Nigeria’s ability to navigate its daunting challenges and remain indivisible 60 years after Independence is a reason to celebrate.
This view dominated responses from a cross-section of United States-based compatriots who shared their thoughts with the News Agency of Nigeria on their country’s diamond jubilee.
“If not for anything else, we are still one nation after having fought the bitter civil war,” said Mr Obed Monago, Chairman, Board of Trustees, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, Americas (NIDOA).
“We went through several military interventions and coups, and eventually we restored democracy. So, we have reasons to celebrate,” Monago said.
Citing the recent governorship election in Edo, he said the nation’s fledgling democracy was another reason to roll out the drums.
Mr Ugochukwu Nwaokoro, a former Deputy Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, spoke in similar vein.
He stated: “Any time a man is alive, and makes it up to 60 years, there is always a reason to celebrate.
“Whether or not Nigeria has achieved its purpose, is a different question.
“But we have to celebrate, if for no other reason, in the midst of our struggle and all the corruption and problems plaguing Nigeria, we are still together at 60 years.”
Joyce Adewumi, President of the New York African Chorus Ensemble, also underscored Nigeria’s resilience, citing the country’s ability to defeat Ebola in 2014, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to her, Nigeria remains one of the safest places in the world, while many developed countries are recording large number of coronavirus deaths and infections.
“We just had an election in Edo that was free. Nobody was killed. So, there are a lot to thank God even in the face of trails.
“We are a work in progress. Let’s look at the things we have achieved, and pray to God to help us surmount our challenges so that we can move forward and not backward,” Adewumi said.
On the secessionist agitations in some parts of the country, the respondents emphasised that breakup is not the solution.
However, they noted that the ill feelings are triggered by marginalisation, injustice and poor governance by successive administrations.
To address the agitations, Nwaokoro, public policy expert, called for restructuring of the country, rule of law and merit and equity in appointments at all levels of government.
“I do not advocate disintegration, but it is like the only choice left for those who no longer have a sense of belonging.
“For Nigeria to work, let the people control their resources; dececntralise the Federal Government, trim down the federal ministries and bring them to the state level.
“Have Nigeria broken into six regions, with each region having a premier and then the president as Head of State.
“Let each region run its own affair under a well confederated nation and pay tax to the centre, so that that way we can maximise our potential”, he said.
Monago also urged the Federal Government to heed the call for restructuring, particularly devolution of powers, to have a country “where everyone would have a sense of belonging”.
“What we have now is that the current set up is imposed on this generation.
“So, it’s time to give this generation the opportunity to sit together and negotiate how they want Nigeria to be structure”, he said.
Mr Gabe Okoye, a Georgia-based civil engineer and chieftain of the Democratic Party, blamed Nigeria’s development challenges partly on inconsistency in government policies and programmes.
“Everybody comes with a slogan, vision this, vision that, and then in a year or two you don’t hear about it anymore.
“For Nigeria to move forward we need consistent development plans backed by legislation to make them binding on successive administrations,” he said.
Okoye also urged the country’s leaders to jettison nepotism, tribalism and injustice for merit and rule of law.
Mr George Onuorah, a New York-based humanitarian and community development advocate, called for enthronement of credible and visionary leadership in Nigeria.
Onuorah, founder of the Foundation for Sustainable Community Development Initiative (FSCDI),urged Nigerians to shun parochial interests and unite against their common enemies: corruption, bad governance insecurity, among others.
“Let us come together to build a strong and prosperous nation that works for everybody. We need unity and strength,” he said.
Another respondent, Ms Chinyere Onwuchekwa, a social worker, said Nigeria needs more young people in leadership positions to drive its transformation.
“We can do better with young and dynamic people in leadership positions. Nigeria is a nation of great people.
“We have the most educated set of people here in the United States Nigerians always play their role to make things better back home and anywhere else they find themselves.
“We still love Nigerian in spite of the setbacks that we have. We wish Nigeria all the best and hope that we can get together and do great things,” she said.
Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim)