October 1, 2020: Nigeria’s 60 Years of Corruption, Underdevelopment and the need to Restructure

By Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi

Today, October 1, 2020, makes it sixty years that Nigeria got her independence from Britain. Thus, this year’s independence anniversary is rightly termed a Diamond Jubilee. Naturally, attaining sixty years as a nation is a milestone achievement that should evoke excitement among the government and peoples of that nation. Ghana celebrated theirs two years ago and the excitement was contagious. It almost spread to her neighbouring countries in West Africa. Their joy was justifiable. Ghana, by sheer political will, determination and focus, has, in the last sixty years, transformed from a corrupt-ridden, gold and cocoa-dependent country to a corruption-free, economically viable and politically sanitized nation with strong social infrastructures that have not only attracted international recognition but have also made Ghana the first choice of foreign investors in West Africa.

From strengthening their currency to steadying their electricity supply, Ghana has succeeded in becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa and the triple effects can be felt in all her sectors, including the education sector. Thanks to Jerry Rawlings’ revolutionary strategies some thirty years ago. The same cannot be said of Nigeria. Despite our over-emphasised large population for which we take pride as the most populous nation in Africa and the entire black race and our numerous but yet-to-be-fully-tapped mineral resources as well as our geo-territorial size that covers about 923,000 square kilometres or more, Nigeria, our lovely country, is still lagging behind socio-economic and politically among the comity of countries in Africa. The reasons for this backwardness are not far-fetched.

The real problem

Corruption, lack of patriotism and sense of true nationalism, nepotism, favouritism, greed, avarice, visionlessness and lack of political will are all to blame. Further probe into these negatives will inevitably heap them at the doorsteps of poor leadership. Chinua Achebe was not wrong when he asserted that the problem of Nigeria is basically a problem of leadership. For sixty years since gaining her independence, precisely on October 1, 1960, Nigeria has suffered this setback.

Yes, she has had leaders who showed signs of quality and greatness character-wise and also made some effort to translate same into governance, as is the case with the current president, Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, but the system under which they found themselves was already weaved, webbed and inter-twined with corruption. When corruption is already institutionalized in a country, there is little or nothing the man at the helm of affairs can do. This is the problem of Nigeria and the bane of our leadership. It will now require uncompromising political will for the leadership to introduce lasting proactive measures that will overhaul the entire system and tackle institutionalized corruption and other accompanying sundry vices as listed above.

The introduction of Austerity Measures by the Shagari administration (1979 -1983), the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) by the Buhari/Idiagbon military regime (1983-1985), MAMSER by the Babangida regime (1985-1993), the War Against Indiscipline and Corruption (WAIC) by the Abacha regime (1993-1998), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) by the Obasanjo administration (1999 -2007) and Treasury Single Account (TSA) by the Buhari administration (2015-date) were all measures meant to either strengthen the nation’s economy or eradicate corruption completely. But they seem not to have achieved those purposes irrespective of little successes recorded at one time or the other.

Which way Nigeria?

It is now clear that the effort by some of our leaders to transform Nigeria into an economic giant befitting of our status as a country rich in human and material resources has not totally paid off despite the litany of promises and assurances that things will improve. The question, therefore, remains the same as former Ozidi Maestro, Sunny Okosun, asked it more than forty years ago: Which Way Nigeria? For me, the solution is simple; Nigeria should restructure its polity since it cannot practice true federalism because of its unitary constitution and system of government that gifts so much power to the centre.

Our unitary constitution should be amended to decentralize power and grant the six geo-political zones autonomy, the way it was during the regional system of government which the country practised from 1959 to 1967. The geo-political zones can function as countries with prime ministers as their heads while the entire nation elects a president to oversee the six countries but with limited powers. Each of the geopolitical zone-countries will have its own police and control its own resources while paying taxes to the centre. That way, they will focus on their God-given resources and harness them to develop their areas just like when the country practised regional system of government. This is the only way that tribalism, nepotism, favouritism and corruption will be eliminated from our polity, because the era where everybody sees Nigeria as nobody’s own or as free for all, will be over. People will now know that their mineral resources are theirs for development and that their destinies are now in their hands. Because they will speak the same language, have the same culture and tradition and practice the same religion, it will be difficult for them to be deceived into voting for the wrong persons to lead them.

There will also be a healthy rivalry among the six geo-political zone-countries as none of them will want to be left behind development-wise. Each will want to show that it can utilise its resources efficiently to develop itself faster than the other. Thus, the development of the entire six-nation confederation will be fast-tracked. Nigerians have suffered enough and the country has lagged behind for too long. As we celebrate our country’s 60 years of independence, there is need for our leadership and the entire citizenry to have a thorough sober reflection as advocated by President Buhari in his independence speech. Interestingly, he said he does self-re-examination every day. That’s an example every Nigerian should emulate. But in this very special 60th independence anniversary self re-examination or sober reflection exercise, we should boldly tell ourselves one glaring but bitter truth, which is that Nigeria as a nation envisioned and created by a certain ambitious colonial Governor-General, Lord Fredrick Lugard and his wife, Flora Shaw, in 1914, has not worked, 100 hundred years after.

Courage required

Research shows that the only time Nigeria recorded true, lasting development was during the regional government era. Today, the key agro-social infrastructures that most states can boast and be proud of are the ones built during the regional government era. Again, it will require courage to accept this truth. And that same courage, with political will, will be required to use the occasion of this Diamond Jubilee anniversary of our country to begin the process of restructuring Nigeria by granting socio-economic and political autonomy to the six geo-political zones of North-East, North-West, North-Central, South-West, South-South and South-East. God bless Nigerians.