Nigeria -- a nation of plenty, a nation of potential, and nation of prospects. These are the key pillars that the next 50 years should bring to fruition for this great country. As an African-American who sees Nigeria as one of the most important global nations in the world today, it is important for Nigeria, with the support and encouragement from its friends, to enter the next half century with the goal of improving the daily lives of each Nigerian citizen. This includes having a safe enabling environment not only for economic growth and development, but also to further ensure its rightful place as a leader in the sub-region on peace and security issues. Nigerians, and their friends, see the struggles that this great nation faces today with instability being renewed in the Delta, ethnic tensions in parts of the North, corruption issues, and concerns about a successful, and transparent election looming large for April 2011.
None of these issues should be taken lightly, they are real, cause uncertainty, and are challenges that must be addressed in a transparent manner to set the stage not only for Nigeria in the next 50 years, but also for the African continent writ large. The nation of Nigeria and the people I have had the pleasure of working with and knowing have always made me proud to be connected to a country with such great potential and prospects. Nigeria is a symbol for many African-Americans in so many positive ways -- the creativeness, the talent, and the strong love of country -- to name a few of the core values that I experienced living in Nigeria. This viewpoint does not mean that we are not rooting for Nigeria to be even more than it is today and that it must continue to work to ensure that the challenges of today mentioned above are addressed and are not markers of the future. I was asked about the role of Nigeria in the future of Africa over the next 50 years given that Nigeria and 17 other nations celebrated their jubilee anniversary in 2010. There are several very important points to make in this regard:
Leadership by far is Nigeria's first role on the continent as it is a key political, security, and trading partner in the sub-region and with other world nations. However, with this, it has to continue to find ways to better address its own internal security and corruption issues as part of this leadership and make transparent elections and good governance the order of the day;
Nigeria's development role is next, particularly, as Nigeria and the rest of Africa should be the next emerging frontiers for economic growth, markets, and trade. The recent positive news in some quarters of Nigeria's macro-economic and capital market reforms efforts spurred by the leadership at Nigeria's Central Bank and at its Security and Exchange Commission are symbolic of the solid foundations that countries in Africa need to be moving toward over the next 50 years. The issues of most concern to me are what I have called the FEEEDS issues (with the acronym meaning Food Security, Education, Environment, Energy, Development/Democracy and Self-Help). The FEEEDS issues will need to be better handled over the next 50 years by all nations on the continent;
Nigeria's youth and women need to be included and play a key role in the direction of the country. Given that more than half of Nigeria's population is under the age of 35 coupled with having nearly 74 million women, both youth and women need to be provided with not only ample but more adequate educational opportunities (including vocational and entrepreneurship training) as they are vital to a viable future for any nation. No nation can develop by excluding more than half its population from a strong and visible role in political development, and social sector reform; and, transparency in resource management which is not only cross sectoral but also a synergistic way of better addressing how all resources -- energy resources, land and water resources, human resources, and financial resources -- in a country are governed.
None of us has a crystal ball, and none of us can predict the future. What we can do is our utmost to put in place the things that we know can help make the future a better place. Nigeria, as the most populated nation on the continent and because of the core values I know are part of the Nigerian mosaic, can and should help set the stage for the future of the Africa region and the global community, but addressing the four points above are key parts of achieving these goals.