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A dwarfed giant at 61 By Martins Onyeike

Nigerian flag

As yet another October 1st comes knocking, Nigeria gets set to commemorate its 61st anniversary as an independent nation. While it has become customary to roll out the drums amid scripted sermons laced with falsehoods and half-truths, there is really nothing worth celebrating. Instead of feasting and engaging in political jamborees, the moment should be deployed to reflect soberly on the maladies threatening to bring the self acclaimed giant of Africa to its knees.

At age 61, Nigeria can aptly be likened to an ailing and bedridden septuagenarian. In total disagreement with the subscription in certain quarters that the country is a zoo, that perception appears more like a compliment to a crestfallen nation bereft of ideas on how to manage its affairs. With the amount of entropy in the system, it is safer to describe the country as a jungle where only the fittest survives. George Orwell must have had Nigeria in mind when he posited in his allegorical Animal Farm novel that “all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

For a nation with an enormity of human and natural resources at its disposal, Nigeria has no business occupying its current unenviable position as a failed state. Owing to the spate of insecurity in the nation, blood has now become the new crude oil. Whilst the price of black crude at the international market keeps oscillating in response to demand and other factors, the value of its red counterpart has kept soaring in the ransom black market. Terrorism, banditry and kidnapping are at an all-time high and to the consternation of hapless citizens, the marauding actors are grinning from ear to ear on their way to the bank.

Finding ourselves privileged to be living in an era characterized by scientific inventions that aim to solve a huge chunk of human problems, it is bewildering that the most talked about subject in our national curriculum is the bickering over the appropriateness or otherwise of cattle open grazing. In a 21st century world where cellular agriculture is now employed to produce synthetic or cultured meat using tissue engineering techniques; the joke is on us as a people. This innovation has the tendency to address environmental problems arising from meat production and also to ensure food security.

Beyond wasting public funds on fruitless foreign trips attending summits on climate change and inking Nigeria’s signature on agreements such as the Paris Climate Accords, it is apparent that the neophytes in power are unaware that livestock breeding is responsible for 14.5% of all anthropogenic green house gas (GHG) emissions globally. As if that threat is not enough, the predominantly Fulani herders have been issued the license to dominate and subjugate the rest of Nigeria. If this isn’t beef, what is?

Presently exasperated by decrepit infrastructure, protruding unemployment ratio, skyscraping debt profile, frightening insecurity, monumental corruption and leadership ineptitude that has earned the country the ignominious reputation as the poverty capital of the world after knocking India off its perch. Data from the World Poverty Clock states that 87 million Nigerians now live in extreme poverty. Really appalling!! There is nothing to celebrate about a nation that exonerates the aggressors, while vilifying the victims of a self-inflicted war designed to courier an evil agenda.

In loving memory of all those who lost their lives to these mindless and unprovoked killings, the national flag has to be flown at half mast come October 1st, 2021. The traditional “Fellow Nigerians” nationwide address should be swapped with eulogies and minutes of silence for our fallen soldiers who are being offered as sacrificial lambs on the altar of mediocrity. The trauma these victims of terrorism, banditry and kidnappings experience can only be imagined. There is nothing to celebrate when hundreds of school children and other Nigerians await trial at various terrorists’ camps scattered across the North.

In spite of the technological revolution in the world today, it is puzzling that the legislators of any country can stand down the request for implementation of electronic voting and transmission of results. To satiate their appetites for backwardness, I suggest they make laws that will take us back to the prehistoric age. Maybe my expectations from a national assembly that has gained notoriety for being a rubber-stamp is the problem here. In reality, not much should be expected from a congregation of geriatric politicians who have chosen the national assembly as pension homes. There is nothing to celebrate!!

There is nothing to celebrate about a nation that prefers to spend billions on exploration of oil in the Chad basin at a time when the world is gradually, but steadily gravitating towards renewable energy. There is nothing to celebrate about a nation where essential workers like Doctors get treated so shabbily that many are reneging on the Hippocratic oath. At no time has the African Union recommended budgetary allocation of 15% for health been achieved. They would rather allocate funds to themselves and their cronies for medical tourism.

It appears all gloomy at the moment, but there is an equal propensity for the situation to either get better or worsen before our eyes. Our priorities in the build-up to 2023 will go a long way in deciding that. There is not much to celebrate, but let’s not brood either. Happy Independence day Nigeria!!

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