Nigeria marked its 61st independence anniversary with muted celebrations across the country. However, this seems to have become the hallmark of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency since coming into power in 2015.
The low-keyed nature of the event speaks to the wider political discontent and economic suffocation most Nigerians have become bedmates with.
Across the six geopolitical zones of the country, citizens felt nothing celebratory and some showed their angst by protesting on a day supposedly for festivities marking the end of British imperial rule and colonial vestigaes.
Perhaps, the president is aware of the general indifference and anger in the land when he began the ritual of Independence Day speech by referencing the effort of all and sundry to bring to fruition Nigeria’s independence.
“For 1st of October 1960 to happen, all hands were on deck. East, West, North all came together to celebrate freedom. Today should not only serve as a reminder of the day the British handed over the reins of power to Nigerians, but also unified Nigerians from all ethnic groups, religions and regions,” President Buhari read from his speech to Nigerians.
The only snag with the otherwise patriotic call and reminder is that the president observes it in the breach. Time without number, Nigerians have voiced their concerns over Buhari’s proclivity to provincialism, nepotism and general inertia to issues of governance, national cohesion and unity and development.
The indices on all fronts have been less than cheering. Fight against corruption which was the anchor of the campaign has best remained a campaign tool as ranking by anti-corruption international watchdog, Transparency International, shows that the country has declined further down the perch.
While it is granted that the government has strengthened the Open Treasury Portal, Treasury Single Account, corruption is still rife with billions lost.
A report of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, indicates that about 367 Ministries, Departments and Agencies misappropriated N887 billion without appropriation in 2018 amongst other financial malfeasances.
“According to part 2 of the 2018 annual audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation, ₦880,894,733,084.811 was spent by 367 MDAs without appropriation. 14 MDAs reportedly spent ₦162,924,630,539.20 without appropriation. Similarly, 100 MDAs spent ₦229,136,261,325.73 on ‘social benefits’ without appropriation.”
Also, a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and deposed Emir of Kano state, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has further alleged that the continued payment of subsidy was fraudulent as the numbers don’t add up.
In all of these, the Buhari presidency seems to have lost the plot.
More so, the Nigerian political firmament is more than polarized more than it has been since the Civil War. Ethnic and secessionists’ agitations are on the rise with dire implications for the country’s continued existence.
While we had expected the government to be more proactive and work to glue the tearing fabric, the idea that the nation’s unity is non-negotiable is stone age philosophy and does not hold water.
If Nigeria could negotiate for its independence, then it should create the opportunity for disparate voices to hold a conversation on how the country can wriggle its way out the present quagmire.
To do otherwise is to allow the merry-go round sort of stunted development that has become the tragedy of this otherwise naturally endowed country.
Given that the country has just turned a corner in terms of number, it is important that the political and economic elite create the necessary avenues for Nigerians from all walks to begin the process of rebuilding this country.
It is about time the wilderness trek comes to an end so that the next 60 years can have meaning not just for the millions of Nigerians, but the entire black race.