By Egbe Attah
As Nigerians rolled out the drums to commemorate the nation’s independence anniversary on Sunday the 1st of October, a cross -section of Benue residents spoke with The Voice in Otukpo, assessing the nation at 63.
Speaking on the matter, an elder statesman and commentator on public affairs, Chief Stephen Obeya, congratulated Nigeria on attaining the age of 63 as an independent nation and for the modest achievements she has made over the years.
“We must appreciate the nation’s founding leaders for their efforts in freeing Nigeria from the yoke of colonialism and for keeping us together till day despite challenges that confronted us in the course of our political journey”, he stated.
Chief Obeya, said notwithstanding that, Nigeria still has a lot do in the areas of politics, security, education and economy and expressed hope that with the determination of all her citizens she could get them right and become the great and prosperous nation we all dream of.
Chief Otse Otokpa, a veteran journalist and frontline politician, had this to say: “At 63, Nigeria has made substantial progress in her development, though not without challenges, usually associated with multi-ethnic countries.
The polity is a bit stable because there has been successive democratic governance. But the plethora of election litigations are dents on the electoral process. Security is a big challenge that is almost assuming an uncontrollable dimension. The economy is picking up except that the average citizen is not benefitting from it. The issue of removal of fuel subsidy is not really a bad policy on macro economic terms, but government could have put necessary palliatives in place to cushion the effect before embarking on the programme.”
For Comrade Godwin Agbo, chairman, Parent – Teacher -Association, Benue State chapter, Nigeria at the age of 63 has come of age.
He noted that even though the nation is not where it ought to be in terms of development, it has not fared badly.
He called for consented efforts to put the nation on the part of greatness, pointing out that, the education sector should be given adequate attention.
According to Chief Elaigwu Abutu, General Manager, Brothers FM, Makurdi, Benue State, “63 is a matured age for any country to know the good direction to follow without being guided by a walking stick, but Nigeria’s case is regrettably different.
The leadership is the main problem, with most of them playing ethnic, regional, religious and family politics above national interest. They need to get it right . Leadership is not is distribution of palliatives but providing tools to produce the palliatives, it’s not provision of technology but enhancing research to fabricate and creating technology, it is about having the political will to increase high budget allocations to education, agric, science and technology, ICT…”
Also speaking, the Methodist Bishop of Apa Diocese, Benue State, the Right Rev Daniel Agbese, said that at 63, Nigeria has come of age and is supposed to learn from her past mistakes and make amends.
He pointed out that it was for her failure do to that, that Nigeria today remains underdeveloped.
“Although we may not have reached our desired goal but, does not suggest that the doors to peace, growth and development have been shot against us.
The fact that we still remain one and indivisible Nation, calls for celebration, and points to the fact that there is still light at the end of the tunnel.”, the cleric maintained.
In the opinion of a civil servant Ene Yusuf, Nigeria is still crawling at 63, grappling with economic difficulties.
In her words :”The current fuel subsidy removal has contributed to the suffering of the people as the cost and prices of goods and services have menacingly skyrocketed beyond expectations. Our social system is in a total state of comatose just like the security situation which is in quandary. Regularly, there are bizarre cases of untamed kidnappings, armed robbery, banditry, terrorism and insurgency in the country. This is a testament to the fact that the difference between residing in Nigeria and the wild is very slim. In short, there is nothing to be celebrated by Nigeria at 63.”
A security expert and commander, Benue State Community Volunteer Guards, Williams Agada, observed that the country has come a long way, having spent 63 years as a sovereign nation.
He, however, lamented that the different tribes in the country which been together for long are still learning to live together in peace.
He maintained that the incidences of insecurity, ethnic and religious agitations such as Boko Haram, indigenous People of Biafra, Niger Delta militancy and other forms of banditry are indicatives of such fallout.
Agada, reasoned that the fact that Nigeria remains an invisible entity in spite of the numerous problems afflicting her, calls for celebration, even as he thanked Nigeria’s founding fathers for the making of independent Nigeria.
In the assessment of a young graduate, Rachael Ugwuanyi, “the country since 1960 till 2023 has made giant strides in the economic, political and social spheres.
She, however, decried that Nigeria at 63 is plagued with high rate of unemployment, poverty, widespread corruption, insecurity among other vices worse than she was at independence and called for attitudinal change.
All others who spoke including Edward Aki, Ibrahim Abu, commended Nigeria for her strides at 63, but, stressed that she needs to do more to become the true giant of Africa she is taunted to be.