TOMORROW, the first of October is not just a date in the calendar, it was a momentous day in 1960 when Nigeria, one of the United Kingdom’ s biggest colonies, pulled down the Union Jack and became independent.
It was a date with destiny with due acknowledgement to the “Tryst With Destiny “ speech made by Prime Minister Pandit Nehru to India’s constituent assembly on the eve of India’s independence in 1947.
India’s “Tryst” was born amidst carnage and slaughter caused by the granting of independence to Pakistan on the day before independence.
India has since seen great but uneven strides. A week ago, India in a twist of irony displaced Britain the former colonial overlord as the fifth largest economy in the world.
The jury is mixed on Nigeria. That a vast multinational diverse entity is still together is worthy of applause. It has sometimes been particularly dicey as in for example during the civil war which was a close-run thing.
However, mixed the evaluation of the jury, the country must now face the future. It has no alternative than to do so. With population growth figures outstripping economic growth rates, the future must be faced with strategic urgency.
Awash for a time with cash from crude oil sales in the seventies, Nigeria missed the opportunity to partake in the third industrial revolution by building the much needed Basic Industries, such as Iron and Steel, Machine Tools, Petrochemicals and so forth. It still has to do so while at the same time playing catch up by taking part in and trying to be relevant in the fourth industrial revolution of “the internet if all things”. It will be a delicate juggling balancing act but it must be done.
In playing catch up, Nigeria will be at the same wading off existential threats on a number of fronts.
The threats being waded off are as a result of the failure to resolve the issues pertaining to the conflict of the national groups usually referred to as “the national question”.
A transition from ‘a mere geographical expression ‘into real nationhood can only be built on the foundation of social cohesion which translates into fairness. There must be equity to achieve “peaceful coexistence in one country”. Greater sensitivity must be shown to minorities, the disadvantaged those left behind and the marginalised.
Going along with this, there must be fiscal stability in order to achieve social justice; a very painful lesson currently being learnt is that inflation is a punitive tax on the least protected sectors. Without macroeconomic stability, it will be hard to achieve the social cohesiveness so vitally needed for sustainable development.
We are nevertheless optimistic about a better future in which the exceptional, diverse talents of the Nigerian ingenuity will be harnessed for sustainable development, the attainment of ever-increasing standards of living as we move forward to a closer more harmonious union.
Happy anniversary to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.