Nigeria now has five satellites in space. In 60 years, we are now doing kidney surgery, IVR and organ transplantation in the country, while we have also recorded some good scientific advances. Could we have done better? Yes, of course; and we should do better. But the point of this article is that often we don’t even recognize what we have. To go higher, we must take an inventory of who we are and where we are.
Happy New Year Friends. I start this year with a message to my countrymen, the Nigerians. Today I choose to celebrate Nigeria. I’m tired and sick of all the bad reports. While I don’t deny all the problems and failures of our nation and particularly our leaders, I want to intentionally steer clear of all stories of trouble and point my countrymen to the other side of the coin. There is always another side to any story, as with any coin. In Nigerian history, there is also the other side that we rarely hear about. In this article, I will use 60 years as the approximate age for Nigeria.
- Have you ever heard that Nigeria cannot produce anything, not even an ordinary pencil? Stop talking bad about your country. Nigeria actually produces: Cars, Trucks, Cars, Helicopters, Military Items, Ships, Pharmaceuticals, Farm Machinery etc. How many countries have done this after only 60 years of independence?
- At independence, we only had one university: the University of Ibadan. Today we have 170 universities, 105 polytechnics and around 100 faculties of education. Compare that to what you can get in other countries with similar fundamentals.
- At the time of independence, our colonial masters only left us with 200 qualified doctors in the entire country. Today, the University of Lagos alone produces 250 doctors per year. Nationally, Nigeria produces 12,000 doctors a year. The New York branch of the Association of Nigerian Physicians in North America (ANPA) has 5,000 Nigerian doctors and medical professionals. This is the second highest ethnic group of physicians in the United States and the United Kingdom, after India. Would you say that is not essential for intellectual development, considering where we come from? Yes, they move abroad in search of greener pastures, but this too shall pass. It is a stage that most countries go through in their histories.
- 30 years ago, the Lekki peninsula was a mangrove swamp, including Ibeju Lekki which is now home to the Dangote refinery, said to be the largest single train refinery in the world. Today, that entire axis is among the fastest developing properties in the world.
- When the British colonizers left our shores, there was not a single Nigerian pilot 60 years ago. We are not yet where we need to be, but Nigeria does not need to import all of its pilots, as was the case a few decades ago. Today, we have Nigerian female pilots who fly planes for international airlines.
- In sports, we were not represented in major international competitions before independence. Now Tobi Amusan and others before her have put us on the world map of athletics. In soccer, our feat, especially in youth soccer, is unmatched and unmatched in the history of the sport. We are the first African nation to participate in and win a youth World Cup. We have won it five times, finishing runners-up three times, and the only country that comes close to us is Brazil with four titles and two runners-up. We have even won 27 Olympic medals, gold medals in soccer, sprinting, and high jump.
- Too many people glorify our past as if we are better off than we are now. It’s actually nothing close to the truth. All the so-called pyramids of cotton, peanuts, cocoa, timber, etc., gave us a GDP of only $4 billion in 1960. Today it is over $500 billion.
- In 60 years of corporate existence, we have produced a Nobel Prize winner, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and other world-renowned professional leaders.
- Nigeria now has five satellites in space. In 60 years, we now do kidney surgery, IVR and organ transplantation in the country, while we have also recorded some good scientific breakthroughs. Could we have done better? Yes, of course; and we should do better. But the point of this article is that often we don’t even recognize what we have. To go higher, we must take an inventory of who we are and where we are. If we don’t know what we have, then we can’t improve it.
- At the time of independence, more Nigerians were dying than were left alive. Poor hygiene has now been reduced to the point that polio and cholera have been largely eradicated from the country. This reduced the number of children per woman from an average of eight in 1960 to three or four in 2019. Infant mortality dropped from approximately 300/1,000 to 100/1,000 in 2021.
- Nigeria contributes about 5% of the world’s fossil fuels. This earned us billions of dollars that, while not properly managed, kept our finances going as a nation, helping us experience the level of growth that other nations cannot boast.
- We fought the civil war and bounced back, had 20 regime changes, survived about five military regimes, and now have over 20 years of uninterrupted democracy. If we compare our instability with that of some countries in Europe: Italy has had about 50 regime changes in the same period. Some other nations have not even had the privilege of regime change due to authoritarian dictators who will not leave office until death allows them out.
- Most of us reading this post now live in “concrete buildings”. Do we want to know what the houses were like? built 60 years ago? Visit your grandmother’s building in the “village”. Yes, we are not where we need to be, but we have come a long way from where we used to be. Progress is not always a leap, but gradual advances.
- The Sokoto Sardauna, the late Ahmadu Bello, once complained that all of northern Nigeria had fewer than 10 graduates at the time of independence. Today, the university that bears his name produces about 10,000 graduates a year.
- Today, we do not often hear cases of human sacrifice by the country’s authorities. Yes, unfortunately we still suffer at the hands of kidnappers and money ritualists. However, in 1960, the Oba, Igwe or Emir of his people was a god! He even had life and death power then. Today, he can take him to court if he infringes his rights. This is far from where we used to be.
- Nearly two million Nigerians take the JAMB exams every year. That’s two million people who can at least read, compared to 90% of Nigerians who couldn’t even read and write in 1960. We still have illiterates today, but they’re nowhere near what we had in the past.
- How many military generals did we have 60 years ago? How many naval admirals? How many air force commanders? How many teachers? How many vice chancellors, how many military bases, banks? Directors and managers of banks? Directors of SMEs, music producers, world-class singers and songwriters, authors, engineers, architects, businessmen and women? At independence all we had were itinerant subsistence farmers and the elites were village teachers.
- The entire southwestern Nigeria had only one TV station and one radio station in 1960. Today, we have more than 200 private TV and radio stations operating in the country.
Sunday Adelaja is a Nigerian-born leader, transformation strategist, pastor and innovator. She was based her in kyiv, Ukraine.
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