On the 1st of October 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. The birth of Nigeria was celebrated around the world. It was with much expectations of what Nigeria could achieve at home and abroad. This was [is], given its diverse people and culture.
It was given Nigeria’s history, natural resources, geographical location and its place and role in Africa. Never in the history of Africa, under the new world order and geopolitics, was so much expected of a new country, so diverse; so unique; Nigeria.
The 2nd World War had ended. The global power structures and global architecture was changing and a new rules-based world was emerging. The United Nations (UN) was founded in 1945, to promote global peace and security, based on international diplomacy and trade among independent nations. The intention of the UN System, was to spread prosperity among countries and peoples around the world; respect for national sovereignty; and the promotion of human rights. It was the thinking at independence, that Nigeria a young nation full of potential, would blossom and provide leadership example in Africa, and to the rest of the world.
Nowhere was the celebration of independence greater than in Nigeria, and the rest of Africa. It had been a long and painful struggle for independence. But, an independent Nigeria meant so much more. It meant freedom, for self-governance. It also meant that Nigerians could begin to heal from the psychological, social, economic and physical impact of colonialism.
Independence was not contemplated
to cause much suffering and
pains to most Nigerians
However, Nigeria (just like many other countries that had become independent in Africa and around the world), was confronted with new challenges, inside and outside of Nigeria. Challenges that presented massive opportunities for leadership and governance. Opportunities to envision, believe in, and remain loyal to a bigger picture of what Nigeria could achieve, to define its role in the world. But first, Nigeria’s leaders had to unite a culturally diverse people behind the common vision, bigger than our diversity.
This was the opportunity for building a united, prospering, fair, free and just society. The opportunity to build the foundation of our National Character and the ‘markers’ of our Nigerian Identity as a nation state. To build a Nigeria, in which the social and economic circumstances of Nigerians, would be comparable to the best in the world. Yes, this was what Nigerians who fought for independence had hoped for. To unite all Nigerians behind a big and shared social, economic and political vision. To inspire Nigerians to work relentlessly towards achieving that vision, sooner rather than later. So that Nigeria would be a good example, to other African countries and the world. This would justify the struggles and sacrifices of Nigerians before us.
While Nigeria has made some progress, well over half a century after independence, Nigerians are not yet ‘united in our diversity’, as we had hoped. Our founding fathers and compatriots, preferred a democratic system of regional governments, and subsequently states and local governments. It was their intention to bring ‘self governance’, as close as possible to our culturally diverse people.
They must have reasoned that, when governments are closer to the people, the physical, social and cultural needs and expectations, of ordinary people are more likely to be met; and governments are less likely to be tyrannical.
Sadly, most Nigerians are still not free from oppression, poverty, discrimination and abuse of power. Most Nigerians still cannot exercise civil liberty: ‘fundamental freedoms and rights’ provided in the Constitution, to which we supposedly declare, “we the people…”.
The level of inequality in Nigeria is among the highest in the world. It is getting worse. The negative impact of inequality on Health and Poverty; Peace and Security; and Stability, is immense. This has serious implications on the ‘rights’ of Nigerians and thus, Power Relations in Nigeria. High levels of inequality seen all over Nigeria continue to pose significant threat to our Democracy. It is now past the time for patience. It is now time to rekindle Nigeria’s founding vision, to realise the hopes and expectations of Nigerians.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It is the 7th most populous in the world. The population of Africa is growing rapidly. It is currently estimated at about 1.2 billion. The population of Africa is projected to reach 3 billion by 2050.
The population of young people in Africa, 32 years from now, may be about 1 billion. The population of the world is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 (from the current population estimates of 7.6 billion). Ten percent of the population of the world by 2050, would be young Africans.
The fact is, the population profile of the world is changing. ‘Nigeria and Africa’, and indeed young Africans are contributing significantly to that change. This has cultural, social, economic, political and security implications. Rapid population growth presents increasing challenges to ‘Nigeria and Africa’. But, it is also the very reason why ‘Nigeria and Africa’, can be very hopeful. Yes, hopeful in the opportunities and possibilities that these challenges present for good governance.
Currently, about 1 out of every 4-to-6 persons in Africa is a Nigerian. And, about 1 out of every 5-to-7 black persons in the world is a Nigerian. In these numbers, are real people with needs, hopes, beliefs, aspirations and expectations. This huge population must be a source of mixed emotions and reactions to all Nigerians. To many, it can be reason for great anxiety. To most Nigerians however, it should be the reason for great pride and hope.
Indeed, demographic profiles in ‘Nigeria and Africa’ is an opportunity to link Domestic Policy to Foreign Policy. The right policy complements would ensure that the growing population in ‘Nigeria and Africa’, are productive. But, this requires first, uniting Nigerians to build a country that is much stronger at home and respected abroad.
Our current population estimated at about 198 million, of largely youths, women and ordinary Nigerians, presents unique demographic opportunities to Nigerians. Young Nigerians in their prime are full of energy, dynamism, creativity and curiosity. They have the potential to rise above prejudice, to unify our diverse country. They alone can strengthen our current weak links. Young Nigerians are also very concerned about what the future holds. They will catalyse a united and prospering Nigeria.
Young Nigerians though, require the right vision for Nigeria and the right policy-environment. They relish the challenge and opportunity to create new ideas; and new ways of solving our complex socio-cultural, economic, technological and political problems. With most young Nigerians increasingly networked, they are the ones that would explore and exploit new value-chains. They would fundamentally affect supply-side and demand-side dynamics for a more inclusive and integrated economy.
Nigeria requires new ways of ‘thinking and doing’, to enable us to achieve our full potential. We should not and cannot continue to move at the current pace; and way and level of thinking. We cannot continue with more of the same especially in an environment of new and emerging and much more complex challenges in Nigeria, Africa, and the world.
New ways of ‘thinking and doing’ in governance and leadership, would enable Nigeria, to best serve all Nigerians. This is important as Nigeria navigates its way in an increasingly dangerous, competitive, disruptive and rapidly changing world.