Nigeria celebrates its 58th anniversary as an independent nation today.
October 1, 1960 saw the exit of British rulers after close to a century of colonialism, followed by wild jubilations across the length and breadth of the country.
The day held high hopes for Nigerians as their collective destiny was thrust into their hands.
Despite the fact that there was a grave threat to our corporate existence seven years into nationhood, resulting in a bitterly fought 30-month civil war, Nigeria made some great strides in all spheres of human endeavour a few years after independence.
Beneath the euphoria of self-government, however, is the worrisome question of leadership quality.
It is not an exaggeration that today, not a few Nigerians are regretting being born into the present generation led over the years by corrupt, selfish and parochial leaders.
It appears the British colonialists were more compassionate towards Nigerians than our leaders have been to their own people.
Those who looked forward to a prosperous Nigeria at independence must also be asking why we could not get it right close to six decades after.
The answer lies in failure of leadership and systemic corruption.
The cankerworm has been with us since independence.
The phenomenon of bribery (“ten per centers”) and corruption gave the military the reason for the overthrow of the First Republic in 1966.
Barefaced corruption was part of the excuses for the Murtala Mohammed coup in 1975.
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari also used corruption as an alibi to stage a coup against the Shagari regime in 1983.
The terrible monster has not only stuck to the nation’s foundation like a leech, it has also blossomed out of control with our leaders both military and civilian, individuals, public office holders and politicians stealing in billions and getting away with the heists.
Not even the two anti-graft agencies, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) put in place by the Obasanjo administration have been able to tame the monster or annihilate it.
Corruption and economic mismanagement have considerably slowed down the growth and development of this country.
More than half a century after independence, Nigeria is still lagging behind in all indices of human development.
Eighteen years into the 21st Century, Nigeria still cannot feed its populace from within and provide adequate electricity to drive its economy.
Unemployment has been on the rise with its concomitant consequences of violent crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping and above all, youth restiveness.
Security of lives and properties which is the primary responsibility of the government has been constantly under threat.
Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have been reduced to refugees in their own country as a result of the terror war in the North-east axis as well as the perennial farmer/herders’ conflicts in most parts of the country.
Besides the terror war, Nigerians have been subjected to ethno-religious violence and communal clashes.
While contending with these centrifugal forces, many nations that were on the same pedestal with Nigeria at independence have since achieved economic freedom.
India, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia and Singapore all have positive tales to tell.
They have advanced technologically and industrially.
Brazil’s equivalent of our Defence Industries Corporation (DIC) manufactures aircraft and all manner of weapons.
Today, that country is self-sufficient in all its military requirements.
Ours produces furniture! Nigeria has all it takes to move from the Third World to the First like Singapore.
But Singapore was fortunate to have a Lee Kuan Yew.
Nigeria has not been that blessed.
Rather, its development race has been bogged down by rudderless and corrupt leaders, worsened by a followership made up of parochial, tribalistic, ethnocentric characters and religious extremists.
More than three years after mounting the saddle, President Buhari has been pre-occupied with taming the corruption monster even as forces of disunity are pulling his administration in the opposite direction.
Many believe it is corruption fighting back.
Today, Nigerians are reeling in serious economic hardship.
There is despondency in the land.
Cost of living and services has shot through the roof, while many businesses have run aground or relocated to neighbouring countries with friendly economic climate.
That this year’s celebration is being marked shortly after a general strike by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the new minimum wage logjam was called off, speaks volume of our development as a nation.
The situation has paralysed socio-economic activities across the country.
Nigerian workers are not asking for too much.
Industrial disharmony has dogged our socio-economic life as a nation: no aspects have been spared.
At the root of all the strikes has been failure of successive administrations to honour their financial agreements with workers.
Had the enormous resources at our disposal been judiciously managed and distributed equitably over the years, paying N56,000 per month as minimum wage and other obligations to workers would have amounted to scooping the ocean with a teaspoon! But no thanks to profligacy which has become the hallmark of our leaders.
Most of them are so stupendously wealthy and corrupt that their collective loots in foreign currencies could outweigh the nation’s external savings.
Nevertheless, Blueprint wishes the nation a happy celebration.
We call on all Nigerians, who are at the receiving end of decades of bad governance, to reflect on their plight at this occasion and resolve to use their voting power to stop corrupt politic