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For everything there’s an appointed time-Nigeria at 62

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It was time for Nigeria to become a British protectorate in 1901. The period of British rule would last until 1960, when an independence movement led to the country being granted independence.

Nigeria first became a republic in 1963, but succumbed to military rule three years later, after a bloody coup d’état that left the Prime minister Tafawa Balewa, Northern premier Ahmad Bello and Western premier dead.

Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello, Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Gen Aguiyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon

Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, who led the abortive coup of January 15, 1966, remarked; the country’s enemies are the political profiteers, swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 per cent.

Gen Aguiyi Ironsi took over as the most senior member of the military, but was assassinated in a counter-coup and replaced by General Yakubu Gowon.

In 1967, military head of state Yakubu Gowon, in an attempt to curb the growing power of the Eastern premier, Col. Ojukwu, subdivided the country from four to 12 states.

In response, the Eastern regions seceded and declared the Republic of Biafra, triggering a three-year civil war.

In 1975, Brigadier Muritala Muhammad took power and constituted the Pedro Martins Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau to, among other responsibilities, probe Gowon’s administration. Regrettably, this ‘revolution’ came to an abrupt end with his assassination.

Nigeria became a republic again after a new constitution was written in 1979. However, the republic was short-lived, as the military seized power again in 1983 and later ruled for ten years.

A new republic was planned to be established in 1993, but was aborted by General Sani Abacha. Subsequently, Abacha died in 1998 and a fourth republic was later established the following year, which finally ended three decades of intermittent military rule.

general olusegun Obasanjo , General sani abacha , Col. Ojukwu , Muritala Muhammad ,Umaru Yar’Adua

In 1999, Obasanjo was sworn in again as civilian president following the result of the election and ruled for eight years with some accomplishments in raising quality of life but corruption was still deep rooted. The former general left  office in 2007, to Umaru Yar’Adua whose own presidency was cut short by poor health two years later.

Yar’Adua’s Vice Goodluck Jonathan subsequently ruled for the next six years with good intentions but never seemingly got a grip on the worsening national insecurity and the ubiquitous corruption.

These accusations allowed his opponent Muhammad Buhari to ride to victory after promising stringent anti corruption policies post elections.

The rest as we know it, is history.

Nigeria currently

Corruption is a worldwide phenomenon, but what differs from one country to the other is the degree of political will to tackle the problem.

The per capita income in Nigeria today is around the same level as it was in 1970, despite the fact that the country earned over $200 billion in the last 25 years from the exploitation of oil resources.

The history of Poverty in Nigeria is inseparable from the history of the country itself. It is no longer news that millions of Nigerians live on the margins of existence, eking out barely liveable incomes on a daily basis.

What is news is that over 87 million Nigerians currently live in extreme poverty and Nigeria now accounts for 11.7% of the global extremely poor, coming an embarrassing second behind India.

While poverty is all over Nigeria, it is more prevalent in the north. The latest survey (2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria) by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveals the magnitude of this tragedy.

According to NBS, while 40.1% of Nigerians are extremely poor, 59.6% of northerners are extremely poor while 22.3% of southerners are poor.

The country’s agriculture remains at a subsistence level, that is, despite the move since 1975, towards mechanised farming with the establishment of river basin authorities under the Third National Development Plan and ‘Operation Feed the Nation’ in 1976.

Transforming agriculture should be a low hanging fruit for economic development and any meaningful reduction in poverty has to start from agricultural reform where most of the poor earn a living.

The “Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria” report by the NBS confirms this, as there are more poor people in the North East (71.6%) and North West (64.8%), two regions where agriculture is dominant and still at subsistence level with low productivity per hectare.

There are several reasons for poor yields and low productivity in Nigerian agriculture compared to the world average. These include: lack of adequate extension services; low quality of soil, seeds and other inputs; low application of fertilizer; poor utility of irrigation; inadequate storage facilities and rising insecurity.

There are presently twenty Research Institutes under the Federal Ministry of Agriculture involved in developing better quality seeds and other aspects of agriculture, yet yields continue to be low due to slow development and adoption of better seeds and poor funding of actual research.

Also access to quality fertilizers and low-cost irrigation methods can go a long way in bettering agricultural output.

The next potential intervention for poverty reduction is to improve the provision and quality of basic education. Currently the national budget for education stands at 5.4%. Far behind countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Gabon, Congo, and Mali.

Again, this is a low hanging fruit and an area that is within the control of the States.

Improvement in the quality of basic education will impact labour productivity and improve employment prospects of young Nigerians.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that the poorest States have the highest level of illiteracy and out of school children. Therefore, policies that increase the number of and quality of public schools are essential in reducing illiteracy and the poverty that it sustains.

The Federal Government has already introduced a number of social protection programs aimed at providing temporary jobs, feeding school children and cash transfers to vulnerable people. These programs provide short term relief from poverty, but due to lack of funding, they are difficult to scale up to meet the needs of tens of millions of extremely poor Nigerians.

Transforming the nation won’t come easy, but is fortunately still very much within our collective grasp. Which is why as Nigeria clocks 62, it should be time not for empty speeches about patriotism or togetherness, or celebration but for sober reflection on the political quagmire of the nation and how best to deal with it.

Happy Independence Day.

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