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Analyst Sees Little to Celebrate on Nigeria's 50th Independence Day

Professor Kabiru Mato of the University of Abuja says there has been a huge gap between the aspirations at independence and today's reality

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James Butty

As Nigerians mark 50 years of independence Friday, a university professor says the country has nothing to celebrate because of what he calls the ‘huge gap’ between the aspirations Nigerians had at independence and today’s reality.

Kabiru Mato, chair of the political science department at the University of Abuja, told VOA this gap can be found in poor governance, lack of development, including basic infrastructure.

‘There are two fundamental issues that we must put into perspective today; one is that we congratulate ourselves that we are still surviving as a nation with (a) common political platform as the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But, the second, and very important issue, is that Nigerians must reflect on the very serious failures that (we) have as a people and as a nation, our inability to actualize our dreams,” he said.

Mato said that, at the time of independence 50 years ago, Nigerians and many Africans looked upon the country, with its huge population and abundant natural resources, to lead Africa in many respects.

On the contrary, Mato said that, on its 50th anniversary, Nigeria seems to be retrogressing in virtually every major index of development.

“That is why, perhaps, you will see a lot of expenditure on the part of government celebrating the 50th anniversary. But, if you look around the faces of Nigerians across the land and (the) breadth of the country, you will see anger, you will see anguish, you will see disappointment, you will see frustration, as a result of the inability of the Nigerian people to achieve all the dividends of independence, all the benefits of our tremendous natural resources that abound in this country,” Mato said.

Mato said, despite the fact the Nigerian government might have spent over $20- to $30-billion dollars during the last 12 years since the beginning of civil rule in 1999, to improve electricity supply, most of the country is always in darkness.

He said the same can be found in several other areas, including education and health care. Mato blames corruption for the scarcity of basic services.

He said the contribution of Nigerian artists in upholding the country’s vast culture is one of the bright spots on this 50th year of independence.

But, he said Nigeria’s poor performance in governance and the fight against corruption have combined to put a stain on the country’s 50th independence celebration.

“Like I did say, it is not all about failure. For instance, the first African to be Nobel laureate in literature is a Nigerian. Nigeria has come first in several areas of human endeavors across the globe, notwithstanding the (fact that the) fundamental essence of governance has been a major setback,” Mato said.

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