So, should Nigeria celebrate at 100 years or not? A good number of Nigerians will be quick to say that due to the multitude of challenges we are facing and the missed opportunities at greatness, there is nothing to celebrate about Nigeria at this time. I however will be on the side of those who believe that Nigeria has some good reasons to celebrate but beyond marking the milestone age of 100, we ought to seize the moment to redirect ourselves towards the straight and narrow path of true greatness in many facets of human endeavour.
It is on this basis that I find the theme of the celebrations weak and typically pedestrian. “One Nigeria, Great Promise” is not offering anything new to Nigerian stakeholders. For one, we are already one nation, we have been that way since January 14, 1914. We have survived a civil war and also survived so many assaults that have threatened the well-being, progress and unity of the nation-brand, the most menacing being the hydra-headed monstrosity called corruption. One Nigeria, great promise will have been ideal when the country had just been created. By now promises ought to have been delivered.
Part of the justification given by government for celebrations is that “Nigeria has over 24 million pupils in primary schools, over 6 million in secondary schools and over one million in tertiary institutions. This figure of 31 million of Nigeria’s school population is larger than the population of several countries. While this does not represent 100% enrolment at these levels but taken together they represent major investments in human capacity development” In other words we are investing in human capital development. This is the crux of the matter. Often times we seem to place undue emphasis on our number as if that in itself is an achievement. We should keep an eye on quality as we prop up our quantitative advantage. I believe it is not too late to add an element to the centenary campaign that will promote excellence in Nigeria.
I had in a previous edition proposed the Be The Best (BTB) campaign. We can use this centenary milestone as a foundation for enthroning a revolution on excellence. This is because the greatest legacy a nation can bequeath its citizens is providing the opportunities and support infrastructure to bring out the best in them and reward system that makes it possible for them to proudly display their intellectual and creative prowess anywhere in the world. There is no reason why we should not have the Nigerian car, Nigeria boats even Nigerian-made aircrafts by now. This can only happen if Nigerians are challenged, motivated and recognized by their leaders. The centenary celebrations should open our eyes to these possibilities.
NO BUDGET FOR CELEBRATIONS?
According to Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, Secretary to the government of the federation, the federal government conceived the centenary project as a Private Sector Driven Initiative, anchored on three main pillars: Enduring Legacy Projects; The Commemorative Events as well as The History and Heritage Programme. While private-sector participation is crucial to a successful execution of the celebration project, it is curious that the federal government is not spending a kobo to finance the project. Is it really possible? Who has been paying for the many stakeholder sessions that have been organized so far?
What about the physical legacy projects being proposed, the revamping of the universities and sports structures across the 6 geo-political zones. It is my humble submission that the executive should honestly approach the national Assembly with a government-side budget for consideration and approval. Government must spend money and indeed has been spending albeit under different sub-heads.