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Nigeria at 61: Beating a path away from the brink – Punch Newspapers

Punch Newspapers
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Ayo Olukotun
“The Nigerian economy is about to collapse because the goose laying the golden egg for Nigeria is about to die. The future lies in a knowledge-based economy but Nigeria is behind many African countries on the Innovation Index.”
– Muhammad Sanusi II, a former Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank at last week’s Closing Ceremony of Kaduna Investment Summit, Friday, September 24, 2021.
Today, October 1, 2021, is Nigeria’s Independence Anniversary, denoting the date when the British, 61 years ago, lowered the Union Jack and granted independence to a former colony. Doubtless, the mood in several quarters is raw and upbeat compounded recently by the trending heated debate on which region, North or South, is to produce the next President in the 2023 elections. But let us begin with the good news.
Defying all odds and informed predictions, the National Bureau of Statistics announced recently a stunning quarterly GDP growth of 5.01% in the second quarter of 2021. In a country where good news had been scarce for a season, government officials and publicists naturally lapped up the information, deploying it as evidence of hard work by the economic managers. Even if the figure turns out to be a bit padded, it is a bellwether of sorts that economic activities, despite the holdover and continuing rage of the COVID-19 pandemic, are accelerating in a post-recession period. Doubts in some quarters about the figure notwithstanding, it has been described as the highest quarterly gain for the economy since 2015 when Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) took over the reins of government. Also, and as this columnist reported a fortnight ago, there have been improvements and steady growth in some states, though few and far between, providing a counter-narrative in a sense to gloomy economic and social indices.

The opening quote sourced from Muhammad Sanusi II, a former Governor of the Central Bank and former Emir of Kano, provides a flip side to the narrative of improvement by raising the alert that the economy, still heavily oil-independent, may in fact be about to collapse. Reeling out a sheaf of statistics, Sanusi demonstrated that rather than trudge on, the economy is in fact trailing those of several African countries in the crucial areas of innovation, ICT, and the development of a knowledge-based economy.
Still on the depressing side of the matter, a national newspaper reported in the course of this week that Nigerians are poorer today than they were in 1960 when Nigeria became independent, broaching the phenomenon of what some experts termed as growth without development or jobless growth. Of course, this has been with us for several decades now, including seasons of boom when economic growth ascended to a merry high tide while Nigerians in their huge numbers remained miserable and poverty-stricken. So, if the mood in town does not quite resemble a celebration, the reason should be clear; namely that individuals and families reeling from the whiplash of galloping inflation, increasingly unable to make ends meet, may not see much reason for rolling out the drums to mark another Independence Anniversary.
What this suggests is that the search and struggle for inclusive growth as well as sustainable development are far from being over and may be, in some sense, as elusive as ever. Obviously, therefore, the hopes and dreams beckoning for Nigeria when it became independent have yet to be realised while a parlous dystopia has quickly replaced the projected utopia of Nigeria as Africa’s giant with a strong presence in the global marketplace and a deliverer of the black race.


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Uniting a federation so widely diverse as ours cannot be a mere walk in the park. Nonetheless, having turned deaf ears to frequent cries for restructuring by reducing it to mere constitutional amendments, the issue has come back with vengeance to haunt us in the shape of resurgence of ethnic nationalities, the fierce contentions over Value Added Tax, the persistent outcry for state police in the face of pervasive insecurity, the ongoing debate between Northern governors and Southern governors on which region is to produce the President among other divisive tendencies. Would it not have been cheaper and more expedient to have gone for a national conference that will renew the federal bargain and holistically address the simmering centrifugal divisions that currently seize the headlines?
to say also that despite the efforts of law enforcements to beat back the overarching advance of insecurity, the tide ebbs only to be succeeded by new flows. In a sense, the politicians have driven the country too often to the edge of the cliff leaving the rest of us to wrap our heads on how to escape what may be the consequences of hurtling down an unpredictable and deep valley. Those who may be profiting from such brinksmanship may be laughing to the banks but the rest of us are not amused.
What is required is to rapidly beat a path away from the brink, return the country to an even keel while reassuring Nigerians and the global community that a new beginning is afoot.

 A prayer for citizens Julius Oshadumo and Abiodun
Elder Julius Oshadumo is the Pioneer Provost of the College of Education Technical, Kabba, Kogi State. A fortnight ago, he attended, with his wife, his regular church, Evangelical Church of West Africa, Kabba in Kogi State as he had done for many years. Unfortunately and tragically, gunmen stormed the church and shot to death the Chief Security Officer of the church, Reuben Gbenga, causing the Pastor and the congregation to flee the church amidst the murderous pandemonium.
Oshadumo’s wife, Olu, a retired public officer, was shot at and assumed dead by the bandits. Oshadumo, presumably unable to run (he is close to 80 years), was carried off into the kidnappers’ den along with another member of the church, Elder T. O. Abiodun. Friends, relations and community associations including the Jege Development Union, which Oshadumo once presided over, have held vigils, prayer watches and fasts, asking God to intervene by sparing the lives of Elders Oshadumo and Abiodun.
The apprehensions and fears are that the two men, considering the gravity of their ages, may be unable to survive protracted exposure to the rigours of the kidnappers’ forest hideout.

This columnist joins other concerned Nigerians in supplication for their preservation and release. More importantly, one hopes and prays that the time will come, and soon too, when Nigerians can go about their lawful business without becoming victims of kidnappers on the prowl for men and women, irrespective of their age and health condition to be used to attract ransom at any cost.
As Nigeria marks its 61st anniversary, we must ponder afresh how we came to the present sorry pass in which citizens are assailed and kidnapped at will. Only a few days ago, the House of Representatives lamented a recent circular credited to the National Youth Service Corps headquarters stating that corps members travelling on dangerous highways are admonished to be in phone contact with at least one of their relations so that as necessary, ransom could be paid on their behalf in the event of their being kidnapped. Some of the members wondered whether kidnapping had been so legitimised or tolerated to the point that such a circular could emanate from the NYSC, a Federal Government agency.
In spite of all, this columnist wishes Nigerians a happy 61st Independence Anniversary.
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