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Putting Nigeria on the path of progress




JOSEPH Conrad, in his book, Heart of Darkness, describes Africa as a continent that lacks the basic necessities of life where nothing works. A historian also described Africans as people with no intelligence who live in huts and act as barbarians. Even though all of these are the posturing of white racists and egocentric anthropologist, there is still the need to appraise ourselves and evaluate our progress as Africans and Nigerians.

When on October 1, 2000, Nigeria turned forty as an independent nation, I remembered two adages which say, ‘Life begins at forty’ and ‘A fool at forty is a fool forever’. I am at a loss as to which of the adages best suits the Nigerian situation.

For the country not to be a fool forever, many developmental decisions and actions must be taken. In view of this, much is expected from the present leadership of the country. Former American President, John E. Kennedy, in his maiden speech, urged his compatriots to think of what they can do for that country and not what their country can do for them. He was actually calling on his fellow Americans to be patriotic and make sacrifices for the progress of the United States of America.

The now deceased renowned human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, once said in a television interview that the government should as a matter of urgency undertake people-oriented policies to ease the suffering of the people who had sacrificed a lot for the country over the years. He pointed out that many Nigerians had paid the ultimate price in the defence of their country. When he made that statement, I have always wondered if as a young Nigerian, I have ever done anything to build my country.

For my beloved country to really make any progress, the government must first and foremost stamp out corruption in every facet of our polity. Never mind the fact that we have been adjudged one of the most corrupt nation in the world. Corruption in high places must be seriously fought. Men of the Nigerian police should be cautioned against receiving bribes and exhibiting lawlessness.

While on a trip to Sokoto State some years ago, I saw some policemen and soldiers at road blocks collecting illegals tolls. In fact, the vehicle being used by these corrupt agents was a government registered vehicle. I shook my head in bewilderment. Could it be possible that the security men were sent by the state government or what?

Apart from corruption, this country should respect the rules of the game called democracy.

Many of our elected representatives, both at the federal and state levels, have not given the people the dividends of democracy. They have been too busy enriching themselves at the expense of the people. How many senators or members of the House of Representatives visit their constituencies to know the needs of their people? Elected representatives need to redefine their objectives and goals. Being a leader is all about service to humanity and not to one’s pocket.

The government needs to address the problem of endemic poverty in the country, putting food on the tables of Nigerians is a priority. Our agricultural system must be revitalized. The government should make sure that fertilizers are given to farmers and not contractors.

Modern irrigation should be encouraged in the north and the fight against desert encroachment must not be handled with levity. There is also an urgent need for the resuscitation and revitalization of the cash crop (export produce) sector.

I remember reading some time ago that some Malaysian investors came to Nigeria and indicated interest in oil palm agro business. Government should have encouraged and nurtured such interest in other cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, etc. We can still experience cocoa and coffee boom again.

There is an adage which says that a country that despises her youth has fallen before she falls. Government should encourage good programmes to ameliorate the suffering of our youth.

This is very important because these Nigerians are the future of the country. Thus, they must not be wasted. It was the failure of previous governments in Nigeria to cater for the youth that has resulted in the high rate of crime in the country.

There also is the need for the government to improve our educational sector to ensure that every Nigerian is literate. The Universal Basic Education (UBE) programme should not only be a paper tiger but should be practicalized.

It was Fidel Castro who once said, “Eradicate illiteracy and have a good society.” I recommend these words to the government to make sure that the UBE programme does not die a sudden death.

The aged of this country should be adequately cared for through good welfare schemes. Pensioners should be paid promptly without unnecessary red-tapism. This group of Nigerians must not die suffering as they have really sacrificed and toiled for the nation. We need to make their last days on earth a little easier. For Nigeria to really progress and grow, she must not put all her eggs in one basket.


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