An Empty Stable:Nigeria, A Horse on a Bolt. By Njoku David Chibueze



For those who lived through the struggle for Independence, and the sacrifices they made to birth a new Nation, this day should worth some respect to  honour their legacy. Apart from that, today should be a National Mourning day in Nigeria for six decades of under performance. This Lecture is an attempt to state the records as they are without sympathy for any sentiment. At the forefront of the struggle for Independence, our founding fathers-Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa, Jeremiah Awolowo and the rest of Our National patriot, set the tune for the independence  of the geographical location called Nigeria and we may not go into all those history. They envisioned Nigeria and indeed the rest of Africa as at that time, a rising star with a future so bright. Tafawa Balewa[1]  in his independence speech stated “Today is Independence Day. The first of October 1960 is a date to which for two years every Nigerian has been eagerly looking forward. At last, our great day has arrived, and Nigeria is now indeed an independent sovereign nation”.  Nnamdi Azikiwe[2]  was also of the opinion that “The realization of New Africa can only be possible by the African cultivating a spiritual balance, which leads to the practicalization of social regeneration, to realizing economic determination, becoming mentally emancipated, and ushering in a political resurgence”. This was the picture they had in mind while setting out on the movement. Are we having great days as Tafawa dreamt? Has Africa and indeed Nigeria regenerated? Have we realized economic determination? Is there any political resurgence? Are we  mentally emancipated? If we cannot conveniently answer these in the positive, then there is a big puzzle on our tables to sort. In his other quote he stated “The challenge of Nigeria as a free State in twentieth century Africa is the need to revive the stature of man in Africa and restore the dignity of man in the world”. To them, Nigeria has a greater purpose to fulfill. Have we betrayed or achieved this purpose? 


1.   <> accessed on 30th Sept 2020

2. <> accesses on 30th Sept 2020

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Nigeria’s Chequered history and all the experience we have had as a nation these 60 years reveals one thing., this is not the Nigeria that our founding fathers envisioned. Nor the one which was sought and bought with the sweat and blood of compatriots. Nelson Mandela[3]  had this to say “Every one can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do” over the years, the question of passion and determination draws a curtain on our collective endeavors for growth and development. 

Have we committed to building a better Nigeria? Often than not, we blame every other person but ourselves on why Nigeria is where it is today. Truth be told, we can get no where far with the blame game;from the first military coup to the nascent democracy we now practice, accusing fingers have been pointed at numerous persons and circumstances for being the clog in our wheels of progress. While not denying the veracity of these submissions, do we continue to cry over spilled milk and do nothing to move? 

Nigerians have learnt perfectly how to jump ships at every phase of nationhood and create alignments across divides when our interest is sufficiently covered. With every Government, Laws, policies, actions and inactions of political players, we oftentimes refuse to assess the rationality of the state of affair but seek to defend our ethnic interest whether or not it will promote national unity. This paper seeks to address the question of Nigeria’s existence, the threats to its continuity as a country and the way forward. 


3. <> accessed on 30th Sept 2020.

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While it’s important to address the issues head on, an understanding of the concept of independence from an African perspective is very crucial. In a lecture tagged: Philosophy For Independent Nigeria delivered by Chief Obafemi Awolowo[4]  (Action Group (AG) Leader, and Leader of Opposition in the Nigerian Federal Parliament) to Nigerian Students at Conway Hall, London, on 3rd September, 1961. He stated that- Politically, the independence of a country can be viewed from two angles: the corporate and the individual angle. 

A country is said to be free only when it has unqualified control over its internal affairs. On the other hand, a citizen of an independent country enjoys individual freedom when he is free to say and do what he likes, subject only to laws enacted by the freely elected parliament or the popular legislative assembly of the land. The dependency of a country and the subjection of its citizens to alien rule are conterminous. But the independence of a country does not necessarily mean the freedom of its individual citizens. It all depends on the form of government. If, for instance, the form of government is oligarchical, authoritarian, or totalitarian, individual freedom will almost invariably be denied to the masses of the people. 

The point must be made, however, that in times of national crisis or emergency, it is legitimate for the Government to call upon the citizens to surrender, for the duration, some measure of their individual freedom, in order that the freedom of the country and its citizens may be preserved from violation. In a democracy, therefore, and in normal circumstances, the freedom of a country connotes the freedom of its individual citizens. 


4. <> accessed on 30th Sept 2020

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Furthermore, when the freedom of a country is looked at in its complete functional embodiment, it exhibits two conspicuous and inseparable facets. They are the political and economic facets. A country can only be said to be truly free and independent which has these two functional facets co-existing and cohering in their inseparable absoluteness. 

Kwame Nkrumah in a speech given at the founding of the OAU, Addis Ababa, 24 May 1963.[5]  Stated that “Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs”. The above is an indication that after independence, there is even much more task ahead. The same energy that was invested into obtaining independence should be invested into nation building and even more. 

From the above, we can assert that Nigeria is an independent State although doubts as to the degree of its independence can as well be expressed. From 1st October 1960, we have rolled out drums on days as this to celebrate the event and today, we are doing it again. 


5.<https://thisisafricame/politics-and-society/10-quotes-by-kwame- nkrumah/> Accessed on 30th Sept 2020

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As the years go bye, Nigeria attempts To close the stable door after the horse has bolted almost in every situation. Repeatedly, we have made the mistake of seeking remedy after the deed has been done. We have failed to learn from the past and seek ways to salvage the country from diving even more deep into the quagmire of existential grave. 

What help can be offered when the horse has left the stable? The present Condition of Nigeria reveals a mighty Jigsaw of utter consternation and confusion. While sociologists, political Scientists, seasoned Analysts and Experts has tried to make sense of the real diagnosis of Nigeria’s pressing needs and problem, the solution seem to elude them. At one point we assume to know what the challenge is and at another point, the reality of that knowledge becomes questionable. Due to the multiFaceted issues gnawing at our fabrics of National cohesion, it will be convenient to assert that we are in the ‘state of Emergency’, hemorrhaging profusely under the knife of life threatening sickness and it appears Nothing much can be done at this moment to salvage the palpable situation. 

Chinua Achebe in his book, The Trouble with Nigeria,[6]  in an attempt to state what is truly Wrong with the country stated thus, “Nigerians are what they are only because their leaders are not what they should be.” pg. 10. This fact cannot be over labored. Over the years, Nigeria has been denied true leadership that is a fundamental prerequisite to building strong nations. We have had persons who do not meet the benchmark at the helm of affairs, who score below the point and leave office with nothing much to show for it. In continuing with his diagnosis he stated that “A true patriot will always demand the highest standards of his country and accept nothing but the best for and from his people. He will be outspoken in condemnation of their short-coming without giving way to superiority, despair or cynicism. That is my idea of a patriot.” pg. 16. 


6. Chinua Achebe, The Trouble with Nigeria, Fourth Dimension publishing company Ltd, 1983.

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Due to lack of dedication and loyalty to the country, patriotism is very scarce in Nigeria. Our preference for everything external and foreign, our quick resolve to talk down the country while painting its people in bad light seem to be the order since 1960. And of course, when we don’t expect much from Nigeria or even the best from elected representative, there is no way we can move forward. The issue boils down to our electoral process which is fraught with irregularities and fraud. Decrying the situation even more as at 1983, he stated “Look at our collapsing public utilities, our inefficient and wasteful parastatals and state-owned companies. If you want electricity, you buy your own generator; if you want water, you sink your own bore-hole; if you want to travel, you set up your own airline. One day soon, said a friend of mine, you will have to build your own post office to send your letters!” pg. 20. 

Unfortunately, after over 35 years those statements were made, nothing much have improved and the situation has gotten even more horrible. Finally on his work, “My frank and honest opinion is that anybody who can say that corruption in Nigeria has not yet become alarming is either a fool, a crook or else does not live in this country.” pg. 37.[7]  

The massive Scourge of Corruption that has hit Nigeria from the dawn of its independence has been mind boggling. And after Two decades, Nigeria is yet to recover every of Abacha’s loot stacked all over the foreign banks and institutions. The present day politicians seem to be determined to out do their predecessors. They have graduated from unofficial theft of fund to an institutionalized system that facilitates effective and efficient looting. Recently, revelations on financial rascality and massive corruption scandal were made on the EFCC[8]  and NDDC[9]  And it begs the question, where is Nigeria actually heading to? 


7. <https://africanbookaddictcom/2015/05/25/the-trouble-with-nigeria-by- chinua-achebe/> accessed on 30th Sept 2020

8. <https://nairametricscom/2020/07/11/magu-probe-new-facts-suggest-

case-is-about-re-looting-of-previously-stolen-funds/>accessed on 30th Sept 2020

9.<https://wwwvanguardngrcom/2020/08/nddc-akpabio-pondei-under-probe- over-funds-diversion-allegations-efcc/>accessed on 30th Sept 2020

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Sadly, the Harsh reality of our political terrain seem to contribute more to the plight of ordinary Nigerians, the capital intensive nature of the game, the mudslinging, the peddling of propaganda, the divide and rule strategy and the deep rooted political apathy which has built up over the years have not only chased away good people from the system but has ruined our chances of ever getting it right as a people. 

In the words of the American theologian and author, James Freeman Clarke “A politician thinks of the next election, a Statesman of the next generation”. Obviously, we have had 60 years of Political Maneuvering with focus only on the next election without any immediate and coordinated plan for the development of the nation. Even as far as 2023 is, the polity is already heated and every move is interpreted in the light of an election that is still over 1000 days away. 

Not denying the progress we have made as a country, Nigeria has failed in its position to lead the light for Africa to follow. Kenyan born Professor Patrick Lumumba said “Nigeria is holding the rest of Africa back by not providing the political and economic leadership needed to develop the continent. Lumumba said that Nigeria’s leaders must liberate themselves from shortermism and sanitize the political space for the country to grow.[10]  And the above statement is without doubt the truth and nothing but the truth. Being the most populous black nation on earth, we have left our place of pride and has become an object of scorn in the comity of nations. 

Expressing his Dissatisfaction with how Nigeria has conducted its affair. This is what Nelson Mandela had to say  

“You know I am not very happy with Nigeria. I have made that very clear on many occasions. Yes, Nigeria stood by us more than any nation, but you let yourselves down, and Africa and the black race very badly. Your leaders have no respect for their people. They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. They take people’s resources and turn it into personal wealth. There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should be unacceptable. I cannot understand why Nigerians are not more angry than they are. “What do young Nigerians think about your leaders and their country and Africa? Do you teach them history? Do you have lessons on how your past leaders stood by us and gave us large amounts of money? He continued “What about the corruption and the crimes? Your elections are like wars. Now we hear that you cannot be president in Nigeria unless you are Muslim or Christian. Some people tell me your country may break up. Please don’t let it happen. “Let me tell you what I think you need to do. You should encourage leaders to emerge who will not confuse public office with sources of making personal wealth. Corrupt people do not make good leaders. Then you have to spend a lot of your resources for education. “Educate children of the poor, so that they can get out of poverty. Poverty does not breed confidence. Only confident people can bring changes. Poor, uneducated people can also bring change, but it will be hijacked by the educated and the wealthy. Give young Nigerians good education, teach them the value of hard work and sacrifice, and discourage them from crimes which are destroying your image as a good people.”[11] 

No doubt, this statement was made from a place of wisdom and we must do a deep soul searching to admit that we have been doing it the wrong way. Only a mad man will continue doing the same thing and expect a different result. 

The Former president Goodluck Jonathan in his 53rd Independence day[12] . address stated. “Tafawa Balewa urged us to move with quiet dignity to our place on the world stage’. I am sure that there have been times when every one of us must have questioned how closely we have followed that injunction” . And till today, that question stands before us daring more than ever before for an answer. Instead of doing this, we have retrogressed, left the hall of fame and wandering deep into the forest of ignominy. The speed at which the dignity of Nigeria is eluding her is a major cause of concern for persons like myself who know that Nation building is not rocket science and that with the requisite political will and courage, Nigeria could be better. 

The Brain drain in every facet of our National life has become very appalling, we lose the best hands to other countries that reward hardwork and promote meritorious Service. In August, A Nigerian-born Canadian, Kaycee Madu, was been appointed as the justice minister and solicitor general of Alberta, a province in Canada. The 47-year-old was born and raised in South-east Nigeria. He graduated from the University of Lagos with a law degree in 2001. He has practised law in both Nigeria and Alberta. According to CBC News, he and his wife relocated to Canada in 2005.[13] 


10.  <> Accessed on 30th Sept 2020

11. (Excerpts taken from a 2007 interview with Mandela conducted by Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed) <> accessed on 30th Sept 2020

12. <> Accessed on 30th Sept 2020

13. <> accessed on 30th sept 2020

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In an interview he granted recently, he admitted that he would not have achieved the height if he stayed back in Nigeria. Don’t we have Ably qualified persons in the health, legal, financial, service, sports, entertainment industry? Yet, there is no effect of such rich human resources rubbing off on our National economy just because we reward mediocrity and lower the benchmark for excellence in order to compensate laziness in the name of Quota system. From the US, EUROPE and across every continent; the great feat of Nigerians and their acheivements continue to reverberate, we excel in almost every field of endeavor. 

In a country that have been adjudged as the capital headquarter of the world, the need for economic revival to roll back the worsening economic plight is imminent and very urgent. Cybercrime, Internet fraud, kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry, terrorism are all products of a dysfunctional society where the dignity of honourable Labour and the reward for honest hardwork is becoming a Mirage. The moral decadence and loss of respect for our cultural ethos, values and mores will one day escalate to full blown social crisis that will be difficult to curtail as is witnessed in most American cities. With widespread shooting, drug addiction and gangsterism.[14] 

Obviously, the Horse has left the stable in our Academic Sector, not only have we watered down the standard and refused to adapt to recent realities, we have refused to jettison our old academic syllable that do not have any relevance in contemporary social setting. We have allowed corruption to permeate the system, from lecturers who demand sex and money for grades to professors, PhD holders and Masters degree holders who have no standard Academic work, thesis or desertation to deserve such an award which are merely bestowed as a result of political loyalty, relationship with Officials in charge and feeding relevant hands with bribe and other ancillary benefits accruing. The state of infrastructures in public Universities leaves nothing to be desired, the federal government has failed to honour repeated agreements with ASUU leading to endless strikes. Nigerians make up the larger part of foreign students in every other country, paying through their nose exorbitant tuition all in the  pursuit of standard education. 

According to The Global Terrorism Index which measures the direct and indirect impact of terrorism, including its effects on lives lost, injuries, property damage and the psychological aftereffects, 

Forbes report ranks Nigeria in the 3rd place in The Ten Countries Which Suffer Most From Terrorism. According to the report, Nigeria accounted for 13% of all terrorist-related deaths globally in 2018, with a 33% rise in the number of fatalities compared to the year before – that translates into 2,040 deaths and 772 injuries from the 562 terrorist incidents. Despite that rise, the total number of deaths was still 72% below the peak in 2014. The deadliest group, Boko Haram, continues to be put under pressure by a multinational task force set up by the government of Nigeria with assistance from Cameroon, Chad and Niger and, as a result, it was responsible for fewer deaths last year than the year before. However, the danger from other groups is rising. The IEP says the increase in deaths across the country in 2018 was a result of extremist Fulani groups who have become more active and were responsible for 1,158 deaths last year (compared to 589 for Boko Haram). Between them, Boko Haram and the various Fulani groups accounted for 78% of attacks and 86% of terrorist deaths last year.[15] 


 14. <>accessed on 30th Sept 2020 

15. <>accessed on 30th Sept 2020 

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This remains the major factor why foreign Direct investment in Nigeria is on the decline. Investors do not trust that their investments will be safe. Added to this is the uncoordinated economic policies, multiple taxation that keeps going up daily, crippling businesses and rendering them insolvent. Nigeria has lost numerous companies and firms to its neighbors that have better economic climate driven by steady power and infrastructure. The stable is now Empty and Nigeria has long left and is scampering like a mad horse on rampage. President Yaradua observed that “if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill her” [16]  these words reverberate and it has never been more truer. He also stated “We are determined to intensify the war against corruption, more so because corruption is itself central to the spread of poverty. Its corrosive effect is all too visible in all aspects of our national life” .

In a country where just one single individual will siphon Billions of Nigeria and still have the impetus to move about freely. Invariably, Nigeria is breeding monsters in form of citizens who are hell bent on destroying it. President Buhari in one of his speech observed “we cannot build an economy where corruption is the working capital”[17] 

The president came into power on the Wings of his change mantra with the broomstick which was intended to be used to sweep corruption out of Nigeria. Alas, even the broom has been stolen. Even the principal anti corruption agency EFCC is under investigation for massive corruption within its ranks. 

The Stable is Empty on our electoral process. You must have learnt of the recent visa Ban on Nigerian top politicians for their role in the kogi election that produced Yahaya Bello as Governor of the state. The level of violence witnessed there and the bloodshed all I  the struggle for power leaves nothing much to be desired. In a statement issued by the US mission in Nigeria, it stated and I quote “Today, the Secretary of State is imposing visa restrictions on individuals for their actions surrounding the November 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa State elections and in the run up to the September and October 2020 Edo and Ondo State elections.[18]  

Missed reactions from Nigerians has continued to come in. While others condemned the move, a others are calling for the extension of the ban to their families and that the UK and all of Europe should place their own bans too.[19]  


16. <> accessed on 30th sept 2020

17.<>. accessed on 30th sept 2020

18.<>accessed on 30th sept 2020

19. <>accessed on 30th sept 2020

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According to the world bank report ,The COVID-19 pandemic has spread with alarming speed, infecting millions and bringing economic activity to a near-standstill as countries imposed tight restrictions on movement to halt the spread of the virus. As the health and human toll grows, the economic damage is already evident and represents the largest economic shock the world has experienced in decades.

The June 2020 Global Economic Prospects describes both the immediate and near-term outlook for the impact of the pandemic and the long-term damage it has dealt to prospects for growth. The baseline forecast envisions a 5.2 percent contraction in global GDP in 2020, using market exchange rate weights—the deepest global recession in decades, despite the extraordinary efforts of governments to counter the downturn with fiscal and monetary policy support. Over the longer horizon, the deep recessions triggered by the pandemic are expected to leave lasting scars through lower investment, an erosion of human capital through lost work and schooling, and fragmentation of global trade and supply linkages.

The crisis highlights the need for urgent action to cushion the pandemic’s health and economic consequences, protect vulnerable populations, and set the stage for a lasting recovery. For emerging market and developing countries, many of which face daunting vulnerabilities, it is critical to strengthen public health systems, address the challenges posed by informality, and implement reforms that will support strong and sustainable growth once the health crisis abates.

The pandemic is expected to plunge most countries into recession in 2020, with per capita income contracting in the largest fraction of countries globally since 1870. Advanced economies are projected to shrink 7 percent. That weakness will spill over to the outlook for emerging market and developing economies, who are forecast to contract by 2.5 percent as they cope with their own domestic outbreaks of the virus. This would represent the weakest showing by this group of economies in at least sixty years.[20] 


20. <> accessed on 30th sept 2020

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Obviously, Nigeria has been in an economic downturn before the pandemic struck with its sledge hammer. Presenting multiple problems for an already suffering country. The increase in  fuel price, hike in electricity tarrif, increase in cost of goods and services and increase in tax are all products of a failing economy. The past 6 months has seen many become beggars and giveaways became a tradition on all social media by well to do Nigerians who wanted to help the poor masses. This is directly in contrast to the acclaimed palliative government promised to offer. With staggered patch of gifts and handouts, we are informed that millions and billions were earmarked for palliative and duly shared. If you got, I did not. And the dishonesty of that policy speaks volume. 

There is no problem without remedy, there is no obstacle that cannot be surmounted. Malcolm captured it aptly “There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time”. Nigeria has suffered many set backs. Unfortunately, excuses are still made for it when what is needed is to take positive step and action to salvage what is left.

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About the Author 

NJOKU DAVID CHIBUEZE Is a law graduate of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra State and the president of the Legal Ideas Forum International. 

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