Since independence in 1960, the number of Nigerian States had drastically increased from three to thirty-six States plus the FCT(Abuja). In 1962, about one out of every five Nigerians lived in one of the 182 urban centres with more than 20,000 persons.
Until 1991, the ratio had increased so much that about one out of every three Nigerians lived in one of the 359 existing towns.
In Nigeria, the rate of urban growth is therefore one of the highest in the world and the national population has continued to grow at a rate of about 2.8% per annum, while the urban population is growing at approximately 60%. Ever since Nigeria gained independence, she had envisioned a land of freedom and as well as opportunity.
However, today, the opinions of many Nigerians are that the dreams and expectations of the founding fathers of our great country have not been fulfilled and not only have people despaired about the slow pace of progress, some have in fact given up on the country.
Some believe that if the colonial masters had stayed longer, Nigeria may have been better for it. All these postulations are justifiably borne out of frustration. Today, our strides in medical science are rarely celebrated but they are there.
A Nigerian scientist, Dr. Louis Nelson, had made significant progress in his research to find a permanent cure for diabetes, which afflicts over 123 sufferers worldwide. The vaccine that has made yellow fever disease manageable was discovered in our shores.
While we may not have landed a spaceship on the moon or developed nuclear technology, our inventors and innovators have made globally acknowledged contributions and all these are indications that within us are potentials to be harnessed for greatness.
On the other hand, Nigerian writers have won numerous awards on the global stage while Prof. Wole Soyinka gave Africa its first Nobel Prize in Literature, Prof. Chinua Achebe pioneered the most successful African novelists in history. Ben Okri won the Booker Prize. Helon Habila, Sefi Attah and Chimamanda Adichie among several others are internationally renowned.
Our leading professionals-lawyers, diplomats, scientists, accountants, economists, doctors and academics are celebrated all over the world. They occupy prestigious positions in the leading institutions across the developed world.
Most of them were born and bred, schooled here before travelling abroad. This should tell us one thing that daunting as our circumstances have been we are still full of ability and capacity. We are blessed with talented and patriotic Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, many of whom are ready and willing to return home to be part of the drive to turn Nigeria around for good so that the country can take its pride of place in the comity of nations.
We now also have a large number of radio and television stations with newspaper and magazines delivering myriads of programs to our people.
In the area of transportation, Nigeria has achieved a lot with many interstate and intrastate road networks, though most of these are in need of vital repairs now, but what we had prior to independence was nothing to write home about compared to what we have now.
My fellow Nigerians, as we begin the journey to another year of nationhood, we must focus on the imperfections and problems that easily beset us as nation and I urge us all to choose to the latter.
I prefer to see the silver lining in the dark cloud rather than the cloud in the silver lining because there is hope that Nigeria will only better. Even when the politicians do not give the reason to believe in Nigeria, I have a dream that Nigeria will one day compete with the likes of America, China and Germany not on corruption but on dividends of democracy.
Our recovery from the scars of the Western Region crisis, the civil war and the June 12, 1993 election annulment have convinced me more than anything else that Nigeria is destined for greatness. We have a glorious future awaiting us.
Fellow compatriots, one of the greatest achievements of our dear country in these past fifty-two years is our togetherness even in the face of Boko Haram insurgency. Bribery and corruption, the biggest problem in Nigeria today will one day be a thing of the past if we continue to accommodate one another and integrate without reservations.
Happy birthday Nigeria!
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