According to online interviews, Nigerians had a lot to say regarding our place in the world after 58 years of independent statehood. While some had expressions of hope for the country’s future and pride in her past, others were sorely disappointed at a perceived lack of progress. One particularly dispirited respondent mused, “Nigeria at 58, we are not where we should be, there is nothing working in the country…”
It would appear, however, that popular dissatisfaction with the government is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria at all. Even during the military dictatorships which were notorious for dismissing opposition, Nigerians were fed up with the government.
During the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida, public opposition to the flawed electoral system was rampant, though it was largely ignored. In a similar fashion, the Abacha regime featured a total lack of public accountability. Now that the people of Nigeria have finally been guaranteed a voice in their government, they still remain dissatisfied with those in charge. But what can the government do to turn this around?
It appears that the Nigerian government has some work to do. In order to change the outlook of most Nigerians regarding their government, some level of trust must be restored between the electorate and the groups in power. It has already been stated that the Nigerian government needs to rid itself of the corrupt practices and institutions that erode public trust. The government must then go further by breaking down the walls between the people and the government.
The military and the police must no longer be allowed to terrorise innocent people and abuse their power. Nigerians from all backgrounds must be allowed to have a seat at the table. We cannot continue to exclude those from the Middle Belt, the North or the South and their respective identities. And the government must start to take care of the people. Social safety nets are badly needed but nowhere to be found in Nigeria. 58 years in, we must start to build and cultivate a welfare state. Accountability should mean something. 58 years into existence and the government should finally start to represent the people who put it in power.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.