Today marks Nigeria’s 63rd Independence anniversary, and once again, the federal government has opted for a low-key celebration, acknowledging the persistent economic challenges facing the country.
Celebration of independence anniversaries or national days is in honour of the resilient spirit of citizens and leaders who championed various causes in the pursuit of their nation’s freedom and liberty.
When Nigeria’s journey began on October 1, 1960, everything appeared promising as politicians showed commitment, the economy thrived, and the people were patriotic. However, over the years, political and military leaders fell significantly short of expectations. A coup in January 1966 punctured the dream and the counter coup in July of the same year jeopardised national unity. It was followed by three years of a pointless bloodbath in the form of civil war, with brothers pitted against brothers.
Since the end of the war, the country’s history has been chequered with a tapestry of ups and downs.
Nigeria has seen 17 heads of government, including military leaders and democratically elected presidents since the end of the war. However, the once-cherished vision of breaking free from the colonial legacy appears elusive, as improvements in infrastructure, economic growth, and the overall quality of life for the average Nigerian remain a distant goal.
The Nigeria we see today often feels distant from the dreams of the nation’s nationalists who passionately championed the cause of independence.
Their vision was of a free and united nation, free from external influence.
The present-day circumstances starkly illustrate the vast gap between the aspirations of those who fought for independence and the everyday lives of Nigerians.
This situation has shown no significant improvement even after Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999.
Governance challenges continue to plague Nigerians, serving as a persistent source of frustration. It often appears that those in positions of power lack genuine concern for the welfare of the masses, as many of their policies appear to primarily benefit the ruling class.
From the foregoing, there is little cause for optimism as Nigeria grapples with escalating insecurity amidst political instability. With an estimated population surpassing 220 million, the nation finds itself besieged by insurgency and a pervasive sense of insecurity. Regrettably, Nigeria has become one of the most precarious places to live and work. As a consequence of this crisis, the World Bank has projected an increase in the poverty headcount rate, from 42.0 per cent in 2020 to 42.6 per cent in 2023, indicating that the number of impoverished individuals rose from 89.0 million in 2020 to a projected 95.1 million by the end of 2023.
Poor governance stands out as the primary factor behind the country’s severe economic challenges. Despite the significant resources that accrue from crude oil revenue and loans, Nigeria continues to grapple with a critical infrastructure deficit.
Another pressing concern is the scarcity of job opportunities as the available job openings in the country are woefully insufficient when compared to the annual influx of graduates from higher education institutions. Today, many employed individuals falsify their ages in order to retain their positions, making it increasingly difficult to welcome new talent.
High poverty levels, social unrest and high inflation have also taken a toll on many households’ welfare, as prices have increased on household essentials, especially between 2020 and 2023.
In addition, inadequate power supply has disrupted social and economic lives of the people. With the removal of petrol subsidy and the attendant exorbitant price of the product, businesses that used to find an alternative in petrol to power their generators cannot do that anymore.
With the volatility of global oil prices and the inherent risks of depending solely on this resource for revenue, which the government has acknowledged, the imperative of diversifying income sources has become increasingly apparent. Nevertheless, this diversification journey is fraught with challenges, including the pressing need to bolster tax collection, attract foreign investments, and foster growth in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and technology. All of this unfolds against the backdrop of mounting national debts, posing complex dilemmas for the nation’s economic future.
Agriculture and manufacturing, which were once the pillars of Nigeria’s economy, now struggle for survival. While insecurity has become a headache, the naira, a symbol of our nationhood, lies in tatters.
All these combined have made the country to earn the title of the world’s poverty capital, with over 100 million people grappling for survival.
Interestingly, amid the backdrop of suffering, the resilient people, victims of failed leadership, are managing to muster a smile, while clinging to hope for brighter years ahead.