687 views | Zeenat Sambo | April 24, 2021
Once upon a time, Nigeria had hope, it used to take pride in its struggles, its diversity, its uniqueness, its vibe, its rich cultural heritage and languages. Our greatest resource was our people filled with great intelligence and hard work. There was a time a dollar was equal to a Naira, there was a time that we were much more tolerant of our individual differences and tribes, we were willing to help and lend a hand to anyone whom we met irrespective of tribe, religion and language.
There was a time you could sleep and leave your door open because you trusted your neighbor to look out for you. There was a time we took pride in fighting for our father’s land, in supporting the National team, in bringing our knowledge gotten overseas to apply to our country and make it better. There was a time we took pride in being Nigeria because Nigeria meant all of the above to us.
With Nigeria’s independence in 1960, we all watched the flag fly high in pride, in freedom, of oneness in ethnicity and took pride in our beloved nation. With English being the lingua franca in country with a population of over 60 million people, who speak over 525 native languages, living in different 774 local governments we found a way to communicate and called it pidgin English. Where a southerner took to the north to seek greener pastures and flourish his business without sentiments or rancor. Where northern traders had the best hides and skins globally. Inter regional migration made its way through many hearts and families were built on love and acceptance, tolerance of each other beyond boundaries. This was the Nigeria we had, the Nigeria we protected.
With a view to diversify, the country took to its rich resources (crude oil),stopped the harvest of cocoa where Nigeria was the 2nd largest producer of cocoa in Africa.Agricultural input feed our homes at an affordable price but shifted focus to the extraction of crude oil as a means of revenue generation. In no distant timeforeign trade and investments became a huge revenue generator for its economy as Nigeria became attractive to investors, not knowing the same blessing could turnaround and become a burden.
A comparative look at previous costs of Premium Motors Spirit at the rate of 0.5 kobo per little in 1978, 3.25 naira per litter in 1992 to the present rate of 160 naira per litter in 2021 made it look like Nigeria is a poor country meanwhile She is been mismanaged by selfish Nigerians.Petrol, gas and kerosene have always been a necessity in most Nigerian homes and with the constant fluctuation in their various,it is now a nightmare to many Nigerians not knowing when we will wake up to another increase.
It is important to reflect on the time education was free in Nigeria under the leadership of Obafemi Awolowo. The government of old Western Region of Nigeria introduced a free primary education programme till 1966. There was a time undergraduates were givenstipends and enjoyed free meals courtesy of the Nigerian Government without a strain on the economy. These benefits were enjoyed by all individuals irrespective of tribe and devoid of sentiments. Some of the beneficiaries of those great welfare programs by the government are in this present government, making life unbearable for the average Nigerian.
In the late 90’s the educational sector in their vision “to become an economic model, delivered quality sound education in the public educational sector. Unity schools were at the topmost level with great teachers who were dedicated to excellence.A lot of notable Nigerian leaders were products of Pro Unitate schools, whose mandate was to produce excellent, detribalized and t educated future leaders.
Reverse is the case right now, from free tuition fees to the unaffordable school fees. The problem is not only the high charge of tuition fees but the mentality to moderate with the westernized system of education keeping expenses higher.
With nepotism still at its worst, the provision of employment lies on the influence that guarantees recommendations from people with more influence or deeper pockets. Merit does not guarantee much these days.
Patronizing local business was nearly sacrosanct as we consistently churned out quality materials from our resources. Nigerians could live and survive with the quality of produced goods and commodities worthy of export without being considered inferior to goods of equal standing in international market.
Thecommercial markets of Lagos, Kano, Aba and Onitsha made a strong capital market that guarded the threshold of Nigeria economy before the deregulation. Notably in 1976 75kobos was exchanged for one British pound sterling and 60kobos for 1 US dollars, the same currency that is now 408.7257 NGN for a dollar.
The worst was the evolving insecurity stemming fromNortheastern Nigeria, everyone acted like it never concerned them. We thought we were insulated from the insecurity; ironically the problem we thought we were insulated against is at our doorsteps. The average Nigerian is worried about taking a road trip because you not only contend with poor and dilapidated roads, you also have to contend with kidnappers.
Nigeria’s attainment of diamond jubilee is a great achievement, She was able to withstand the divisionary predictions by the international counterparts. At what cost, we are deeply distrustful of each other and there is a great need to trust each other.
Still Nigeria soldiers on; her ability to weatherevery challenge is commendable. From the conscious effort to maintain our unity, to outstanding growth by Nigerians in ICT sector, remarkable inventions, NGOs in their community serviceand small scale businesses from unrelenting youths and more are all in the run to savage the Nigeria we still long to have back.
It is an incredible journey through Nigeria’s history. Still we hope for a better Nigeria. The growth of Nigeria is in all hands. Let everyone take responsibility. God bless Nigeria.