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Nigeria @ 55: The good, the bad and the ugly – By Prince Eniola Ojajuni

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In the past 55 years of Nigeria’s existence as a nation, the singular achievement of 16 years of continuous democratic rule stands out as a beacon of hope.

While it is a known fact that the vast mineral, human and geographic advantages which Mother Nature bestowed have been under-utilised by successive administrations since 1960, we must not cease to evaluate how far we have come as an entity. A general consensus that government could be better run led to a large turnout of the electorate in the 2015 elections. Indeed, democracy in Nigeria has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years due to a more transparent electoral process. Improved access to information blossomed into citizens’ awareness and the desire to play their part in building the nation of their dreams.

Furthermore, there has been a renaissance among youths as they now clamour to make their voices heard by the government. Access to the Internet and technological advancements have made it easy for government to feel the pulse of the masses on matters germane to them. With the crash in oil prices, the reality of the folly of a mono-direction economy has dawned on Nigeria. Endless rhetoric on how to diversify the economy is being reviewed in a bid to wean the nation of its total dependence on oil to the detriment of other sectors. Corruption, and the era of stealing the commonwealth of the people with impunity, is being replaced by the era of accountability in governance.

In all sectors, erstwhile sacred cows are discovering that “all animals are equal.” While these and many more reflect that Nigeria as a nation is not stagnant, it would be a fallacy to assert that all is rosy. Falling oil prices have triggered the fall of the naira against other currencies with its attendant negative effect on the economy. Unemployment is still a major challenge as our institutions annually churn out more labour than available market can contain. The National Bureau of Statistics stated that 54 per cent of Nigerian youths are unemployed in 2012, as opposed to 80 per cent rate in 2014. The education system is in a sorry state as obsolete curriculum has not been updated to reflect the needs of the times.

Research and Development has been underfunded and under-exploited as a fundamental element for growth in our education system. Insecurity is still rife in the country. Public safety has become a mirage. From armed robbers to vigilante groups, Boko Haram to militant groups, even security outfits who are a law unto themselves, citizens daily sleep with one eye closed. More so, kidnappings have become a lucrative business where foreigners, locals, the elderly and even minors are not spared. Inadequate infrastructure is another major challenge in Nigeria. The importance of energy to the industrialisation drive of any nation cannot be overemphasised. The dearth of this sector is the reason most cottage industries in Nigeria die in infancy. Roads and railway tracks are not well-maintained and have witnessed no new development in recent times, making transport across the country an endurance test. In all this, we should not throw away the baby with the bath water.

While Nigerians wait with bated breath the transformation which we all crave and which the President Muhammadu Buhari administration promises, we as a people should endeavour to play our parts. Wealthy Nigerians should use a little portion of their wealth to help the masses rather than store them in foreign accounts; negative habits such as jumping queues and disorderliness should be eschewed. Tribalism and ethnic divides should not be allowed to hamper our development as a nation. It is not only the government’s responsibility to burnish the image of the nation, but a collective responsibility of each individual Nigerian as ambassadors in their own rights.

Let us all join hands to build the Nigeria of our dreams. Following me on Twiter @OjaEniola