The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) felicitates with Nigerians on the country’s 60th Independence Day anniversary celebrations. The ritual of Nigeria’s yearly independence celebration has over the years deteriorated into a jaded and hollow observance.
Indeed, the first few years of the nation’s existence were quite remarkable, with giant strides in the areas of agriculture, education, communication, health and so on. Agricultural exports, including Groundnut from the Northern region, Cocoa from the Western region and Palm oil from the Eastern region were the major sources of revenue for the young nation.
The regional competition was so fruitful and healthy, to the extent that the economy of the Eastern region, from where Malaysia took its first palm oil seedlings, was rated as one of the fastest growing economies among developing nations.
Educationally, there was also a healthy competition amongst the regions, as they strove to provide quality education to the populace. Hence, when the Eastern regional government built the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1960, the Western and Northern regions responded by building the University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University) and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, respectively in 1962.
Even before independence, the Western regional government established the Western Nigerian Television (WNTV), Ibadan, which transmitted for the first time on the 31st of October 1959, one year before Nigeria’s independence. It was the first Television Station in Africa.
It is, therefore, with great disappointment that the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) decry the fall of a great and promising nation, from that glorious past to the present abysmal state, as we mark her 60 th Independence Anniversary.
It is a sad commentary that almost all, if not all, indices of development have been on a progressive decline, to the disappointment of both Nigerians and the international community.
The Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, recently recalled how, in the 50s and 60s, Nigeria was a major medical tourism hub that enjoyed global patronage, including by the Saudi Arabian royal family, who were visiting the University Teaching Hospital, Ibadan for treatment.
The tragedy that has befallen Nigeria is better reflected in the health sector and the handling of the COVID-19 global pandemic by the government. As at February 28 2020 when the index case of COVID-19 was reported in Nigeria, a data from the World Bank indicated that the Nigerian’s physician- to-patient ratio is four doctors per 10,000 patients- one of the lowest in the world. Also lack of investment in the health sector over the years became glaring when Nigeria had less than seven laboratories that could test for COVID-19 as at February 28. Though the number of laboratories has increased to 71, yet Nigeria is unable to match the aggressive tests being conducted by other countries. At the last count, out of a population of about 200,000,000, Nigeria has tested just a little over 500,000 people!
Added to this is the near absence of critical infrastructure in health facilities across the country which has made our political leaders seek medical help outside the country at the slightest feeling of sickness leaving the vast majority of the people to their fate.
It is no longer news that Nigeria’s economy is prostate. It is sad that a nation with such glorious promise at independence is currently the poverty capital of the world, having overtaken India, with the largest number of people (an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population) living in extreme poverty, yet population growth is outstripping economic growth, at 3% and 2% respectively; Life expectancy rate, at 55 years, is the fourth lowest in the world, only ahead of Sierra-Leone, Chad and the Central African Republic, while war-torn Afghanistan and Somalia have higher life expectancy, at 65 and 58 respectively.
The nation also overtook India, in 2019, to secure the unenviable position of the world’s number one contributor to deaths of children under the age of five; electricity generation and consumption remain at a meagre range of 3,500 to 4,000MW; unemployment is at an all-time high of 33.5% while the number of out-of-school children is estimated at 13.5 million.
In Nigeria of today, corruption appears to have leaped from ‘fantastic’ to ‘unimaginable’. Daily, Nigerians listened with utter shock to tales of mind-boggling scandals of corruption in the three arms of government and circles at all levels. Critical government agencies like the NNPC and NDDC have been caught in the corruption web. Not left out are security and enforcement agencies like the Military, Immigration, Customs and Police. A public survey released by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in 2019 indicated that the Police is the most corrupt public institution. The same survey identified the power sector, judiciary, education and health ministries as corrupt public institutions.
Dataphyte a media research and analytics organisation revealed that direct bribery requests by public officials accounted for 60% of all bribery transaction in 2019
In a 2019 corruption survey conducted by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime in collaboration with Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, Nigerians paid about N675 billion bribe to public officials
Transparency International in a 2019 survey ranked Nigeria as the 146th corrupt country out of 180 countries. This is a two point drop from 2018 when Nigeria ranked 144th.
A non- governmental organisation, the Human Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) after an intensive global research in collaboration with international partners in 2019 revealed that Nigeria has lost $600 billion dollars to corrupt government officials since 1960. And to compound the problem, weak political institutions have produced less than credible election outcomes foisting leaders that are not accountable to the people.
Nigeria today is not the best place to stay. Life has become nasty, brutish and short. Nigeria has fought terrorists in the North-East without much headway. The marginal success believed to have been recorded in 2015 has been wiped away. Boko Haram and other terrorists’ organisations have continued to unleash mayhem on the people. A publicly available data from CFR’s Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) indicated that 37,530 people have died as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency from June 2011 to June 2018.
In the North-West, bandits roam about unleashing violence. In the South-East, South-West and South-South, kidnappers and killer herdsmen hold sway. Yet all entreaties for the security architecture of the country to be reconfigured have been ignored largely due to reasons that have no bearing with performance.
The current federal government, like others before it, has echoed the well-rehearsed cliche of having inherited insurmountable problems, and how it is doing its utmost best to see the country out of the woods. The glaring truth, however, is that the current administration, arguably like no other in history, has triggered Nigeria’s very fragile fault line and turned what were manageable lines of friction and disaffection into huge chasms and craters of distrust and hate. Its time in power has thus far been characterised by the ignoble trio of insecurity, divisiveness, and crippling poverty, with swathes of territory under the stranglehold of either murderous terrorist insurgents or marauding herdsmen leaving an apparently unending trail of tears, sorrow and blood.
As the country marks this independence anniversary, we call on the political class to reflect on where we were and where we ought to be.
The National Association of Seadogs, in line with its age-long quest for the enthronement of a just and egalitarian society, demands as follows:
• That Nigerians, who are among the most enterprising and industrious people in the world, deserve a constitutionally restructured country where a level playing field is created for every citizen to prosper based on natural talent and expertise;
• That obvious wastages arising from the unwieldy size, perks, and other emoluments of political office holders be slashed forthwith in order to make politics a call-to-service and not an easy route to the selfish acquisition of filthy lucre;
• That the security of lives and property of Nigerians, which is the most paramount constitutional raison d’être of every government, is prioritised with sincerity. In this vein, the Federal Government should immediately change the security architecture of the country as it is obvious the present managers have run out of ideas.
• That the government’s approach towards building a prosperous, people-oriented economy is holistically rejigged in such a manner that will promote and encourage industry, skills application, free enterprise, international collaboration, and attract foreign direct investment;
• That the fight against corruption is approached with an altruistic sense of purpose by moving beyond glib utterances in campaign manifestos to ensuring the institutional reforms that will empower the relevant agencies and make them enduring, independent organs of State;
• That the electoral system reforms are pursued with more urgency and vigour in order to engender confidence and increase participation by the electorate. We particularly call on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Amendment Act 2018 as it concerns electronic voting, into law when it is next brought before him again from the National Assembly.
NAS urges hapless Nigerians not to despair!
Abiola Owoaje is Capoon of the National Association of Seadogs(Pyrates Confraternity),