Nigeria, Africa's most populous country and the world's sixth most populous, marks its 63rd anniversary of independence today, October 1, 2023. Many Nigerians, however, have little or nothing to take pleasure in or celebrate, as the country faces numerous issues that have destroyed its potential and possibilities.
Since gaining independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria has been plagued by successive leadership failures, corrupt leaders who prioritize personal interests over public interest, poor infrastructure, a lack of health care facilities, insecurity, and economic woes; today, a dollar exchanges for over a thousand niara on the foreign exchange market. All of these factors have led to Nigeria's poor performance in different indicators of economic growth and development.
Nigeria's GDP per capita in 2020 was $2,229, putting it 149th out of 189 nations, according to the World Bank. In 2019, the country's human development index (HDI), which evaluates inhabitants' quality of life, was 0.539, ranking it 161st out of 189 countries. In 2020, the country ranked 131st out of 190 in the ease of doing business index, which evaluates the regulatory environment for enterprises.Nigeria
Moreover, Nigeria has been grappling with the problem of poverty and inequality for decades. According to the World Poverty Clock, Nigeria is the world's poverty capital, with about 105 million people living in extreme poverty as of October 2020. This means that more than half of the country's population survives on less than $1 per day. The poverty situation is worsened by the high rate of unemployment, which stood at 33.3% as of December 2020.
In addition to the economic challenges, Nigeria also faces security threats from various sources, such as the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, the banditry and kidnapping in the northwest, the farmer-herder clashes in the middle belt, oil theft in the Niger-delta and the separatist agitation in the southeast. These conflicts have claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions of people from their homes.
Furthermore, Nigeria suffers from poor infrastructure and lack of basic amenities, such as electricity, water, roads, and health care. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria's health system is ranked 187th out of 191 countries in terms of overall performance. The country has one of the lowest ratios of doctors to patients in the world, with about four doctors per 10,000 people. The country also has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world, with about 800 women dying from pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births and about 120 children dying before their fifth birthday per 1,000 live births.
Given these grim realities, it is hard to find any reason to celebrate Nigeria's independence anniversary. The country has failed to live up to its potential and aspirations as the giant of Africa and a leader in the continent. The country has also failed to deliver on its social contract with its citizens, who have been denied their basic rights and dignity.
Therefore, as Nigeria marks its 63rd year as a sovereign nation, it is time for its leaders and citizens to reflect on the past mistakes and failures and chart a new course for the future. It is time for Nigeria to embrace good governance, accountability, transparency, rule of law, and respect for human rights and shun all forms of electoral malpractices especially the type we saw in just concluded general election. It is time for Nigeria to invest in its human capital, infrastructure, security, and social welfare. It is time for Nigeria to unite and work together for a common goal of peace and prosperity. It is time for Nigeria to rise from its ashes and reclaim its glory and assert herself in the committee of nations.
Obinna Nnajiuba Agbogidi
Is a public policy analyst and hold an MSc in Public Administration