2014 has been a remarkable year for Nigeria; one filled with great triumph and no doubt, greater tragedy.
In early April, we witnessed our nation’s GDP soar to unprecedented economic heights—an 89% increase following its national rebasing—elevating our already-lofty ambitions for further global integration along with it as we claimed the mantle of the newfound economic steward of Africa.
This benchmark, enabling our serious economy to reach the top 25 of the world (ahead of Belgium and Taiwan, as but examples) could alone have served as a launch-pad for our jewel of the ECOWAS and be a positive sign of things to come. However, life for typical Nigerians has not changed an iota. The majority of our population continues to live on less than $1.50 a day, media freedoms are routinely impeded upon, arable lands lay dormant and subsequently squandered as resources, while billions of dollars are lost to oil theft, all continuing to hinder our forward-trajectory.
This dilemma is underscored by the persistent violence in country, caused by the radicalized, ever-networking terrorist faction known as Boko Haram. Particularly in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State, home to my alma mater in Maiduguri, once proclaimed Nigeria’s ‘Home of Peace’ and now serving as the stomping ground for this misguided extremist cabal, the quality of life for Nigerians could arguably be perceived as worse than ever before.
Yet these perceptions seemingly do not impact the priorities of Nigeria’s political leaders today.
As nearly three hundred young pupils from Chibok remain hostages to the will of Boko Haram, as a bomb later tore through a packed sporting arena in Mubi and most recently, over two hundred villagers were killed in targeted assaults by the terrorists’ command (with militants dressing in preachers’ garb, rallying citizens to a central area and firing indiscriminately in to the crowd), it appears the continued cataclysmic failure to secure our territorial integrity from internal strife is still being startlingly downplayed.
Worse yet, in the immediate aftermath of any given massacre, the attacks are politicized in the name of petty mudslinging and self-serving campaigning.
For instance, debatably in an act of politicking, it was suggested at a major assembly that the defense crises rarely, if ever, occur in People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-controlled States and that security was therefore, “not really an issue”. Beyond Party allegiances or preferences, this is summarily and tactically incorrect. Further, the cleavages due to ethnic, religious and regional fragmentation, witnessed from all parties which in turn churns greater bureaucracy, also negatively affects the diligence of the military in not only responding to the slaughtering executed nearly day on day by forces such as Boko Haram, but hinders those we trust to protect us from being to pragmatically check it outright.
The international community has taken notice and offered concern and scrutiny toward this crisis in discipline. And while they have commended Nigeria for its newly-established economic moniker, they share our skepticism in our country, the now-fiscal leader of budding Africa, in its ability to cohesively and accountably lead as we need to be.
For how can they trust us? On arrival to Abuja or Lagos, one may notice that there are only a few thousand megawatts available to our over 170 million-strong citizenry, equating to frequent power outages (where there is even supply at all) throughout the nation. This indicates a longstanding, pertinent need for privatization through domestic and international corporate integration, but remains an opportunity routinely stifled by a determined public Body Politic, seeking to maintain control and pocket-line from it.
We claim to deeply desire to slow the clear and present ‘brain drain’, causing our brightest and best to leave Nigeria en masse for their studies (with many never to return), yet because of unchecked terrorist violence and a lack of fundamental investment in our education sector, many of our schools lay empty, abandoned much like the ‘Nigeria of the Future’ appears to be as an idea.
If we are to be trusted as a barometer of rising Africa on the world stage and an effective economic and ethical leader and symbol for the continent, rehabilitation through reconciliation is our only option. We must put our selfish pursuits for grandeur and affluence aside for the sake of national prosperity, from North to South.
We must understand that the time is not only at hand for this dynamic revitalization and change in perceptions of our national reputation abroad, but that it may almost be too late. Indeed, as noted author and laureate Chinua Achebe once stated, “if you find water rising up to your ankle, that’s the time to do something about it; not when it’s around your neck”.