Basic amenities like good roads, potable water, electricity are some of the essentials that make life easier. Peter Uzoho, Ayodeji Ake, Chinazor Megbolu and Chiamaka Ozulumba, who recently sampled the opinion of ordinary Nigerians, report that it is a season of groaning as the harsh economic climate takes its toll on their day-to-day lives
On October 1, 2019, Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth and, the “giant” of Africa marked her 59 years of independence from British rule. Given that the word ‘independence’ connotes ‘freedom’, the day ordinarily should be heralded with celebration and jubilation from state to state as the citizens, during this occasion, recall the contributions of gallant freedom fighters, the heroes and founding fathers, as well as socio-economic developments brought into the country by successive post-independence governments. It is usually a time of pleasant testimonies flowing from the lips of a happy citizenry.
Indeed, this was the mood during the early years of Nigeria’s independence. Independence Day celebration used to be a carnival of some sort. It used to be inspiring especially, looking at the leaders at the time and the good governance they jointly and purposefully delivered. The National Anthem was sung with a soulful rendition and the lyrics energising the spirit of patriotism and love for country.
This year, the reverse was the case as the celebration was low key. The rains did not help matters too as it rained cats and dogs. This is because of the hardship they experience on a daily basis. With majority of the citizens living below the poverty line and basic amenities still lacking, Nigerian masses rather saw this year’s anniversary as another season of mourning a failed state.
Not even the programmes the federal government lined up for this year’s anniversary could make them see a reason to celebrate, as according to them, there is nothing to celebrate in a country ravaged by penury, insecurity, darkness, and corruption.
After 59 years of independence, Nigeria, with its abundant resources, still has many of its citizens wallowing in abject poverty and helplessness. The country’s poverty index has continued to rise as many are being plunged into the poverty circle in minutes. The country’s standard of living keeps dropping by the day with no clear policy to arrest it.
Sometime in June 2018, the Brookins Institute, an American research group, had in its report, announced that Nigeria had trashed India and became the poverty capital of the world, with the report showing that the country had an estimated 86.9 million of the population living on less than $1.90 (N684) a day. Up till today, the country is yet to change this situation.
According to Mr. Augustine Maduemezia, a trader, “before independence, an average Nigerian was enjoying a good standard of living. All the things needed to make life worth living were available.”
He said this cannot be said of today. “With little money in your pocket, you would buy all you need and still have some change left. Today, you will finish your salary and start borrowing tomorrow”.
An entrepreneur, Miss Emily Alofa, said things have gone too bad for the average Nigerian, saying the standard of living has dropped drastically over the years.
On his part, a computer engineer, Mr. Prosper Isaiah, noted that the purchasing power of the average Nigerian has really become very weak compared to the early days of independence.
“Poverty has risen to an alarming rate. Before and during independence, people could still comfortably fend for themselves, but right now, it is a real struggle to even feed twice a day,” he said.
Also, Mr. Segun Akinleye, a media consultant, expressed his disappointment with the way things are in Nigeria, saying: “What really is there to celebrate as a nation? Have we progressed from where we were before? We are 59 years and what do we have to show for it? We have lost our position as the number one nation for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa.
“Nigerians are groaning, living in abject poverty as evidenced in our position as the poverty capital of the world. Are these achievements worth celebrating?”
Akinleye, however, advised that for Nigeria to make any headway, the government should cut down the cost of governance so as to channel more resources to areas that will guarantee good living for the citizens.
“That is what they have refused to do. Instead, they have decided to put the burden of governance on the people. Look at the amount the Senate wants to use to acquire new cars. Look at the cost of running the government. We can’t move forward until the leaders are ready to make sacrifices,” he added.
After 59 years of self-governance, Nigeria, a country of 201million population cannot boast of providing electricity to even half of its population, as over 100 million Nigerians are not connected to the national grid. This has had adverse effect on the lives of the citizens and businesses.
Even those who have managed to connect to the grid experience epileptic power supply. From Lagos to Ibadan, Kaduna to Kano, Owerri to Enugu, Port Harcourt to Asaba, it is the same story of lack of electricity. This has forced Nigerians to resort to generators as alternative sources of energy to power their homes and businesses.
According to Mr. Chinedu Ezeoke, a lawyer, “Even when you have the light, it is one day on and two days off and everybody has accepted it as a norm, with homes and businesses running full time on generators.”
Ezeoke added that everything in the country has gone downward and that “it is quite unfortunate that it is always the common man that bears the brunt of all the hardship”.
He also noted that majority of the Nigerian citizens live in slums and wondered how such people would be celebrating independence under such condition.
Poor Road Network
Also, at 59, absence of good access roads has another major infrastructural challenge being experienced by the Nigerian masses. There is no practically little or no good road to guarantee ease of movement. This has made movement from one state of the federation to another or even within states and communities impossible.
The good roads that were constructed in the early years of the country’s independence have all vanished. The roads have become death traps, leading to loss of loss lives, waste of manhour and goods.
A computer engineer, Mr. Prosper Isaiah, said: “these are things being seen in the dreams and people’s imaginations. Our roads have now become death traps for the average Nigerian who can’t afford to travel by air. All our infrastructure have substantially regressed, be it road, rail or whatever”.
For Ms Dumade Adegoke, a fashion designer, Nigerians are suffering in the midst of abundance.
“Should I mention the kidnappings on Abuja-Kaduna Road by evil men or, the incessant killings and brutality of the youths by the police? They tell us to keep praying for Nigeria but in my honest opinion, there is no hope for Nigeria except the government does a few things, which are: to tackle unemployment or give youths access to loans to set up businesses.
“Many youths have business ideas but no access to loans. In the case of police brutality and killings, rubber bullets should be used by the police and scrutinising of the police affairs,” she said.
Adekoge, however, advised the government to slash salaries of all government officials and cancel all unnecessary expenses so as to give more resources to the masses.
While acknowledging that the country made progress in some decades past, Mr. Olamide Ojuokaiye, a businessman, noted that those progress had retarded due to bad governance by visionless leaders.
He reminisced when Nigeria relied so much on agriculture to run the economy, saying that the nation witnessed rapid growth and improved standard. According to him, life was so easy for Nigerians then but today, the reverse is the case.
“A look through the state of the country, we cannot deny that progress has relatively been slow compared to when we attained our independence in the 60s. The strides and upward trajectory made in the agricultural sector were jettisoned because of crude oil.
“The advent of oil made thriving sectors like agriculture; cash crops like cocoa and palm-oil production, suffer due to shallow mindedness of our leaders who neglected this sector. Agriculture would have been a major sector that would supplement the oil sector, which will help the development of our country”.
Ojuokaiye also bemoaned the rate of unemployment in the contry, saying it keeps multiplying, putting heavy burdens on persons who are sole breadwinners of their families. He added that the economic hardship in the country is contributed by lack of regular power supply which he said has greatly impacted negatively on small scale businesses.
He urged the government to support small and medium scale businesses to grow the country’s economy. For other Nigerians, housing has been an issue in the country as large part of the population still live in slums and squalor. This is because they cannot afford to pay for exorbitant rents to get a good house.
For them, such neglected and dejected population does not have any justification to be joyful during Independence Day celebrations. They said government should find a way to reintegrate them into the society and give them a sense of belonging. This, they said, is the only way such people can really feel that they are part of the Nigerian society and have the moral responsibility to show patriotism to the nation.