Nigeria’s Centenary: Celebration or time for Critical Examination?

Nigeria has embarked on the celebration of its 100 years of existence. Wait a minute; must we celebrate? Do we have success stories which should spur celebration or should this provide an opportunity for introspection — to think through our challenges and possibly proffer solutions to them? Should we celebrate just because of the number of years we have been together as a nation? If Nigeria rolls out the drums to celebrate 100 years and the major achievement is that we have managed to stay together, survived a civil war and possibly retreated at the last minute from many cliff hangers that should have scattered the nation during military rule, then we really have no need to celebrate.

What should we be doing as a nation as we mark 100 years of nationhood? It is to dispassionately and critically examine the journey so far and on an imaginary scale count our successes, achievements, challenges and failures and think through which side weighs more. We should not shy away from doing some form of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis and examination on Nigeria. This examination will provide us the opportunity to interrogate our challenges and failures and why we have been unable to overcome our challenges. It will also identify the critical success factors that led to achievements so far recorded. In identifying the drawbacks, the interrogation will come forward with ideas on how to overcome challenges, accentuate, replicate and intensify the critical success factors so that our scale of achievements will outweigh our challenges and setbacks.

At 100, both the leadership and the led are in agreement that we are not happy with our situation and our level of development. We are not where we are supposed to be as a nation. Admittedly, we spent the first 44 years under colonial rule but we are no exception in the comity of nations because other countries also experienced the same colonialism. Our peers have mechanised their agriculture and are able to feed themselves; started the production of industrial goods and machinery for local consumption and for export; enhanced and improved their health and education services; organised their societies in a way that responds to the needs of their people and are enjoying relative peace and stability. Some of our peers have even broken the atom and started journeys into space. How did they achieve their feats and leave us behind? This is a question that needs to be answered by the centenary celebration.

If we are not at the same level with our peers, the implication is that we are going in the wrong direction and doing the wrong things. Then, it means there is something fundamentally wrong with our governance, economic, political, and social value system that delivers sub-optimal results. Alternatively, there is something fundamentally wrong with the players in the field. The coach may have devised a good and winning strategy but the players have failed to play to the coach’s specific instructions. Within this context and whatever is identified as the reason(s) for our poor performance, we cannot doubt the need for a change of direction, systemic change and change in personnel in our governance architecture. Indeed, Nigeria is in dire need of renewal.

How do we effect this examination, introspection and renewal? This is the major challenge for the celebration. Everyone agrees that we are going in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, those who currently find themselves in the corridors of power believe that more of the same medicine they are serving us will eventually cure our ill-health. But there is no empirical evidence that things are getting better which will lead us to hope that after sometime, we will actually take our place in the comity of nations. Thus, the current leadership and those before them cannot but be wrong and are merely being selfish because of the pot of jam which they are presiding or had presided over. The current leadership is averse to an interrogation of the reasons why we have performed poorly. They want the status quo to continue. Yes, they want a President who is almighty and accountable to no one; a legislature which is law unto itself – enacts laws and breaks the laws; a judiciary where judges set guilty men free on technicalities or give them a slap on the wrist judgments. The current leadership want to continue ruling us in turns employing ethnic, religious, zonal and outdated cleavages. There is nothing on offer in terms of new ideas, philosophies and ideals and there are no credible solutions in sight to the myriad of our national problems.

Despite the foregoing, we still have a Presidential spokesman, Doyin Okupe, who will abuse an elder statesman and foremost constitutional lawyer Professor Ben Nwabueze and describe him as unpatriotic simply because he stated the obvious that Nigeria is sliding into a failed state.  According to Okupe, Nigeria’s democracy is in its infancy and we have credible institutions. Let me ask Okupe: How many years does it take to exit the infancy stage? What are the indicators that your credible democratic institutions are working and delivering value for money? Is there a day that goes without reports of killing of defenceless Nigerians by armed groups challenging the authority of the state? With the assurances given by the President, has our security situation improved? How much have we lost to corruption in the last 12 months? Is the amount lost to corruption in the last 12 months not higher than our national budget? How many new megawatts of electricity have we added to the grid in the last 10 years, for instance? How many kilometres of roads were fixed in the last three years? Indeed, can the Jonathan administration give a good account of the resources entrusted to it for the benefit of the vast majority of Nigerians? The system is not working and cannot work and no amount of abuses on patriotic elders who have seen the hand writing on the wall will change the facts as they are.

Back to the question of how to effect the renewal and interrogation that will lead to the design of a new and functional system, we cannot run away from a conference, a discussion of the Nigerian people convened solely for the purpose of proposing a model that will solve our problems and whose decisions will be subject to ratification by the people. This will provide us the opportunity to interrogate what has gone wrong and why it went wrong. It only takes a mad man to continue repeating the same experiment without changing any of the variables and yet expects different results on each occasion. Continuing with the current system will amount to digging deeper when you are inside a hole and looking for a way to climb out.

Yes, do we need to celebrate or critically examine what has gone wrong? If we want to change the system and reposition it towards development which will guarantee individual and national fulfillment, then we need a critical examination. Formulation of new strategies and re-orientation of our values are also imperative.


Eze Onyekpere (

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