harnessed is certainly better than developing these resources at one point and sharing it to the 36 babies and 774 grandchildren.
So if every center of the federating units is minding their own business, definitely the economic quagmire we find ourselves in today will never be the same because all that the country is concentrating on is on crude oil which unfortunately we have all seen how the price goes up and down and how that is affecting everything that is happening in our country. I think that we need to move away from that.
On Progress which is the third arm of our coat of arm; there is no way you can progress with the level of insecurity that we have now. Dr. Akunyili just went to receive a posthumous award on behalf of the wife who went to the University of Nigeria with us by the alumni association and he could not drive home from Onitsha to Enugu. So how can you be talking about progress? Children will go to school and hundreds of them are kidnapped and how many checkpoints do we have in Nigeria that nobody stops them and these children are taken into the forests for weeks, parents who are battling to pay school fees are now raising money to pay kidnappers and have their children back in a country where there is government. The whole thing leaves you with a feeling of hopelessness. So the insecurity is massive and it has affected our food security, our economy and even our sense of well being.
So, we need to wake up at 61and know that a 61-year- old man that is suffering from the type of illness that we are suffering is only destined to die any moment from now and we will not allow Nigeria to die, we just have to do whatever is needed to rescue this country.
Vanguard News Nigeria