100th year challenges
Most of today’s Nigerians have to struggle hard to appreciate the historical reality that has made 1914 a historic year. The amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates that was executed by the British colonialists and from which 1914 drew its significance is too historical or more precisely too far in history to make any clear meaning to the bulk of the country’s population.
The argument or point being made by historians and other story tellers that the real construction of Nigeria started with the amalgamation in 1914 is, most often, easily dismissed as academic and irrelevant or even offensive to those Nigerians who truly are yet to see, appreciate or even comprehend the real advantages of the colonialists’ action. There is, in fact, currently a certain belief among many Nigerians which is further being re-enforced by some prevailing ugly socio-economic and political realities that the amalgamation is yet to serve any meaningful purpose.
The combination of mistrust which has resulted in the noticeable disunity among the various communities in the country, dwindling economic fortunes of the citizens and the weakening political structures seemingly indicates that the existence of Nigeria in the last 100 years as a geo-political entity has not yet translated into a strong, united and prosperous nation. And this is what continuously robs 1914 of its significance.
Yet 2014, which is 100th year after the amalgamation, represents a huge challenge for the country. Already, the narrators of stories about the past, enumerators of protracted problems and assessors of current situation have, in their respective ways, begun to bring out the challenges of 2014.
It is the approach of particularly the present administration in the country under Dr Goodluck Jonathan to the existing challenges that will determine the way the current debate on the 100 years of Nigeria will go. What, at the moment, is unarguably most important is the full understanding of the dangers of a poor handling of the issues and events that will characterize the year.
Right now, it looks like such an understanding is not there. The government which keeps announcing its plan to celebrate the year in a somewhat grand style is, simultaneously, displaying a disturbing insensitivity to the feelings of disenchantment, dissatisfaction and fear being incessantly expressed by most Nigerians.
There are only a few phenomena that give some hope now, which means that the majority of them portend serious setbacks for the country. The lamentations and the resultant pessimism are all indications of the heightened reservation of the citizens over the capacity or readiness or both of the present administration to seize the current opportunities to save the situation.
Definitely 2014 which should ordinarily have meant much more than it currently does will be even much less significant than it is now if all the Jonathan administration can offer is its current approach to the prevailing challenges. There is no much in the government’s disposition to convince Nigerians that it worries about the speedy decline in the quality of their lives.
Even with all the assurances by the government and particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the general elections in 2015 will be better than the previous ones, certain realities about the commission’s preparedness for the elections and the government’s body language indicate the opposite. The kind of drastic changes in the conduct of elections that Nigerians are desperately yearning for still looks too far away to be realized next year.
Even if all other shortcomings are forgivable, the inability of the government to effectively handle the lingering insecurity is not. This is a failure that brings out everything about the government’s incapacity because a government that cannot provide security to the people can certainly not provide anything.
Although President Jonathan recently swept away the security chiefs and replaced them with new ones which seemingly indicates some renewed resolve to tackle the insurgency, past experiences and the fact that it takes much more than such a change to provide maximum security of lives and properties necessitate the conclusion that the government is yet to appreciate the need to take advantage of 2014 to adopt stronger security measures. It is all the same old style that has neither added nor paid up.
Some observers are justifiably angery over President Jonathan’s desperation to make huge political capital out of the opportunities for the effective resolution of the prevailing crises in the country provided by 2014. It is the desperation that has informed the adoption of a kind of approach that clearly smacks of insensitivity to the genuine feelings of Nigerians and the resultant neglect of the basic structures upon which the country depends for its stability and development.
Whatever will happen in the country in 2015 and even beyond will be determined by the manner in which the present administration handles 2014. A combination of serious reflection on the country’s existence in the last 100 years or, at least, since it became independent in 1960, through analysis of the current situation and a conscious effort at designing laudable plans for national development should be the hallmark of the centenary celebrations.
In almost all respects, 2014 is extra-ordinary because it affords the country the opportunity to reposition itself with a view to reclaiming some lost grounds. It is a kind of opportunity that can be appreciated and fully utilized by only those leaders who believe that it is their business to do the right thing.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan and his team are expected to subject themselves to the dictates of the time by consciously keying into the rising demand for the adoption of more practical and resultoriented approach to the numerous challenges facing the country. Both 2014 and 2015, as significant as they are to Nigeria’s survival and development, will just pass on as some of those years if the current administration remains what it is.
Gimi wrote from Kaduna