NIGERIA AT 59: THE GAINS AND PAINS OF A NATION

Ahaziah Suleiman, Abuja

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It is 59 years today since Nigeria attained nationhood.  Every year October first holds a historic significance for Nigeria and its people. It was on this day; Nigeria gained her independence from British Colonial rule.

Today, as Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora again salute their fatherland, it offers another occasion to take an introspective view of the journey so far and determine if there is any cause for celebration.

Many would wonder if the applause for the nation can be as hearty today as it was on October one, 1960, when the Union Jack was lowered and the Nigerian flag was hoisted. Whatever the level of applause may be, for many Nigerians, it has been 59 years of ups and downs of mixed blessings.

The country took off on a brisk note with rapid growth rate that gave promise of imminent abundant good life for all. Nigeria suffered its first setback barely five years after independence when the military staged a coup in January 1966. It was a bad omen as the country had to grapple with eight military coups and attempted coups creating instability in the polity.

So, except for the four years of the Shagari presidency which ended in 1983, the military was in power for 29 years of the country’s 59 years of independence.

The decay of the years of military rule has now been reversed under the current democratic system which came into being in 1999. The reversal has been a slow process but surely a steady one. This is however understandable considering the magnitude of rot brought on the system by the military.

More than any other administration before now, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari presents immense possibilities for Nigeria to overcome its economic, political, infrastructural, security challenges as well as fight against corruption and offers opportunities for the future of Nigeria as a political, economic and political power in Africa.

The President Buhari administration is built on three cardinal objectives war against corruption, tackling insecurity and revamping the economy. That is not all, the administration has also acknowledged that Nigerians have reached a broad consensus over the years in these vital areas; the need to deepen democracy and the rule of law, building an economy driven primarily by the private sector and restructuring of governments for efficiency and good governance. All these have been substantially achieved.

In the late 1960s, Nigeria went through a bitter civil war which brought a lot of pains and destruction to a budding economy and a country with great potentials on the same level with Brazil and Malaysia amongst its peers.

From 2009 to 2015, boko haram insurgency enveloped the North Eastern States of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa bringing so much hardship to Nigerians in that part of the country hoisting their flags in conquered territories in Borno State.

The Buhari Administration on assumption of office in 2015, confronted the insurgents head-on and liberated all territories hitherto occupied by boko haram. Today, the menace of the insurgents have been degraded and normalcy restored to the region.

Similarly, Nigeria is now witnessing a determined effort to tackle, once and for all, the Niger-Delta issue with the infrastructural development of the region, concerted efforts have been made to end youth restiveness, vandalization of oil facilities and kidnappings. These have brought relative peace in the region and oil exploration going on unhindered.

The fight against corruption in Nigeria has taken a new turn. The anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other offences Commission, ICPC, and the Code of Conduct Bureau have been reinvigorated and made more proactive in its operations.

On the international scene, Nigeria has since independence helped to provide exemplary leadership in West Africa and Africa. Nigeria has helped to restore peace to War-ravaged countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo, just to mention a few.

Nigerians exploits in the United Nations peacekeeping missions to all over the World is a further example of the country’s commitment to global peace. Nigeria’s contribution of troops to global peacekeeping operations is second to none in Africa and only ranks second to India in the World.

At 59 years, there are pointers that the dream of an abundant life for all Nigerians is realizable in the nearest future. There is every reason for celebration as a Nation. From just three Universities there are over two hundred public and private Universities in the country.

Similarly, from three regions, today we have 36 States and Federal Capital all leading in the development quest and robust economy for the country.

For these reasons, Nigerians have every reason to roll out their drums and celebrate 59 years of nationhood.