Nigeria’s 61st independence anniversary is worth celebrating – Northeast residents

As Nigeria marks its 61st independence anniversary, some residents of the Northeast hold diverse views as to whether or not there is any cause for celebration.

A cross section of the residents, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in seperate interviews in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe and Yobe States, differed in their views as to how far the country has come since independence on Oct. 1, 1960.

From politics to economy, security, education, healthcare and infrastructure, many citizens expressed joy that the country has lived up to the dreams of its founding fathers at the dawn of independence in 1960.

However, some of the residents expressed reservations over the social, economic and security challenges including poverty, unemployment, insurgency, kidnapping and violent clashes in parts of the country.

Mr Rambi Ayala, a member of the Gombe State House of Assembly, said that Nigeria had achieved appreciable level of progress despite the social and economic challenges.

Ayala said that even though the aspiration of the country in view of its huge potentials had not been met, “Nigerians should be grateful to God that we remain one nation.

“We should have been much further in our journey; looking at the nature of Nigeria we appreciate the fact that with all our differences we are still gradually moving on and blending together,’’ Langa said.

To buttress Langa, Mr Ahmadu Umar, Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD), Borno State Chapter, said that the 61st Independence Day is worth celebrating in spite of security, economic and social challenges bedeviling the country.

Umar said that the PWDs had experienced positive changes in the past six decades in view of the current democratic dispensation which availed them opportunity for their inclusion in the scheme of things.

“Now we are being invited to stakeholders meeting by government when there is any issue that needed public opinion. 

“Political parties also take measures to encourage persons with disabilities to participate in politics.

“There is also the Disability Act that has been passed into law, to give us a sense of belonging, we look foward to its full implementation,” he said.

According to him, the current economic hardship is not peculiar to Nigeria, adding that what is needed at such critical moment is for leaders and followers to show more patriotism by putting selfish interests aside and work for a united and prosperous Nigeria.

Mr Haruna Mustafa, an Internally Displaced Person (IDP), in Gwoza, Borno State, said the successes recorded by the Nigerian military in the campaign against Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgency was worth celebrating.

Umar said that the insurgency in the Northeast caused loss of lives and wide scale destruction of property which threatened the corporate and territorial integrity of the country.

He said that the Nigerian state succeeded in decimating the insurgents, restored peace and civil authority as well as resettlement of displaced persons. 

“We are happy and hopeful that security is improving as such many people are going back to their ancestral homes, they are engaging in farming and other productive activities. By the grace of God things will improve.

“We pray God to help the government of Nigeria, to provide security and enabling environment for us to recover,” Mustafa said.

For Umar Bindir, National Coordinator, Social Investment Programme (NSIP), in Adamawa, Nigerians have  lots to celebrate for the independence Day in view of the giant strides made in the areas of poverty reduction, empowerment and infrastructure development across the country.

Bindir said that President Muhammadu Buhari led-administration had initiated viable programmes aimed at improving the social and economic wellbeing of millions of youths and women in the country.

He said that thousands of vunerable and poor households in Adamawa benefited from the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme in the past five years.

“About 28,503 vulnerable and poor households across the 21 local government areas of the state are currently receiving monthly stipend of N5,000 each, under the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT).

“Also 38,827 beneficiaries received soft loans under the FG’s Entrepreneurship Empowerment Programme (EEP).

“While the N-Power Programme, about 11,324 youths in the state benefitted from 2017 to 2020,” Bindir said.

On the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), otherwise called school feeding programme, he said that the FG spent over ₦2 billion in Adamawa since inception in 2016.

According to him, some 1,286 schools, 162,782 children and 2,417 cooks/vendors are under the programme in the state.

Nigeria has also made significant progress in health, education and road infrastructure development in the part 60 years of independence, according to Dr Ibrahim Jada and Salihu Abubakar.

Jada, Coordinator, Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) in Adamawa, said that many tertiary, secondary and primary health facilities were established in the past 60 years, to enhance access to quality healthcare service delivery across the country.

He said that the feat achieved in health sector was enough for the people in Adamawa to rejoice and celebrate the Nigeria’s independence.

“Under the SDG programme the FG built four cottage hospitals in Gerei, Fufore, Yola South and and Hong Local  Government Areas of Adamawa as well as the rehabilitation of the Specialists Hospital, Yola.

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“The facilities are equipped with standard laboratories equipment such as MRI, and new doctors quarters constructed,”Jada said.

In his comment, Abubakar, the Federal Controller of Works, Adamawa, listed Numan-Cham road, Mayo Belwa-Jada-Ganye-Toungo highway, and Yola -Mubi as some of the road projects being executed in the state.

Also, Muhammad Aminu, a resident of Bauchi, said the Kano-Maiduguri and Jos-Bauchi-Maiduguri standard gauge projects initiated by the Buhari administration would enhance rail transportation as well as fast track sustainable social and economic development of the country.

On education, Dr Hassan Langa, Provost, College of Education, Billiri, Gombe State, said that even though Nigeria has not made progress as much as expected, there were areas that the country recorded progress.

Langa said that at the time of independence; there were few number of schools and higher institutions of learning, number of infrastructure, administrative officers and graduates.

The country, he said, at present has gone far in agriculture, education, ICT and human capital development.

Langa, however, said that the progress was not commensurate with those of our sister countriesc like Singapore and United Arab Emirate amongst others.

 “If you check our counterparts in other countries that is where you will realise that we are not on the same level with them. We have been left behind.

“Take for instance Dubai, they came to Nigeria in the 70s for loan and today Dubai is a special centre in the world.

“They have the best airport, tallest buildings, hotels and largest shopping malls and tourist centres.

“Singapore collected palm oil seeds from Nigeria and today they have the leading palm oil producing companies in the world.’’

The provost blamed insecurity, nepotism, ethnicity as some of the challenges bedevilling the nation, adding that if these issues were addressed and good governance entrenched, “we are a potential world power.’’

Mr Ibrahim Baba, a Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Bauchi State University, who corroborated earlier opinion, said Nigeria was still trying to find her feet to be stronger in all spheres of life.

According to him, Nigeria started well as a country because the founding fathers who fought for independence had a vision of one strong, united country.

He said that their vision was tailored towards building a united Nigeria with no racial, tribal, cultural or religious boundaries.

“After 61 years, Nigeria is still behaving like a toddler who is trying to crawl and looking for something to lean on in order to be able to stand.

“That is the situation we find ourselves now,” he said.

On his part, Mr Olubumi Adetoye, a retiree, urged Nigerians and leaders to work collectively towards a stronger and prosperous country.

Adetoye said that things were getting more difficult for the people, goods and services were being sold at extortionate prices due to inflation and unstable economic policies.

“I appeal to political leaders to do the needful. The reason why people are elected into the government is to make life more meaningful for the masses.

“This is our country,  we don’t have any other country to call ours. We are one, we will forever be one and I still wish the country well and I wish Nigeria a happy 61st anniversary,” Adetoye said.

More so, Dr Ali Abbas, a former Head of Department, Political Science, Yobe State University, called for stronger political commitment at all levels of government, to address security challenges in the country.

Abbas, who is also an expert on Peace and Conflict Studies, identified  lack of access to social and economic opportunities, injustice, corruption, inequality and climate change as the bane to effective security in the country.

He listed other factors to include religious issues, minority and majority crisis, settler and indigene problem and power struggle among others

“Effects of climate change forced pastoralists to move from the north to the southern part of the country in search of greener pasture.

“This has not been quite smooth because of the incursion on farmlands by the pastoralists,” he said.

To address the problem, he stressed the need for government at all levels to prioritise development of social and  economic infrastructure, encourage private sector investment in agriculture, education and healthcare services in the country..

“When there is justice, fairness and equity, and if every citizen is treated equally and fairly, there will be no reason whatsoever to feel superiority or inferiority.

“People need to be treated equally irrespective of their religion, political affiliation, ethnic group or where they come from.

“Access to power or contest for a political position should be based on merit not sentiments.” he said. (NAN)

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