It is, indeed, true that some of the greatest nations in the world are multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious and you can name such countries to include the USA, India, Singapore, Taiwan, e.t.c. and the reasons are simple: united people working together are more likely to be economically successful.
Rightly so, this is the view of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, which he aired when he welcomed to the Presidential Villa, a delegation from the Arewa Concerned People for National Unity and Religious Tolerance from Kano, led by Alhaji Auwal Maidabino and Prince Usman Ado-Bayero .
“The greatest nations in the world are multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-ethnic. Some of these things are as important as the economy and security…. for the reason that a united people,” he said, “people who see themselves as one, are more likely to be economically successful, more likely to be able to secure themselves and secure their borders and more likely to work together for the goodness and greatness of their people.”
However, why is Nigeria, a country so blessed with a huge population of about 200 million, blessed with about 300 ethnic groups and multiple numbers of religions so deeply divided along religion, ethnic and other primordial schisms? A country with the quality and quantity of human resources that Nigeria is endowed with should, by no means, be beset by its current level of acrimony and underdevelopment.
This ugly situation only points to the fact that there are certain fundamental issues that the country has neglected to deal with and, luckily, they are those now identified by Osinbajo which Nigeria must address to move forward.
Whether it is selfishness, materialism, poverty or nepotism among other vices that conspire to breed and perpetuate evils like corruption, ethnic rivalries and violence that have now become part of our reality, the failure of the leaders of this country to build a country hinged on social justice can justifiably be said to be at the root of our current problems.
Also, the non-creation of the right social and political environment where a reasonable amount of democracy can flourish, the entrenchment of the concentration of power in the hands of few individuals and cliques, the perpetuation of a winner-takes-all style of politics, lack of a clear code of guidance binding public officials to commit to prioritising the welfare of the people, lack of proper criteria for the operation of political parties to build them into genuinely national parties, lack of concrete proposal to help the people overcome the elite-generated problem of ethnic, sectional and religious suspicion, rivalry and antagonism and lack of direction on how to free Nigerians from all forms of domination among other evitable shortcomings, coupled to underdeveloped Nigeria.
Of course, our country will be greater if every Nigerian has equal rights, the same law governs the poor and the rich, everyone can optimise their essence, everyone who merits is given the pride of place, quality education and healthcare are within the reach of every citizen, every people from all ethnic groups are free to actualise themselves anywhere they find themselves in the country and every part of the country is treated as the other, regardless of where the leader comes from.
No doubt, the failure of previous administrations to drive Nigeria towards this course of social justice and inclusion greatly informs our current state of underdevelopment.
The inability of previous leadership to steer Nigeria rightly, patriotically and purposefully was highlighted by Osinbajo when he told the delegation that “it is the duty of the leadership, not just political leadership, but also the leadership of social groups and organisations such as yours, to ensure that we are focused on these issues of unity.”
According to Osinbajo, religious tolerance and unity is a matter that goes beyond mere advocacy. “I believe, very strongly, that the greatness of nations, wherever those nations may be, have always been on account of leaders who thought it fit to build those nations based on unity and tolerance. “I think that it is such an important issue that we cannot afford to discount it,” he said.
Therefore, as a country and people, especially leaders, we should pay more attention to the issues of nation-building in whatever way we can, in order to eliminate the many threats to the unity of our country, without which Nigeria cannot prosper and develop.
Until the needful actions are taken by our leaders, we will continue to lament over the lack of political will to do the right thing by the political leadership to save the country from floundering in the sea of confusion and tottering the precipice of ethnic division.
No doubt, another hurdle to realising national integration in Nigeria is the existence of weak institutions of the state. It seems these institutions are kept weak to feather the political and economic fortunes of the leaders.
In Nigeria, today, as many say, it is criminal to be honest, and honest to be criminal. Such weak, embryonic, sterile, insensitive and amoral characteristics of state institutions have further tilted Nigeria to the precipice.
Essentially, lack of fairness, justice and equity in the country concerning resource allocation and distribution, power-sharing, enjoyment of fundamental human rights and punishment of criminals who hide under political umbrellas or bunkers created by the leaders takes the country backwards about national cohesion.
For NSIA, like health, other sectors need investment
Penultimate week, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) disclosed its intention to spend over $200 million on projects in the country’s health sector.
To better address some of the unique challenges of oil-dependent economies, a growing number of resource-rich developing nations have established what is largely known as the Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF), specifically Natural Resource Funds (NRF), to help stabilise their budgets in the face of instability in the global oil market and to foster prudent current and future investments of oil windfalls.
Since international oil prices fluctuate erratically, oil proceeds are a volatile source of government revenue.
The Managing Director of the NSIA, Mr Uche Orji, told State House correspondents that over $200 million would be raised in collaboration with some interested investors to do something unique this year.
The NSIA boss, at least for now, said the NSIA has been able to do three major things in the health sector through its Healthcare Investment Company. “There are three things we have done in healthcare,” he said. “First of all, has a Healthcare Investment Company, through which we initially wanted to tackle all the challenges in the health sector but we realised that if you take it all at once, you are probably not going to succeed.”
The NSIA, he said, can sponsor, co-develop and or just invest in some companies that already have existing infrastructure.
For Nigerians, however, irrespective of the options available to the NSIA, what matters is for the leadership to work to put the country on the path of true development and address the country’s rampant public corruption, protracted political instability in the oil-rich Niger Delta, weak democratic consolidation and widespread poverty.
The majority of the population subsists in endemic poverty, with no electricity, poor roads and few basic services. The oil-rich Niger Delta is not only overflowing with natural resources but in poverty, misery and ecological degradation.
The average Niger Deltan has a 25 percent chance of dying before age 40; the region has appalling literacy rates, severely limited access to healthcare, dilapidated educational facilities and rampant unemployment. The same conditions are rampant in other parts of the country.