A year ago when Nigeria celebrated 60 years, I commented on the “State of the Nation”. It is important to cast our mind back on those comments to see what has changed, if any.
Last year, I said: “At 60, Nigeria is totally dysfunctional and fragmented. This is not the idea of what a nation properly so-called should be.
“Unity of purpose is lacking among the component groups; the different elements within the country are at war against one another all the time.
“A country that cannot think and act as one cannot be in a position to define its interests and how it would use its resources to solve its problems.
“This is the reason why over 16 million children that are of school age are out of school.
“The poorest people on earth are found in Nigeria as it has been touted as the world’s poverty capital.
“The country is rich in solid minerals and it has a very good soil for Agriculture but its attention is concentrated on oil and gas.
“It exports crude oil at prices buyers determine and import petroleum products at prices determined also by sellers who use their skills to improve our crude.
“After 60 years of tottering, Nigeria is headed towards total failure as its columns are caving in.
“Its days are numbered if it continues along this path.
“This is not the time for Nigeria to dance and celebrate. Rather, it is time for it to put on its thinking cap.
“The starting point is for Nigeria to come to the table of brotherhood so it can be properly reconstituted and have a proper “We the people” Constitution.
“Experience has shown that a diverse country like Nigeria can only survive and its different people live happily together on the basis of a truly federal arrangement.
“Nigeria must make a decision to become productive and every section of it must contribute to National growth and development.
“It must discard the lazy idea of sharing oil and gas proceeds as that tends to poverty.
“Netherlands, the fourth largest exporter of agriculture in the world, is not up to Niger state in land mass. In Nigeria, land mass is employed to fight only for a larger share of the so-called ‘national cake’ which is shared in Abuja every month.
“There can be no future in that for any country but making every section productive will create a new push for the country to fulfill its potentials.
“The various units will develop in healthy competition rather than fight over limited resources.
“The struggle over who controls the Centre will also be reduced to the barest minimum.
“There are ample resources to make Nigeria great and, going forward, to also extend a helping hand to the vulnerable in Africa if we better harness our resources.
“Finding this new paradigm should be the country’s assignment at 60.
“If we do, in 10 years we may not be able to recognize this country as its transformative power would have ignited the whole of Africa.
“Nigeria will, thus, cease to be a disaster waiting to happen or a failed state which many fear it is at the brink of becoming – if it has not crossed that threshold already”
Those were my words last year. Those were my apprehensions and fears. They equally were my recommendations. If I may ask: Has anything changed one year down the road?
It has, but regrettably, on the negative side. The country has continued on a downward spiral. Everything that was bad last year has gone worse over the last one year.
Insecurity, wanton killings, and destruction of property have not only worsened but have spread all over the country.
The economy has gone from bad to worse. Skyrocketing unemployment, hyper inflation, and worsening Naira exchange rates have crippled the productive sectors of the economy.
Spiralling cost of foodstuffs, transportation blues, and high tariffs have led to high cost of living even in the rural areas.
Agitations for the dismemberment of the country rage while government continues to turn deaf ears to calls for restructuring and reconciliation.
Worrisome is the escalating conflicts between state government and state government and between the Federal Government and state governments.
Only the benevolence of foreign governments and donor agencies have helped the country so far with Covid-19 vaccines. Even at that, only a miniscule number of citizens have been vaccinated.
The prognosis for the future is not looking good with Nigeria swimming in debts and still shopping around for more.
We need to tell ourselves the bitter truth. We cannot continue with the same unproductive policies and decisions and expect a different result.
Radical decisions are needed to pull this country away from the edge of the precipice.
This is the time that Nigeria requires exemplary and visionary leadership. Anything short of that may spell doom for the country with dire reveberating effects far and near.
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin is President, Women Arise and Centre for Change, Lagos,