OPINION: Nigeria at 57: Long Road to Real Independence By Dr. Abdulmumin Yinka Ajia

Date: 2017-10-01

More than any other time in our history, Nigeria's 57th year of being an independent country separate from the United Kingdom should have been one of service and less of celebration. At 57, our performance in the human development index is pitiable and belies a nation that was birthed with so much hope and promise. If you care to look up the most recent Nigeria's HDI data, you can find it here: http://hdr.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/NGA. The saddest data among the uninspiring lot is the one that showed Nigeria losing more than 10 percent of our kids before they turn age five due to amongst many other reasons – our weak healthcare infrastructure.

To Restructure or Not to? Two events in my opinion defined 2017 even as we still have close to 92 days left before the end of the year. The first event is the insolent agitation for Biafra Republic led by Nnamdi Kanu while the second is the Igbo quit notice issued by one Yerima Shettima and a coalition of Northern Youth Groups. In the two instances, we failed as a people to A. arrest the unruly actors and B. to turn the events into a teachable moment.

While every ethnic group has a right to self-determination, Nnamdi Kanu's disrespectful and almost violent approach does not have a place in a genuine struggle. The Nigerian state mishandled IPOB from the beginning and today, Kanu has vanished into thin air. The aftermath of Kanu's insolent behavior and the Nigerian government's incompetence is that many of the gains that we made as a people since the end of the civil war has been lost because of the actions of a few misguided individuals and government lethargy.

The most egregious display of incompetence by the Nigerian state is that Yerima Shettima and his co - northern youth group leaders are still walking free after declaring a major ethnic group in Nigeria as persona non grata! I must however commend Governor Nasiru Ahmad El – Rufai for his leadership on this matter as he continues to work to bring Yerima Shettima and his co – travelers to justice. So what are the two teachable moments? One, as wrongheaded as Kanu is, we ought to use the Biafra debate to A. acknowledge that the Biafra question has not been adequately settled in Nigeria and B. Nigeria's legislature should have risen to the occasion by taking a critical look at the present composition of the Nigerian state and work to re – organize it into a more equitable and functional state.

The second teachable moment should have seen Yerima Shettima and all of his co – travelers in jail. By dilly dallying on Shettima and co, we are setting a bad precedent – one that will haunt Nigeria sometime in the future.

My take: We are better off as a nation but with a clear understanding of our situation. We cannot continue to live a lie because Nigeria is not an ideal nation in the real sense of it. And our democracy as evident from some of our states - is a sham. Routine elections do not in itself make a democracy. In order to build a more perfect union, I join other Nigerians who have proposed that Nigeria embrace a regional form of government that allows each region to move according to its own pace and in consonant with its culture and values.

The author can be reached at abdulajia@yahoo.com


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