Let us not deceive ourselves by claiming that Nigeria is still a strong country, yes we used to be a very strong country and can bounce back to being strong again if the right things are done by our leaders at all strata of governance both in the public and private sectors, but much more in the public sector. Before going further in this modest attempt of mine to contribute to strengthening our country, it is imperative for me to make my readers understand what qualifies a country as being strong because an understanding of this will automatically make people realise then what a weak or fragile country is.
A country is adjudged to be strong if the following subsists: a strong economy that is export oriented and not import dependent for basic needs, a strong, responsive and responsible political leadership or government, a significantly high number of people who belief in their country, a country where there is respect for the rule of law with good reward system and a country where there is relatively equitable distribution of income among many others. The truth is that all these are lacking in Nigeria after 52 years of independence and as such Nigeria cannot be said to be a strong country as it is today.
A recent report on Nigeria put the percentage of Nigerians living within the poverty bracket at 79 per cent despite the enormous money realised from the sale of crude oil and other exports in the last 40 years. In the last 35 years also, the government has shown a lack of genuine commitment to the welfare of Nigerians going by the level of looting of our commonwealth and flagrant display of opulence by people who have been at the helms of affairs of our country. In instances where some of these looters of our commonwealth have been apprehended, they have only been given a “slap on the wrist” as punishment. I think we need to learn how to punish those who steal public and private funds from countries like China, USA, Malaysia, Britain etc if we must make progress as a nation.Growing up as a young boy in Nigeria, I still met the Nigeria Airways, Nigeria National Shipping Line, a fairly good rail system, many textile factories, tyre manufacturing firms, the Volkswagen of Nigeria assembly and a highly functional Peugeot Assembly Plant (PAN) etc but all the aforementioned have gone under except PAN that is struggling to pull along. Other indices to show that it is not yet well with our country is the high level of mistrust/distrust among Nigerians, poor health facilities, high unemployment, insecurity, bad roads, high exchange rate occasioned by faulty policies, programmes and reforms that have not been properly sequenced. The fact that Nigeria still imports a greater percentage of her petroleum products (petrol, kerosene, diesel), generate insufficient power are evidences that Nigeria is not yet a strong country. What then must be done for us to become strong and great? Here are my thoughts.
First and foremost, the people in government who are calling on Nigerians to make sacrifices and tighten up must lead by example. The excesses in government and among politicians should be checked. What political leaders collect as salaries and allowances in Nigeria are not realistic for a country that desires to become strong. In addition, those who steal public funds should be appropriately punished and their loots recovered and returned to the public treasury.
Secondly, those responsible for the senseless killing of their fellow countrymen should be apprehended and punished. A situation where Youth Corps members were killed and no one was held responsible is making people lose confidence in the one nation slogan. Thirdly, there must be a deliberate and massive reduction in recurrent expenditure while capital expenditure should be scaled upwards to make room for genuine productive employment. It is needful to mention also that the unguided influx of foreigners into Nigeria to take over jobs that can be done by Nigerians must be checked. In many countries of the world, government policies are made to guard against their citizens losing out with respect to the labour market opportunities. In Nigeria many foreigners do nasty things that they can neither try elsewhere nor in their country because there is no legal check on them and this must change.
Fourthly, Federal Government development projects and appointments should be evenly spread all over the six geo-political zones as against what has been witnessed in Nigeria in the last 35 years where projects are implemented and appointments based on tribal and ethnic bias.
Fifthly, deliberate attempts must be made to build a learning economy and as such our educational system must be resuscitated to be result oriented, hence the curriculum must be reworked to accommodate skills acquisition, vocational training and problem solving research. Knowledge as it were must be for solution and total enhancement of human welfare.
Lastly, though the task of building a strong Nigeria is a collective responsibility, the government must show genuine concern for the welfare of her citizens wherever they live like the American government does for her citizens and which has engendered an uncommon commitment of Americans to their country. Lest I forget, we may need to grant amnesty to past leaders who have secretly repented of the wrongs they did to this nation and who are ready to return their loots to the national treasury by opening an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria where such stolen monies can be returned.