2015: The change Nigerians need

“We promise that you will no more be ashamed to say that you are a Nigerian.”

– Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu


I have been an unrepentant advocate and commentator on the need for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) where all the stakeholders in Nigeria, will sit and decide the best way to live together in true peace, progress and prosperity as the only way of correcting the mistakes of 1914.
Since October 1, 1960, till now has been 55 years. Within this period, Nigeria and Nigerians have under gone too many changes under too many pseudo Messiahs, which unfortunately have had little to show in changing the lives of the common man. The greatest misfortune has been that 45 out of these 55 years of independence were variously messed up by one type of military or semi military dictatorship. Another tragedy of this same period is the growth in our commonwealth because of the geometric progression from our earnings from crude oil but which unfortunately brought about growth without developments.
The only known effect of the increase wealth from the black gold is the growth of the kleptomaniacs. Our commonwealth only made billionaires of few people who would have otherwise been humble fishermen and women; plank sellers and laborers in cocoa and groundnut farms. It has produced governors who are 100 times richer than the state they governed, and without corresponding developments in the economic, social and political lives of Nigerians.
The first noticeable change was that of January 15, 1966 when, came the voice of Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, one of the five young Majors that struck early that morning; announcing the change of the first post independent government through a military coup. The coup, the first in Nigeria failed but the broadcast by Nzeogwu in Kaduna provided some inkling into what was going on in the minds of the young military officers. Their aim was “to establish a strong united and prosperous nation, free from corruption and internal strife.”
After 50 years of many changes through coups, counter-coups, military rules and a painful wasteful but needless and avoidable civil war; after the coming and fading away of many messiahs; the primary needs of Nigerians as encapsulated in the aim of the January 15 revolution remain evergreen today. And most unfortunately and indeed agonisingly, a strong united and prosperous nation, free from corruption and internal strife remains a mirage.
The greatest negative change that the military coup of January 1966 brought was the overthrown of not only the Federal Government of Nigeria but also and most painfully the regional governments. Under the Republican Constitution of 1963, each region had a Republican status. I remember vividly that the Western Region had its own Coat of Arms, Constitution, bicameral legislature with powers to make law and order for good government. Any law passed in Lagos must have a concurrent approval in Ibadan before it was judicially enforceable.
This was the finest moment of Nigeria and the Western Region, when the people of the region enjoyed the first in virtually everything from – TV in Africa, football stadium, industrial and housing estates, free education and free health. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a Christian established the first Muslim Pilgrim Welfare Board in the region. Unlike now when Abuja can and often appoint those not known to states as Ministers, each region appointed Ministers to represent its interests in the Federal Cabinet.
The Eastern and Northern regions also followed suit but each at its own pace using the available human and natural resources.
If each region of Nigeria made such giant developmental strides in the face of very limited resources because of its semi-autonomous republican status, it could only be imagined where the country and her peoples would have been today if we had stayed and gradually perfected our republican union from then.
But all our leaders since then, most of them self-serving military adventurists completely forgot the sweats and labours of our heroes past. They completely learned nothing from the aches and pains of the three-year civil war, the genesis of which was from internal strife related to the command and control unitary system of government foisted on Nigeria by the military rulers.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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