Charting Nigeria’s Future: Learning From History to Forge a New Path

An African adage says we must look at where we are coming from in order to get to where we are going. This means that to chart a successful course, we must learn from history.

This is the case of Nigeria today. Myriads of problems confronting Nigeria and subsequent governments either sincere or not have tried to protect solutions but every succeeding government looks worse than the previous because many would rather prefer to do nothing about history.

The 1966 military coup led by Major Kaduna Neogwu and his team began the contemporary problem of Nigeria. Many lost their lives unjustly but the problems they thought of solving only took a new turn.

It would be recalled that the coup didn’t succeed and the most senior officer, Major General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi took over power.

Instead of Ironsi restoring order to status quo, he would rather proclaim the infamous Decree 34 that destroyed the federation structure of Nigeria as aided by Ben Nwabueze who later became a professor. Nwabueze passed on recently outliving Ironsi for over five decades. It was he who saw the decadence the Decree 34 broght to Nigeria.

Then came a young man, Col. Yakubu Gowon who took over from Ironsi anger the counter coup by northern elements in July of 1966, same year Ironsi became the head of state.

It was a tale of one mistake after the other. Gowon didn’t restore the nation to the pre January 15, 1966 arrangements but kept postponing the return of power to the civilians who had fought for the independence the nation got from the British rule in 1960.

It was Gowon who said during the glorious days of the Nigerian economy that the problem was not money but how to spend it. His statement would re-echoe for many more decades to come.

Obviously Gowon did not think ahead, he never envisiage a 2024 when a US Dollar would trade for N1,500.

Subsequent governments as well never thought of a tomorrow when Nigerians would become beggars in the streets for lack of food, so nobody prepared for the rainy days as such.

Every sector you look at in Nigeria today, you will see a parallel of Congo, a country with only five graduates in 1960.

The Tinubu presidency should come up with a solution to years of disaster and restructure this polity.

Let the states have certain control, reduce the burden of the center as it was in the first Republic before the 1966 coup.

The first Republic by all indices was and is still the Nigerian golden era.

This centrist presidency where the president is an imperial like the Kremlin in Russia will not work in Nigeria

Nigeria and Congo Democratic formerly Ziare, got independence at the same time in 1960 but Congo had five university graduates then, showing a sharp contracts in development while Nigeria was a modest nation even becoming a medium world power by 1970s, all that changed with Shehu Shagari’s administration of 1979/83 and by 1985, General Ibrahim Babangida with his brand of ‘everything goes’, murdered sleep in Nigeria. Since then, it had been one slumping upon another.

Chief Ernest Shonekan headed the National Interim Government after Babangida was forced out and his ING was an illegitimate rule that opened the doors for the murderous Abacha government that would ruin the system for another five years before death struck in his palatial residence of the Head of State.

Major General Abdulsalami Abubakar succeeded him and returned the country to civil rule after 15 years but several billions of Naira already missed within his short reign. This is the history of the Nigerian government that failed to prepare for the rainy days we are now in.


Then came civilian president Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight years of messianic regression. Sanity seemed to returned as Obasanjo, a military rule of three years between 1976 and 1979 sure was no rookie. He seemed to have benefited from karma as it was he who returned Nigeria to democracy after 13 years of military rule of abuse of democracy.

He left the scene after seeing a debt forgiveness from Nigeria’s creditors, he like in 1979 had a foresight and left a stabilised country and sought for a successor in the younger brother of a bosom friend and contemporary, the late Major General Yar’Adua.

Younger Yar’Adua was governor of North Western Katsina State for two terms while Obasanjo was president so he could vouch for a prudent Fulani man who would continue from where he stopped but after two years, Yar’Adua succumbed to untimely death leaving the scene for his deputy, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

Apparently not prepared for such a big shoe, he was termed ‘clueless’ and still, Nigeria failed under him to prepare for the years ahead to witness an economic upheaval.

The Buhari presidency however seemed worse than the clueless era of Jonathan as each incoming administration seems more clueless than the previous.

Such is the agitation of the nine month old Tinubu administration that came in with such hope despite the economic landmines left by predecessor government in terms of petrol subsidy removal.

The new govement now resembles a transition to hades without any proof of light. It is clear something is wrong with Nigeria even from the beginning when the British left a fractured country which the first Republic politicians used to cause problems which caused the country a. lot.

For Nigeria not to continue to go to the abyss, the current federal structure needs to be changed. It is obviously inefficient, corrupt and it is taking everything down with. The US Dollar that exchanged for N1 to $3 in 1978, today is N1,500 to a US Dollar.

In the education sector, the universities are glorified secondary schools, the health sector is a slaughter house where it is affordable, only the few rich can afford. Unproven alternative medicine has led to many untimely death.

The other sectors are the same and Nigeria and Congo Democratic are now competing for among the other third world nations.

How come a nation with many graduates and one with just five in 1960 are now in same league of underdevelopment?

The failure of the elites of the one with many graduates in 1960 is messed by massive corruption and the anti corruption agencies now need policing.

The way forward is to reduce cost of governance, streamline the beauracy, the elites must have a change of mindset, then the country can turn around. This is the answer and not this opiums of insincere palliatives.

The current government must show seriousness in methods that can return the country on the right track away from the bush in which the journey is on the reverse gear.

Addressing issues raised can work only when the political elites do the right thing or else these faults line will show up in many areas and it might be a situation of ‘to your tent o Israel’ or another 100 years of this British enterprise might not work.

Kayode Akinrimisi is a journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria.

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