Nigeria At 53: Need To Reflect On Implication Of Tahrir Square, By Gabriel Omonhinmin



map_of_nigeriaAs Nigeria marks its 53rd Independence anniversary, there is the need to once again take a sober look, at the way and manner the country been managed these past years. If the truth must be told, there is very little to cheer about Nigeria. The roots of discontent in Nigeria like most countries lie in the high level of poverty in the land.
The average Nigerian as things are today, an income level of around 0.1 per cent of the average citizen of the United States not to talk of Sweden and can expect to live twenty/twenty-five fewer years; 80 percent of the population live in abject poverty.
The questions that bother the minds of any rational thinker is, why is the average Nigerian so much poorer than the United States? What are the constraints that keep Nigeria from becoming more prosperous? Is the poverty in Nigeria immutable, or cant it be eradicated? A natural way to thinking about this is to look at what Nigerians are saying about their government, as the Nigerian government ASUU strike continues. Adewale Richards, thirty years, a worker in an advertising agency in Lagos said: “we are suffering from corruption, oppression and bad . We are living amidst a corrupt system which to change”. Another respondent, Eromosele Ehimen, a student at the University of Lagos, concurred: “I hope that by 2015, we would have a truly democratic election in Nigeria, that will help bring about a government that for its masses and that universal freedoms are applied and that we put an to the corruption that taken over the country”.
All the students protesting the ASUU lingering strike spoke with one about the corruption pervading the land, and government inability to deliver public services, and the lack of equality of opportunity in the country. The youths are generally complaining about the absence of political rights.
To most Nigerians, the things that have held them back include an ineffective and corrupt state and a society where they cannot use their talent, ingenuity, and what they can get. Nigerians are also very much aware, that the roots of these problems are political. All the economic impediments they face stem from the way political power in Nigeria is exercised and monopolized by a narrow minded elites. These elites have been feathering their nests at the expense of the society which seems irrelevant to understanding the country’s problems.
In fact, Nigeria is poor precisely because it has been ruled by self centred and myopic leaders that have organized society for their own benefit at the expense of the vast mass of people. Political power has been narrowly concentrated, and has been used to create great wealth for those who possess it, such as the billions of Naira presently accumulated by our and past leaders. In all these, the losers have been the Nigerian people. This, Nigerians understand, is the first thing that has to change.
Another area that is worth considering is the notion that the rulers of Nigeria simply don’t know what is needed to make their country prosperous, and have initiated bad and strategies in the past. If these rulers would only get the right advice from the right advisers, the thinking goes, prosperity would follow.
The interpretation of Nigerian poverty, the people’s interpretation, turns out a general explanation for why poor countries are poor. Whether it is Zimbabwe, Niger or Sierra Leone. Countries such as Great Britain, France, Germany and the United States of America became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society where the government is accountable and responsive to citizens, and where the great masses of people could take advantage of economic opportunities.
Nigeria since independence in 1960 has witnessed so many changes from West Minister type of government to Military dictatorship back to Presidential system of governance.The changes witnessed in the past did not make any meaning, because those who mounted the change simply took over the reins from those they’ deposed and re-created a similar system. Today, as things are in the country, it is indeed difficult for the ordinary citizens to real political power and change the way their society work.
At this point in time, what is required is a political transformation; this is what is required for a poor society like Nigeria to become rich. For those who have ears let them hear.
Omonhinmin is a Lagos based Media Consultant.

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