52 Years at Snail’s Pace? || By Emmanuel Iddio

Like every independence eve since I began my tertiary education, I heard the chants of the anthem just before midnight. It was nice to see these young men with a lot of conviction take to the streets with their chants breaking the silence of the chilly night. They sang a song that was supposed to bind each man together. A song that was supposed to help us remain united despite our diverse ethnic background. But what do we have today; a country with avaricious and venal citizens. It’s been 52 years but what do we celebrate?

So many times I ponder on what really makes me sad. Is it the good old stories of those early years of independence or the gory sight we behold today? At infancy, the educational system was good and beyond that, it had better prospects but where are those prospects now? Those days students preferred to stay back home to study than go abroad. Fresh graduates were assured of good jobs and a posh lifestyle. But now what do we see, 34% of those who apply for places in our universities eventually get a spot with less than 25% taking the courses of their choice. Out of these, less than 10% are assured of a good job. Where were we coming from and where are we heading to?

It’s been 52 years of a sorry transition. We freed ourselves from foreign rule only to get trapped in this modern day indigenous political slavery. After decades of military rule we decided that the way forward was to confine the military to their barracks. We opted for democracy but how much significant change has it brought?

It is true that the point is not about military or democratic rule, the problem is the change each Nigerian constantly preaches. But this only falls on deaf ears. In a country where each man plays the hypocrite, pointing fingers at the next man, forgetting the “finger pointer” is also a part of this mess. It is a pity that collectively we are this Nigeria and collectively we have moved at a snail’s pace for 52 good years.

Our story is just like that of a 52 year old man thinking and behaving like a nine year old kid. And really it is true. 52 years ago, 15% of the populace lived in abject poverty but now it is above 61.9%. We may say that our population has multiplied over this number of years. But it is time for us to begin to see our large population as a blessing rather than a curse. China’s population is quite overwhelming but it took them 48 years to move from being minors to the world shaker they are today. Or would you change your mind and go for India? It also took them about 44 years and a recent population count of 1.2 billion to become the big name they boast to be now. It’s been 52 years but where are we?

I can only lament at the good stories our fathers had to share. In those days, they would say: “Food was plenty; many of us preferred white collar jobs to political positions. We had great intellectuals in government offices, young men with great charisma.” But now it is just a stark opposite. Everyone wants a place in the house of assembly. Many do not want to go to school but they desire certificates. When the big politician steals, they call it embezzlement, money laundering, mismanagement of funds and other ridiculous words to paint the truth. It is clear that we have robbers up there, calling them cooperate robbers only adds salt to injury.

It is very glaring to the world. If you fail to solve your problem internally you only aggravate it for the whole world to see. It is true that we allowed the wall gecko to build on our cracked wall. Or what would you say about Nigeria’s rank as the 14th failed state in the world and to make matters worse we are classified as being in a “critical” state. We rank 20th on the world’s poverty scale and 44th on the world’s corruption scale. A few years back America dubbed us a terrorist nation; our country’s soccer team ranks 63rd in the world and no Nigerian university fall into the top 400 best universities in the world. When would we chase these wall geckos from our cracked walls and when would we mend our walls and save it from the disgrace of collapsing?

The health sector is a sorry sight today. Even our so called leaders cannot endure treatment in a Nigerian hospital. For the slightest health issue they travel abroad, neglecting a health system they have failed to put right. Our companies prefer expertise and foreign hands to their local indigenous brothers. They base their choice on technical know-how and trust which many of us lack. But who is to be blamed, 52 years ago things were not like this. My dad told me tales of his night travels; in those days, he and his friends would plod the streets of Lagos at 1 a.m. because there was no fear of robbery or brutal attacks. But today no one is secure even in broad daylight.

After this long list of maladies at 52, you might begin to wonder, what solution do you proffer? In my own opinion a lot need to change. First, each man should work on himself to effect that change, we should revive that trust and unity we had in those days. It is time our youths take their lives more seriously. They are the leaders of tomorrow; they should stop these vague dreams of making quick money overnight. We should rather focus on building up ourselves to influence the society positively.

We should also learn to render selfless services to our country and most importantly extinguish this evil fire of corruption. No one says we cannot flee like the gazelle or soar like the eagle. But if we continue to leave the country’s problems for “specific culprits” to solve, we would never move faster than the snail.

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