Nigeria at 60
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
by Zinnia Aurora
The African nation is celebrating its independence day on October 1, 2020. Nigeria’s new white and green flag was hoisted officially for the first time, replacing Britain’s Union Jack, it's been 60 years.
While celebrations conquer the public, there are various thinkers and citizens who have risen to point out the issues it still faces.
Power politics in Nigeria:
October 1960: Nigeria gained independence, followed by two coups in 1966
1967: Three eastern states secede, sparking three-year Biafra civil war
1979: Elections bring to power Shehu Shagari, who was ousted after four years - and a series of coups and military governments followed
1993: The military annuls elections when preliminary results show victory for Moshood Abiola
1999: Democracy returns a year after the death of military ruler Gen Sani Abacha
2015: Muhammadu Buhari becomes first opposition figure to win a presidential election since 1960
A major policy to promote systemic equality was launched by the Nigerian government almost four decades ago, but it has led to further fragmentation and bitterness. The notion of equality has been espoused as a categorical perchance by a few, who say that it is an excuse of entrenching homogeneity into the system.
“Merit and excellence are often sacrificed for diversity when appointing heads of government ministries, as "federal character" also makes it mandatory for each state to have a representative in the president's cabinet.” This is the perspective held by most Nigerians. When Nigeria won the U-17 World Cup for the fifth time in 2015, critics of "federal character" were quick to point out the lack of diversity in the national team.
Nigeria has 13 million out-of-school children, the highest in the world, according to UNICEF, and more than 69% of them are in the north. This is a consequence of various factors - religion, culture, past colonial policies and, more recently, the Islamist militant Boko Haram insurgency.
World’s eighth biggest crude oil exporter, Nigeria holds within itself a large natural bounty, the benefits of which have been usurped by the ‘elite’. The peaking corruption is a cause of concern since this has led to significant negligence of the poor and marginalised of the nation. The vast country that spreads from the Atlantic Ocean to the semi-arid Sahel had in 2018 the highest rate of extreme poverty globally, according to the World Poverty Clock, created by the Vienna-based charity World Data Lab. The government has been accused by the country's attorney general to have looted the nation of over $400 Bn, the multinational firms being the primary delinquents in this case.
The Civil War of 1967 to 1970, sparked by an attempt by the Igbo to secede and form a new nation called Biafra. With 36 states inhabited by immensely diverse populations, the call for ‘Federal’ character’s ‘safeguarding’ has been seen more as a curse, than a boon. This is a result of coerced unity imposed upon the nation by the British.
In central Nigeria and the northwest, clashes are rife between ethnically mixed but predominantly Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herders, as well as vigilantes and criminal gangs.
COVID-19 is seen to push Nigeria into one of its biggest recession, second only to the 2016 recession which was a result of the declining oil revenues.
With so many issues running through the arteries of the nation, it becomes key for the youth of the nation to rise to the cause, and vouch for the principles of equity, justice, and most importantly, fraternity. The international community, definitely, has a large role to play in the same.