By Suleiman Yakubu

“Nigeria go survive”, is the title of a song by Ese Agesse, a Nigerian musician. It was a song that makes many to lose their heads in those days. For me, it is a prophecy that we are still living after 57 years of independence. Do you ever wonder why the musician did not say, “Nigeria go better?” The lady herself may not be able to say, but I will tell you. The reason is that our nation is always trying to survive. It is unfortunate that survival seems to be our ultimate destination as a nation. We have been trying to survive politically and economically for too long that we no longer seem to know otherwise. Wherever you find him, home or abroad, the story of the average Nigerian is that of survival. It is okay to survive but it is not enough. How about the good life? When will we start experiencing the good life?

It is not as if we do not have the opportunity to be truly great. Just after independence, we were blessed with abundant agricultural products to sustain us. We even had enough cash crops, such as cocoa to earn us enough foreign exchange. Shortly afterwards, in the same 60s, we witnessed the oil boom. What did we do with it? We dished out salary increases and bonuses to civil servants. We also indulged in ‘white elephant’ projects instead of infrastructural developments, which would have placed our economy at par with those of other nations where oil was discovered at the same period. The civil war and hosting of FESTAC were also costly mistakes which ensured that we could not dream beyond survival.

We always take pride instead of shame in recounting how blessed we are. True, ours is also a land flowing with ‘milk and honey’. We can do well and even attain development through agriculture. We do have very large arable land areas which are conducive for growing many economic crops. I do not want to disturb you with statistics, but the sad story is that, despite the efforts of this present administration at reviving agriculture, we still largely practice subsistence farming; and worse still, import some of the food we eat. Only a few farms owned by a pocket of wealthy individuals around the nation are sufficiently mechanized.

Tourism is another sector which should be a goldmine. We have substantial number of tourists sites scattered all over the country and yet untapped. While some African countries like Kenya and Gambia depend mainly on tourism, we cannot earn enough from it to even sustain the industry. And as one of the largest producers of petroleum in the world, we should automatically be among economically comfortable nations of the world, but it is not so. Instead, despite our astronomical earnings (in dollars) from the product over many decades, petroleum is, to some extent, a source of pain to us.

Lack of performance is the story of many sectors in Nigeria. Things just do not work here. Our doctors and engineers do well abroad, they are usually at the top of their game, but never seems to have focus if they remained in Nigeria. It is the same with other professionals, even our nurses are ‘hotcakes’ abroad, but those with the same training, who remain here seem to be lazy and incompetent. Something must be wrong with our system.

At the root of Nigeria’s problem is lack of patriotism, and we all, followers and leaders, are guilty of it. Most of us will rather ask what Nigeria can do for us, and not what we can do for her. We seem to be more concerned about the national cake than national cause. That is not the way to nation-building, for the blocks of building a great nation is often made of sacrifice, selflessness, and, sometimes, blood.

Perhaps, exasperated by the hopelessness of the situation, Prof. Wole Soyinka once concluded that ours is a wasted generation; and he was unfortunately not far from right. Bedeviled by massive acts of corruption, poor policy implementation, and a string of bad leaders, our progress has been very slow. Since independence, the pattern of our movement could be described as a step forward and two backwards.

The present Buhari Administration has managed to create a stable environment for starting afresh especially now that we are officially out of recession. Although the present anticorruption crusade has been bedeviled by many controversies, some see it as witch-hunt; it is still a very strong foundation to be built upon. I am convinced that if we do not relent, we will soon reap its dividends.

It is indeed high time we moved ahead, needless to say, but the masses are tired of living in abject poverty. It is surely not enough to just survive. I am very sure that God has not placed so many resources in our hands for nothing. As the most populous country in Africa and the highest concentration of the black race, we should take our pride of place. It is easy to see that wastage and lack of commitment to the Nigerian project are the reasons why our standard of living has not improved. There is surely the need for a change of orientation now if we must have the good life and not just an existence of mere survival.