By Olisemeka Obeche, Mokwugwo Solomon, Praize N’cherem & Gabriel Alonta
Assessment of Nigeria’s progress after 60 years of existence as an independence nation was subject of different interpretations as the country marked a low-key anniversary on Thursday.
Orient Weekend observed that the country’s 60 years birthday was blighted by the worsening socio-economic conditions orchestrated by the coronavirus pandemic, hikes in fuel price, insecurity, crisis in parts of the country, as well as growing calls for self-determination from some ethnic nationalities protesting prolonged marginalisation.
In the south east and parts of the south south region, the streets and markets were virtually deserted with many preferring to remain indoors as the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) earlier requested. In other major cities, especially Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Benin, protesters under the banner of #RevolitionNow Movement marched through streets demanding for reversal of recent fuel price hike, among others.
In his Independence Day anniversary speech to the nation, President Muhammadu Buhari had acknowledged that Nigeria had endured bumpy ride so far, due to inherent challenges; but appealed to Nigerians to stick together in order restore Nigeria’s glory as a united and leading prosperous black nation.
“I am aware that our economy, along with every single economy in the world is in crisis. We still face security challenges in parts of the country, while our society suffers from loss of moral rectitude, which is driven by unbridled craving for political control. An underlying cause of most of the problems we have faced as a nation is our consistent harping on artificially contrived fault-lines that we have harboured and allowed unnecessarily to fester,” Buhari observed.
“We need to begin a sincere process of national healing, and this anniversary presents a genuine opportunity to eliminate old and outworn perceptions that are always put to test in the lie they always are,” he argued.
“I am convinced that if we pursue our aspirations together, we would be able to achieve whatever we desire. That informed our adopting the theme, “TOGETHER” to mark this epochal event,” he added.
Former governor of Abia state and Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Kalu, took similar view when he declared that Nigeria’s strength lies in her cultural, ethnic and religious diversities. He faulted those demanding self-determination or secession, stressing that Nigeria would not break up; but would continue to wax stronger as a united and prosperous nation.
“No doubt, as a heterogeneous nation, there will always be challenges. We must shun divisive tendencies by promoting the common goal of building a prosperous nation,” Kalu said in his goodwill message.
However, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chided Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government over recent increment in the price of the petroleum products and failure to address the challenges besetting the country.
Nigeria’s former vice president and presidential candidate of the PDP in the last election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, argued that Nigeria was in dire need of healing, even as he stressed the need for the government to foster unity and douse the tense atmosphere, which is breeding feelings of alienation.
“The structure on which we have hinged our political and economic emancipation has equally failed us. We do not hope to continue doing the same thing with jaded and unworkable system and expect to get a remarkable result. We may have missed countless opportunities to reset our mindset moving forward as prosperous people, but this 60th anniversary of the life of our nation offers introspection,” he said.
The chairman of PDP in Anambra, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, took a swipe at President Buhari for defending the pump price increment at a time citizens of the country were going through hardship. He said such defence smacks gross insensitivity.
He said: “President Buhari has shown gross insensitivity to the plights of Nigerians. The president has compared the pump price of petroleum product in Nigeria with those of Ghana, Niger Republic, Chad and Saudi Arabia, without comparing the Gross Domestic Products, GDP, and the value of currencies of those countries with that of Nigeria.
“Has he compared the infrastructural provisions in those countries to that of Nigeria? If the president wants to do a comparative study, he should do a holistic analysis; not a selective one. Not doing analysis that favours his government. Such comparison by Mr President is only watery and flat, and has no basis.”
Nwobu further asked the FG to fix all the refineries in Nigeria, and also allow states to own their own modular refineries, in order to relieve NNPC of their monopolistic grip; which, he said, has continued to put Nigerians into unnecessary sufferings.
President Buhari had, during his independence speech to mark Nigeria’s 60th anniversary, said there was no basis for Nigerians to be worried over pump prise increment; saying that compared to other countries, Nigeria’s pump price is one of the cheapest.
According to Buhari: “Petroleum in Nigeria sells at N161 per litre. A comparison with our neighbours will illustrate a point in our favour.
“Chad, which is an oil producing country charges N362 per litre; Niger, also an oil producing country sells 1 litre at N346; while in Ghana, another oil producing country, petroleum pump price is N326 per litre.
“Egypt charges N211 per litre, and Saudi Arabia charges N168 per litre. It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia.”
Buhari also claimed that no Nigerian government in the past did what his administration has been doing with such scarce resources.
“We have managed to keep things going in spite of the disproportionate spending on security. Those in the previous governments from 1999 – 2015, who presided over the near destruction of the country have now the impudence to attempt to criticise our efforts,” the president added.
Founder, Women Aid Collective (WACOL), Prof. Ngozi Ezeilo, OON, queried the federal government’s commitment to promoting accountability, unity and moral rectitude.
Ezeilo said: “We know President Buhari as a person of integrity, and his government said it is fighting corruption; but to what extent have they imbibed accountability, transparency and diversity? These are keys for the survival and development of Nigeria.
“Accountability is still a problem in Nigeria, especially the accountability of the elected; because, Nigerians elected them to serve them to the best interest of the country. Are we doing that? How much have we succeeded? The problem is still elephant.
“With greatest respect, the elected officials and the legislatures have failed Nigerians. We want to see institutions being strengthened to eliminate all forms of corruptions.
“We need to imbibe democratic culture, culture of rule of law, accountability and understanding the impact of corruption on our development and survival. This is time for stock-taking as Nigeria marks 60 years of independence. Nigeria is destined for greatness and Nigeria is our dream,” the law professor averred.
Similarly, the chairman, Board of Trustees of Human Rights, Liberty Access, and Peace, Defenders ‘Foundation (HURIDE), Dede Uzor A. Uzor, said the president has failed to demonstrate the togetherness he was calling, remarking that be must take the lead.
“The president, who is calling for unity has done nothing that portends he is committed to the unity of this country, going by his lopsided appointments and unwillingness to prosecute herdsmen. Does that represent the unity? Going by his support to Fulani herdsmen, whether directly or indirectly, does it promote unity among Nigerians?
“President Buhari has never prosecuted any Fulani herder despite the killings of Nigerians, especially southern Nigerians, by the herders. He has divided Nigeria more than any other president in the history of the entity called Nigeria.
“However, since he has called for unity, what he has not done or shown in the last six years, let us give him the opportunity to bring Nigerians together. Secondly, he should have the political will to prosecute anybody, who takes law into their hands,” Uzor said.
Speaking on fuel hike, the human rights activist described the situation as ‘totally out-of-order.’
“This is coming at a time when countries are promoting policies to ameliorate the pangs of the pandemic, our own president is introducing harsh economic policies, increasing the pump price including the electricity tariff,” he added.
Nollywood actor and a former Anambra governorship aspirant, Yul Edochie, also shared similar perspectives, stressing that there was nothing worthwhile to celebrate about Nigeria at 60.
“I cannot wish anyone a happy independence, when my people are not happy. What are we celebrating? Fuel price increase? Electricity tariff hike? Hardship? Bad roads? Killings everywhere? Jobless youths turned beggars? The list is endless. Speak the truth, Nigerians are suffering,” he said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, the IPOB has described its ‘sit-at-home order on October 1, 2020, as successful in so many states. In a statement issued by the Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, the group said compliance to the order was a demonstration of speedy coming of Biafra freedom and independence.
IPOB also hailed its members in South Africa, USA, Canada, Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Indonesia, Australia and other countries of the world for their resoluteness, and declared to the world over that they were no longer interested in Nigeria.
“All states in Biafraland complied with the order, Abia, Rivers, Ebonyi, Anambra, Imo, Delta and other states in Biafraland. The compliance is to showcase our readiness for the speedy coming of Biafra freedom and independence. There is empty markets, roads, no vehicles on the road of Biafra and Biafrans all over the world are on the streets of their respective countries, where they find themselves with our brethren from Oduduwa nation.
“This is our joint outing with Oduduwa nation across the globe. Therefore, everybody must understand and be sure that the disintegration of this British bondage called Nigeria will come peacefully.”