Nigeria’s 56th independence anniversary is being marked at a time one American dollar buys N500. The next independence anniversary could be celebrated with the dollar at N1, 000 or more.
Nobody should doubt the prognosis. We did predict when the dollar would hit N200, N300, N400 and now N500. Along with galloping inflation, the naira exchange rate has sentenced most Nigerians to a life of misery. In a case of double tragedy, salary earners have had their incomes devalued significantly at a time of unprecedented level of inflation and unemployment.
The hell we are witnessing is a disaster long foretold. I have always known that a consumer nation like Nigeria cannot claim to be independent. As far as I am concerned, Nigeria has yet to attain independence: economic independence, not flag independence, is what matters.
There is little to celebrate except poverty, hunger, misery and hopelessness. Apart from the (plagiarised) speeches of the country’s political leaders, which the media publish as if they were paid to do so, there is no sign of celebration anywhere in Nigeria.
There may be a dinner at state government houses today or tomorrow. Let the guest watch for anything that is made in Nigeria: the clothes put on by members of the audience, the rice they will eat, the spoons and plates, the cloths used to make flags, the microphones, the TV cameras, the light bulbs – I can bet you won’t see any made-in-Nigeria product. Even the table water they will drink is produced with imported machinery. Of course, the best speakers will be those who attended foreign universities. And the children of most serving and former ministers, senators and governors will still be studying abroad while their parents will be telling us how Nigeria has achieved wonders through hundreds of tertiary institutions in the past 56 years.
That we have failed woefully in all indices of human development does not, however, belie the genuine struggles of our founding fathers. This is far from the Nigeria of their dream. And each died with deep regrets and disillusionment. Every October 1, nonetheless, it is fitting to pay tributes to the men and women who rendered the selfless service of founding a nation that ought to lead Black Africa. Just as the Americans refer to those that fought the Second World War as the greatest generation, I recognise the pre-independence nationalists as Nigeria’s greatest generation. In no small measure, they determined the fate of my generation and the generations yet to come from this part of the world.
Conversely, I wish to identify the men that staged coups and fought a civil war, between 1966 and 1970, as Nigeria’s least and worst generation so far. It is that generation that has finished Nigeria off: By their examples, they have taught us that it is foolish for one to work hard, that stealing public funds is not a crime, and that merit has no place in an individual’s advancement. It is the generation that introduced armed robbery and pen robbery into the country, and has now ruined the economy despite the incredible resources we have been blessed with.
When members of that generation staged the first and second military coups and murdered our innocent founding fathers, the latter must have placed a curse on them. A genuine curse, according to those who know, lasts three generations. Is it not probable that my generation and the one after us have been suffering because of that generation of robbers, thieves and murderers? By my calculation, the third generation is already 10-20 years old; let’s hope the sins of their grandfathers will be forgiven before they start getting their own children.
Our first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, always believed that the struggle for Nigeria’s independence was worth it. Perhaps he was right. Driving away foreigners was the right thing to do at the time. It is out of frustration with the present system of things that many like me think the request for independence from the colonialists was a mistake. India, for instance, is on the fast lane. So are Malaysia, Indonesia and the two Koreas – countries that started with us. Had the First Republic not been truncated, there is no way a nation led by Zik, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sardauna Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Mike Okpara, Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Tony Enahoro and their contemporaries would have been overtaken by the “Asian tigers”.
Fifty-six years after independence, Nigeria is still in search of nationhood. Even the name of the country is a lie, as is its constitution. What we’ve had since 1966 – when that least generation assumed power – has been a unitary system, yet this is called “the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. Our constitution’s preamble reads “We the people…”, yet the people had no input in the supreme document of the land.
All we’ve had is a rapacious elite: lawmakers who do nothing but determine their own salaries; 17, 000 officeholders sharing a half of what belongs to 180 million Nigerians; incredible billions of pounds and dollars locked up or lost forever in foreign banks’ vaults; an education system that churns out millions of jobseekers. No jobs. No food. No power supply. No clean water. No rail system. Nothing works! Roads are death-traps. Hospitals are glorified mortuaries. Assassins, armed robbers and kidnappers rule the roost. Nigeria has become hell on earth!
So, what are we celebrating? Rather than celebrate, we ought to declare a week of mourning and prayers. To save what is left of Nigeria, the Muhammadu Buhari administration should quickly restructure the country. This presidential system, this unitary system and a rigged income policy (whereby politicians and criminals earn jumbo pay) are not sustainable. Soon – and very soon – there will be no money with which to pay salaries or even organise elections.
True independence will come when Nigerians will have no need for things made in another country. The naira’s worthlessness is pointing us to that direction. Sadly, few would be alive to witness Nigeria’s economic independence.
— By ANIEBO NWAMU
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