Nigeria @ 49: We Must Keep Hope Alive! - National Association of Seadogs

Our political leaders in their usual effusive and ostentatious style would roll out the drums in Abuja and all states of the Federation to celebrate the national Independence Day in what has become a ritual on every October 1st.

As usual, our beleaguered nation would be treated to vain broadcasts and grandstanding on national and local television and radio stations.

Nigerians who had until now look forward to the Independence Day celebration for renewed hope and reconstruction have become sullen and despondent: the spark, bounce and enthusiasm that was once the hallmark of the Nigerian have long disappeared; leaving melancholy, forlornness and frustration in its wake. Poverty has become endemic. The people are angry and inconsolable. The people are not to be blame. Daily, they are aware of the near total disconnect between them and those holding the reins of leadership.  They have watched as the dream of our founding fathers has been ruined on account of ineptitude, corruption and lack of vision.

With a population about 140million consisting of the best human capital any where in the world; a variety of natural resources; a wide range of climatic and vegetation patterns, ranging from the hot and dry desert of the north through the moderate grassland middle belt to the wet tropical rainforest and mangrove vegetation of the south, Nigeria is strategically placed and endowed with potentials for greatness.

Unfortunately, the reverse is the case. The pace of development in virtually all the sectors of the polity is slow and uncoordinated. The effect is a neglected agricultural sector; declining manufacturing sector; stunted technological development sector; decaying infrastructure, a starved and famished health sector; a highly manipulated financial sector; and indeed an “ambushed” oil sector, which presumably, is supposed to be the backbone of the economy.

The National Association of Seadogs (NAS) is deeply worried that after 49 years of Independence, our political leaders are yet to get their acts together and make Nigeria great.  They would have been forgiven if they had attempted and failed.  But what is evident is a deliberate and predetermined script to keep Nigeria on its knees by a depraved and gluttonous political leadership bereft of vision. The insensitivity of our political leaders is replicated in virtually all sectors of the economy.  

The manufacturing sector is on a freefall as more companies wind down their operations in the country, the latest being Coca- Cola, which has shut down its concentrate plant and relocated to a neighboring country.

After a widely celebrated vow to declare an emergency in the power sector, a hapless nation still await some form of concrete action program from the Federal Government. Incessant power outages across the country have had a great toll on the economy as many industries are heavily dependent on alternative sources of power. Recent media reports put the amount Nigerians spend on fueling industrial and domestic electricity generating sets at about N796 billion per annum, an amount that compares favourably with the nation’s capital expenditure vote in the 2009 budget.

As if the situation is not bad enough, Dr. Joe Oteng-Adjei, Ghana’s Minister of Energy, was quoted in several media reports that arrangements are now in place for Ghana to be "a major exporter" of electricity to Nigeria. Ironically, Nigeria supplies gas to Ghana for electricity supply through the West Africa Gas Pipeline project. That is how low we have fallen as the self acclaimed “giant of Africa”!

Unsurprisingly, Nigeria’s anti-graft war which has been applauded all over the world in time past is being laughed off by responsible governments and credible organizations.

Sadly, the health sector is buffeted by myriads of problems largely due to lack of basic equipments to save lives.

Similarly, our education sector is comatose. It is now over three months since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a nationwide strike over the inability of the Federal Government to honour an agreement it freely entered into with the union. Yet, President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua had no qualms traveling to Saudi Arabia to participate in the opening of the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology!

It will be recalled that things have not always been like this. After Independence in 1960 and through the 70s and 80s Nigeria was truly the cynosure of Africa, dominating the economic, social and political landscape within the continent. With a very strong African-centric foreign policy, Nigeria played strategic roles in the fight against apartheid and the quest for independence in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola and Mozambique. In the 90s, we led the way in peace-keeping missions to troubled African countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia; and indeed in other parts of the world. Those were the days when Africans from neighboring countries came to Nigeria to seek economic refuge! The situation is now in reverse gear.

At 49 Nigeria’s influence in Africa has progressively diminished. Recently, a Group of 20 nations assumed the role of a permanent council on global economic cooperation. One would have expected Nigeria, as the most populous country in Africa and one of the world’s leading producers of oil, to make this line-up of world leading global economies, leading Africa. Incidentally, South Africa has since taken that position with Ghana dominating the West African sub-region. Sadly but unsurprisingly, the country has become a butt of jokes among fellow African countries and the international community on the inability of our political leaders to lead us aright

President Umar Yar Adua must wake up!  His leadership is uninspiring and falls short of what is expected to galvanize Nigerians to support any programme of development. Sometimes, he appears overwhelmed by the problems besetting the nation. He must wrest his presidency from pretenders and opportunists. Making Nigeria one of the 20 strongest economies by year 2020 is an ambitious step in the right direction but it will not be achieved by mere sloganeering hinged on a soulless seven-point agenda! The lofty quest will also not be achieved by boycotting key international forum to market Nigeria. What is required is an articulate, hardworking, visionary, sincere and committed leadership to get the country out of the woods.   

Despite the plethora of missed opportunities by our political leadership, the National Association of Seadogs (NAS) is however convinced that there is still hope for Nigeria. The onus rests of President Umar Yar’ Adua to rise up to the occasion and provide the direction to take Nigeria on the path of greatness.  In simple terms, he must be on top of his game. Just a year away from celebrating our Golden Jubilee as an Independent nation, he can leverage on the dogged nature and the can-do-spirit of Nigerians and do the right thing by governing this country with commitment. This we believe is the challenge before him.  He must reposition Nigeria for the better by tending to the following milestones.

•    NAS expects the government to conclude negotiations with the striking lecturers and re-open the universities without further delay.
•    As a matter of urgency, he should order the full implementation of the recommendations of the Justice Muhammed Uwais committee on Electoral Reforms for genuine democracy to be enthroned in the country. In this regard, Maurice Iwu will obviously be the first casualty - has done his bit and should be allowed to go home in peace.
•    President Umar Yar’ Adua should immediately declare the emergency in the power sector and save the remaining industries struggling to survive.  
•    He should move fast to salvage Nigeria and save its future as time is no longer on his side.
•    Social, economic and political corruption must be curtailed, if not totally eradicated.
•    Security of lives and property must be given top priority. Security agencies must put a stop to the spate of assassinations across the land.
•    He should move fast to salvage Nigeria’s image by declaring his stance on corruption by distancing himself from indicted politicians.

NAS International wishes to use this opportunity to extend to all Nigerians a happy 49th independence anniversary celebration.

Emanuel Bassey
NAS Capoon

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