100th year chal­lenges

Daily Trust - - VIEWS - By Shu’aibu Gimi

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

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