Occupying 923, 768km² in West Africa, is mankind’s most populous black nation. A country conceived by the British in 1914, some would say for administrative convenience. ‘Nigeria’ the name this country was given, was allegedly coined by Miss Flora Shaw, who later became Lord Lugard’s wife. The journey of the country since 1914 has been rough and uninspiring, leading many to describe Nigeria, just as Chief Awolowo as ‘a mere geographical expression’, and others agonisingly tag it as the mistake of 1914. It is these tumultuous history and experience, compounded by ravaging poverty and corruption that has led many to call for secession and others to wonder if indeed there is hope for Nigeria. It is pertinent therefore that at our 100 years of existence as a unified country, we dispassionately investigate Nigeria’s future possibilities. What becomes of Nigeria and where do we go from here? Indeed, every nation, as is the case with the USA, evaluates its future and possibilities every 100 years. Nigeria is at that cross road where the future of generations yet to come must be secured or destroyed.
The Bleak Future
To begin with, Nigeria is battling ethnocentrism and worsening national unity. Elections and the choice of who to vote are still based more on ethnic affiliations than productivity and competence. A sample of opinions as expressed in comments in Premium Times online news reports show that even among youths, the severity of ethnocentrism has dethroned national unity. So many groups still agitate for separation. A Nigerian, in a different part of the country from his, thinks he is not at home, and sees someone from his ethnic as his brother in a foreign land. Such deepening and unconscious feeling of ethnic affiliations is a looming doom for Nigeria. This indicates that all is not well with the country. We are heading agonisingly for the precipice.
Again, when we investigate the future of Nigeria along the lines of insecurity, we come running back from the horror scene. The learned Dr Fabian Ajogwu said, “no nation has ever survived a religious war before and history attests to this, ethnic or religious war is the only war capable of spreading sporadically throughout the federation at the same time.” No statement best captures the danger Nigeria faces than this. With Boko Haram in a free for all attack, rampaging like wild fire in dry season and the government seemingly helpless, the future of Nigeria is heading for avoidable cataracts. The kidnap of the chibok girls is a testament that Nigeria is kowtowing to the powers of insurgency. The risk the country faces is that attacks on the south may not be seen as a national problem among local militias and warlords, but rather as a direct incursion and invitation for war. Our history has taught us much, and with that we can conclude that Nigeria is sitting on an evil time bomb waiting to explode.
Perhaps, as a possibility for Nigeria, our present socio-economic problems, and the dearth of policies among governments to handle them, means that Nigeria is a fertile ground for a bloody revolution, insurgency and multifarious crimes. In a world where one out of every five children not in school is a Nigerian, is indicative of a very bleak future. In a nation where adult illiteracy level is over 40% and unemployment stands at 37%, one would expect the government to map out plans to curb this, but what we have is rank no.33 most corrupt nation in the world. What future are we dreaming of in the face of avaricious and kleptomaniac political class, and an emaciated electorate willing to assuage their hunger and thirst with the crispy feel of mint, while their right to vote out of conscience and reasoning is exchanged for money? The democratic future is dim, but the last flicker of hope has not burnt out, it can be resurrected.
The light at the end of the dark tunnel
Nigeria’s foremost problem is leadership; all other problems are anchored on it. The problems of unemployment, illiteracy, poverty can be solved within 15 years through sound economic policies, guaranteed by good leadership. In 2006 Nigeria’s unemployment rate was 5.30% and within a space of five years, it rose to 23.9 %( 2011 est). If within the space of 5years, the figures could escalate so much, then within 15years, given the right conditions, those figures can reduce. Nigeria’s political landscape has never been more exciting than now. An emerging wave of public consciousness is sweeping through Nigeria. Two examples are apt in this regard; the Stella Oduah saga and the Akwa Ibom pension law. Thus, a strong media controlled public opinion is emerging in Nigeria, and the investigative journalism of Premium Times and others cannot but be appreciated. Journalism has become a strong beacon of hope and transparency to the literate population. Nigeria is even more exciting when we consider the emergence of APC. Never in history, have we had such a purpose driven strong opposition party. An exciting political terrain where PDP or APC emerges as the opposition party in 2015. Therefore, Nigeria has all the possibility of solving its democratic and leadership failure problems given the increasing enlightenment among the electorates, a deepening public opinion and the emergence of a true national opposition party.
In addition, there is a future possibility of the continued existence of Nigeria as one country, despite secessionist threats. Looking at present political thoughts, actions and inactions, and public opinion, the unity of Nigeria can be shyly guaranteed. The national conference has shown this. The integrity and oneness of Nigeria has been rendered nonnegotiable. The political class at present does not support the view of negotiated separation. The Nigerian people have shown a determination to continue to live as one. Given the multifarious ethnic minorities in Nigeria, separation for Nigeria will not be supported by the minority groups who know they will be lumped together with the major ethnic groups, giving room to exploitation. Intellectuals are also aware that separation for Nigeria will lead to tiny fragmentary countries that can easily be dominated in world politics or even become underdogs in African affairs, a stark contrast to our present colossus as the giant of Africa. The public does not support forceful separation either; the horrors of 1967 to 1970 are still too fresh to be awakened. We can therefore conclude that unity for Nigeria at this point is a possibility that will remain, and if this is so, there is hope for Nigeria.
Furthermore, Nigeria has all the possibilities and capabilities of emerging as a super economic power. Nigeria is a country laden with economic prosperity and wealth. With natural mineral resources in almost every state, a youthful workforce, and fertile lands, the possibility for economic transformation is very clear. The socio-economic problems of Nigeria are fallouts of failed leadership in the country. Therefore, good leadership will turn the situations around. It took China less than 30 years from 1978, from the emergence of Deng Xiaoping, to transform Chinese economy from over two centuries of stagnation and industrial backwater of the Mao Zedong period, to an economic power with GDP growth ranging between 9.5% to 11.5%. annually. South Korea transformed from one of the world’s poorest nations to the 12th largest economies in the world in just 50 years, with a gross domestic product of 1.1 trillion USD. With the potentials of Nigeria, Nigeria is sitting on an economic bomb of prosperity waiting for the leader that will detonate it.
I believe that Nigeria’s greatest challenge will be to remain as one united nation in the next fifty years in a state of relative peace. If we achieve this, and the possibility has been established, Nigeria would solve its leadership problems within this period. All the problems-insecurity, poverty, poor education, unemployment etc- that point to a bleak future are all solvable through effective leadership. Once Nigeria gets it right, the cries of secession will turn to celebration, just like USA, no one would want to leave. Secession is a way of vesting our frustration. The possibility of good leadership has already been established. The emergence of strong public opinion and true opposition show that we are already getting to the end of the dark tunnel, where light from the creator will usher us to the country of our dreams.