The Lost Identity: Salvaging A Nation In Distress

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

Development is a phenomenon associated with changes in human conditions through the use of their creative energies. It is the unending improvement in the capacity of individuals and society to control and manipulate the forces of nature in order to live a better and more rewarding life. Development implies creating the skills and capacity to do things; greater freedom, self-confidence, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and mutual well-being

Nigeria has faced, however, numerous challenges in achieving sustainable development since independence in 1960 in spite of its abundant human and natural resources. From the time Nigeria gained independence on October 1, 1960 to date, repeated efforts have been made to define a suitable framework for socio-political and economic development. In this regard, not less than five national development plans have been inaugurated. The first between 1962 and 1968, followed by the second development plan, 1970 to 1974, aimed at accelerating post-war reconstruction.

Our government becomes victims of high-level corruption, bad governance, political instability and a cyclical legitimacy crisis. Consequently, national development is retarded, and the political environment uncertain. The country’s authoritarian leadership faced a legitimacy crisis, political intrigues, in an ethnically – differentiated polity, where ethnic competition for resources drove much of the pervasive corruption and profligacy. While the political gladiators constantly manipulated the people and the political processes to advance their own selfish agenda, the society remained pauperized, and the people wallowed in abject poverty. This invariably led to weak legitimacy, as the citizens lacked faith in their political leaders and by extension, the political system. Participation in government was low because citizens perceived it as irrelevant to their lives. In the absence of support from civil society, the effective power of government was eroded. Patron – client relationships took a prime role over the formal aspects of politics, such as the rule of law, well-functioning political parties, and a credible electoral system. In order to break this cycle and ensure good governance, accountability and transparency must be guaranteed.

The third national development plan, 1975 to 1980, tried to jump-start industrial through the strategy of import substitution. This was followed under the military regime headed by General Ibrahim Babangida by the introduction of a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). A subsequent National Rolling Plan was instituted between 1990 and 1992 to consolidate the ‘achievements’ of the SAP and to address the problems that still hindered economic development. Vision 2010 was yet another development plan initiated by another military ruler, General Sani Abacha. It was meant to herald socio-economic prosperity for the citizens of Nigeria.

It is still worthy to note that all these development plans had the intentions of doing the following:

Developing a stable broad-based democratic system; Generating employment opportunities and meeting the basic needs of the people; Achieving food security by massively investing in agriculture; Investing in education; Developing critical sectors of the Nigerian economy;

Establishing an effective macroeconomic framework that attracts investment; Directing the formal and informal sectors of the economy; Promoting economic stability and sustaining non-inflationary growth and social justice; Nurturing independent and responsible media, labour unions, NGOs and other institutions of civil society; Developing an effective and efficient public service, judiciary and law enforcement system; Reorienting Nigerian society along the path of honesty, probity, God consciousness, mutual respect, trust, tolerance, gender sensitivity and co-operation; Ensuring sincere and committed leadership and an enlightened and empowered citizenry; and strengthening and sustaining Nigerian’s leadership role in Africa. All the above development plans were brilliantly formulated but suffered from deficiency of scope, poor implementation, budgetary indiscipline and general corruption.

When the civilian administration of ex-President Obasanjo came into limelight in 1999, the government gave Nigerian’s at home and abroad a lot of hope for a better Nigeria where unemployment, poor educational institutions, lack of portable water, poor power generation, non-existent health care system, inadequate infrastructure and insecurity of lives and properties would be a thing of the past. Regrettably, seven years have elapsed, with these expectations far from being met. Despite being a signatory to the Commission for Africa and the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the focus on halting poverty and hunger, infant mortality, illiteracy, provision of food and shelter by 2015, on current trends, nigeria will not only miss all the MDGs by 2015, but also would likely take another 50 years to reduce the high level of poverty and hunger in the country.

The key economic platform of the Obasanjo administration is the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), which were launched in 2003. It is set out of the government’s economic policy objectives, part of which is to create about 700,000 jobs over a period of seven years, to reduce poverty, to increase employment generation and also to decelerate inflation through the stabilization of the exchange rate.

However, the propositions in the NEEDS document are largely nebulous as it has failed to spell out, for instance, how the 700,000 jobs will be created. Are these jobs to b created by the three tiers of government, the private sector or some foreign investors? Besides, the NEEDS blueprint has failed to specify the stages of implementation of Nigeria’s economic reform programmes. More so, not even the chief economic adviser to the ex-president and former head of the Nigerian economic team, Dr. Osita Ogbu, could say precisely at what stage of implementation we are. At this time, Nigeria’s deteriorating economic situation is baffling. One major problem confronting our nation is the issue of sustaining growth. There is therefore an urgent need fro us to be able to improve and sustain our means of development so that we may not find ourselves at the mercy of the unpredictable forces of globalization. We need also to ask ourselves serious questions. How do we balance the need for development and growth against the need to protect the natural environment? How to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs and aspirations of the future generations?

The first step must be to reorient our values and ideas concerning development. We must protect our environment from degradation and over exploitation through careful planning and good policies. Acts of corruption such as election malpractices, bribery, abuse of power and office, economic crimes in all ramifications must be eradicated to pave the way for more focused and purposeful Nigeria.

State control of the limited resources provide the leeway for officers, political and bureaucratic, to manipulate government spending to advance their personal fortunes. This led to weak legitimacy, as the citizens lack faith in their political leaders, and, by extension, the political system. Participation in government is low because the citizens perceive it as irrelevant to their lives. In the absence of the support of the civil society, the effective power of government is eroded. Patron-client relationships take the primacy over the formal aspects of politics such as the rule of law, well-functioning political parties, and a credible electoral system.

The giant was brought to its knees by 20 years of brutal and corrupt military rule, which left a legacy of executive dominance and a political corruption in the hands of Nigeria’s so-called “godfathers”-powerful political bosses sitting atop vast patronage networks who view the government primarily through the lens of their own personal enrichment. Because of this instability, the focus of the leadership became parochial with the overriding consideration for personal survival rather than national development. Attempts at promoting “democratic consolidation” were hampered by the personality cult of the emerging political gladiators who exploited the instrument of state power to promote their personal agenda. Nigeria’s political elites vie for power and control over the vast spoils of office. The centralized political and economic structures “made the military and civilian individuals who controlled key state posts fabulously wealthy, while 70% of Nigerians fell into abject poverty.

Corrupt public servants and others in the private sector bestrode the nation, masquerading as captains of business and power brokers with tainted and stolen wealth and demanded the rest of us to kowtow before them. The period of military regime was pathetic. Under them, corruption became the sole guiding principle for running affairs of state. The period witnessed a total reversal and destruction of every good thing in the country. Unconventional and fraudulent trade, misappropriation or diversion of funds, kickbacks, under and over invoicing, bribery, false declarations, abuse of office, and collection of illegal tolls, among other malfeasant practices, are the forms that corruption take in Nigeria. In the international system, Nigeria is rated as one of the most corrupt nations of the world, a ranking that has denied the country its pride of place in the international economic system. It has been noted that, “Corruption is far more dangerous than drug trafficking or other crimes because when it goes unpunished, the public loses confidence in the legal system and those who enforce the law.

The plunder by military bandits reduced the” giant of Africa” to a comatose midget…As money flowed into Nigerian government coffers, military dictators went on a spending spree. They frittered away the oil bonanza on extravagant investment projects. In1988, a Dedication and Other Special Accounts was established by the Federal Government at the Central Bank to “house the proceeds of the sale of crude oil dedicated to special projects and to receive the windfall oil revenues from the Gulf War”. The staggering revelation in this report was that out of the 124 billion US dollars realized in the accounts, 12.2 billion US dollars; “was liquidated in less than six years: that they were spent on what could be neither adjudged genuine high priority nor truly regenerative investment that neither the president nor the governor accounted to anyone for these massive extra budgetary expenditure; that these disbursements were clandestinely undertaken, while the country was openly reeling with a crushing eternal debt-overhang that represent a gross abuse of public trust ”.

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