By all accounts, Nigerians have every reason to roll out the drums to celebrate the nation’s centenary celebration on January 1, 2014 in spite of the myriad challenges facing the country’s development.
Historically, the idea of one Nigeria was conceived on January 1, 1914 when Lord Frederick Lugard, the first Governor-General of Nigeria, proclaimed the amalgamation of the Protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria.
Available literature revealed the name “Nigeria’’ was suggested by Miss Flora Shaw.
The name “Nigeria’’, according to the literature, first appeared in The Times of London on January 8, 1897 in an essay written by Miss Flora Shaw, who later became the wife of Lord Lugard.
However, 100 years down the line, observers believe that significant progress had been made to keep the country together as one indivisible sovereign entity in spite of all odds.
This, perhaps, explains why President Goodluck Jonathan has always expressed confidence that Nigeria would continue to wax stronger and become more united despite the nation-building challenges.
To further strengthen his optimism, the president declared that the country’s amalgamation by Lord Lugard in 1914 was not an accident.
Jonathan said that the amalgamation was an act of God, designed to bring together the nation’s diversity for positive purpose.
“As we look up to our centenary celebration, there are quite a number of questions people ask themselves.
“People often ask: Maybe, Lord Lugard made a mistake to amalgamate the northern and southern parts of the country.
“This informed why some talk about sovereign national conference and so on and so forth.
“But those of us who are Christians know that God does not make mistake. God has a reason for Lord Lugard to amalgamate the northern and southern parts of this country.
“So, those people who are trying to exploit our diversity to create problems for us as a nation will surely not succeed. The challenges we are seeing now are very transient; we will surely get over them,’’ he said.
While conceding that Nigeria had faced some challenges, Jonathan stressed that amalgamation of the country was ordained by God.
“If God didn’t will it at that point, the North and South would not have come together; the details of the North and South coming together make Nigeria a very great country.
“I use to say that Nigeria is great not because of oil; we have countries that produce more oil than Nigeria but nobody talks about them.
“We have countries that have billions of dollars in reserves and nobody talks about them. But the biggest to the smallest country talks about Nigeria.
“Why? They talk about us because of the diversity from the North to the South, our human and natural resources, the potential and the population that we have.
“So, Nigeria is a country that has a special blessing from God. It is left for us to appreciate God and continue to pray for God’s intervention and this country will continue to be great,’’ he said.
While acknowledging the challenges that have impeded the country’s development, Jonathan raised the hope of the future generations of Nigerians, assuring them that his administration was striving hard to make the country better.
“I promise our children that we are totally committed to making sure that they meet a different Nigeria.
“We will collectively work hard to overcome these barriers, these feelings of `oh, I am Christian, I am a Muslim, I am Hausa, I am Ijaw’.
“Immediately we cross that barrier, we begin to believe that we are all Nigerians and we are committed to the development of this country; our children will surely meet a better Nigeria.
“That is the type of Nigeria we want to create, a Nigeria where you can get what you want if you work hard; it’s not because you know somebody who knows somebody that will talk to somebody.
“We want a Nigeria where our children, if they work hard, will get whatever they want, just like in other free societies like America and so on,’’ the president said.
A frontline politician, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, echoes Jonathan’s optimism, stressing that Nigeria at 100 was worth celebrating.
He, however, underscored the need for the nation to address all the negative tendencies undermining its development.
That notwithstanding, Musa stressed that in spite of its problems, Nigeria has great potential for growth.
“In spite of the problems, 100 years of Nigeria’s existence is worth celebrating.
“This is because it would have been a different story and most likely, a pathetic story if Nigeria had not become one.
“As one country, Nigeria is not only big in territory but it is also a very prosperous country, taking into account its human and material resources.
“We have problems, no doubt, but all other countries in the world have their developmental challenges too,’’ he said.
Musa, a former governor of the old Kaduna State during the Second Republic, said that there must be conscious changes in Nigeria’s socio-economic and political system for the nation to overcome its problems.
“There is the need to change the socio-economic and political system controlling all developments in the country, so as to make it people-centred, while engendering patriotism.
“Presently, the political leadership produced by this system is based on self-interest, not national or in the people’s interest.
“That is directly responsible for the negative state of the nation.
“It is particularly responsible for the disabling level of corruption, stealing and criminal waste of resources, as well as insecurity, unemployment and inadequate level of educational development,’’ he said
Musa said that the negative tendencies retarding Nigeria’s growth could be effectively reversed via leadership re-orientation and patriotism.
He said that part of the re-orientation must involve the encouragement of the country’s leaders to use its enormous resources to spur wealth-creation and economic growth.
He, nonetheless, underscored the need for country to give priority to the issues of security and employment generation, saying they were vital to efforts to promote the nation’s stability and economic prosperity.
“These measures will address current concerns by all sections of the country regarding whether Nigeria should continue to exist as one nation,’’ he added.
Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Emeka Wogu, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, emphasised that Nigerians had every cause to celebrate the nation’s centenary.
He said that the nation’s economic potential and human capital were too great to ignore.
“It is because of the size of our domestic market and enormous natural resources that many global economists predicted that Nigeria’s economy is on track to become the largest economy in Africa within the next decade,’’ he said.
Wogu stressed that Nigeria was not a miscalculation, saying that the challenges facing the country were inevitable in the development process of any nation.
“So, it is essentially important that we should know there is no country like Nigeria. We should think Nigeria and be proud of Nigeria.
“This argument is premised on the fact that every society is built on its thought process. If we cannot celebrate Nigeria; then, it means we are not proud of Nigeria.
“We must use the occasion of our centenary celebration to affirm to ourselves that Nigeria is not an accident,’’ he said.
Nevertheless, some analysts urge the country’s politicians to use the upcoming centenary celebrations as an avenue to emphasise the common things that unite the country, rather than fanning the embers of disunity.
Alhaji Yahaya Ndu, the initiator of Peoples Movement for a New Nigeria (PMNN), a political association, is one of the advocates of such collaboration among the politicians.
He, however, said that tangible efforts should be made to tackle some of the challenges facing Nigeria so as to make the country great.
“What is paramount at this stage is to bring about a mass participatory system of governance geared towards re-inventing Nigeria and providing solutions to the problems confronting this nation.
“This should be our focus in 2014, especially as we as celebrate the centenary of our nationhood.
“This is a clear opportunity for us to come together and re-invent Nigeria; all political parties in Nigeria should team up together for the task ahead,’’ he added.
Analysts, however, harp on the need for the evolution of purposeful leadership so as to consolidate the gains of the country’s centenary celebration.
They insist that Nigeria must begin to think seriously about how to reduce its dependency on foreign loans; while moving from a mono-product economy to a diversified economy.
As a first step, they urge Nigerian leaders to promote the national interests, while jettisoning egocentric political, sectional and economic interests in all nation-building efforts.
Culled from News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)