What is ‘Nigeria’? Who is really a Nigerian citizen? Would Nigeria have fared better if she was still under British colonial rule? Is mere political independence the ultimate measure of a nation’s greatness and pride? Are there cogent, verifiable and justifiable reasons for celebrating the 54th independence anniversary of the nation Nigeria? When we say or exclaim ‘happy independence day’, what do we really mean?
I deem it necessary and most expedient to commence this piece with the above thought- provoking and somewhat rhetorical and unconventional questions which are intended to direct our minds away from the usual and obscure Nigerian psyche to enable us properly appreciate the other side of the argument; that at 54, we should not be celebrating but protesting on the streets.
There is a common epitaph that a fool at 40 is a fool forever, in other words, if at the age of 40, a man still behaves foolishly, then he is an irredeemable fool. While this is usually said in reference to a human being, it also has some practical bearing to the life of a nation as well. Nigeria as an independent political entity was birthed on October 1st, 1960; 54 years ago. So Nigeria is well over 40, but her very existence is being threatened by the wilful, unpardonable, crass and almost irredeemable foolishness of her leaders.
It will be unfair and intellectually dishonest to equate or compare Nigeria with America, France, Britain, Germany and other Western and European nations, just as it will be fraudulent to compare Nigeria with Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Guinea-Bissau Mozambique, or Serra Lone.
But then, there is no sin in a child emulating the mature ways of his elders. There is absolutely nothing wrong in Nigeria taking after these sane and developed countries in areas like credible elections and in the fight against corruption. If we can emulate their fashion, sexual orientation, phonetics, and other cultural indices, why can’t we do the same in our governance practice and democratic ethos?
It is not an excuse that Nigeria is only 54, it is an indictment. Yes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but there was a systematic, sincere and conscious effort to build Rome.
At almost the same time Nigeria gained self-rule from the United Kingdom on October 1,1960, several other countries also achieved the same feat. Few examples will suffice.
Malaysia, a Southeast Asian country, is just about three years older than Nigeria. It also gained her independence from the United Kingdom on August 31, 1957.
Singapore is Nigeria’s ‘younger sister’ by five years. It seceded from the Malaysian Federation on August 9, 1965.
Cyprus, an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, also got its independence from the same United Kingdom on August 16, 1960, incidentally, it also celebrates it on October 1, 1960, the same day with Nigeria.
South Africa had gained her independence since December 11, 1931, but the British monarch remained head of state. It only became a republic in 1961. It was not until 1994 that South Africa became a truly liberated country, having officially brought the apartheid era to an end that year, with the strong support of Nigeria.
Today, Malaysia, Singapore, Cyprus and South Africa have by far surpassed Nigeria in terms of political, economic educational, technological, institutional and democratic indices. By indices, I mean practical, visible and verifiable evidence of growth and human capital development. Not the useless and serially false voodoo economic statistics that the rulers of Nigeria occasionally throw at our faces to cajole and deceive the gullible. The GDP that Nigerian officials usually and arrogantly boast about when it suits their fancies is not the globally known Gross Domestic Product in economic. GDP in Nigeria means ‘Government Deceiving People’.
At 54, we are yet to agree on the system of government that is best suitable for us, we are still running around from one useless Conference, National Conference and Political Conference to the other. We are still debating whether Nigeria should be a secular or theocratic state; we are still killing and fighting in the name of religion.
Even as we approach another election year, the debate today is not about the issues- education, unemployment, infrastructure, institutions, health care, human rights, poverty, etc. But whether the next President should come from the North, core North, South South and whether he should be a Christian or a Muslim. We are busy cursing and fighting each other because of zoning when saner countries are talking of going to the space, finding a cure for Ebola, cancer HIV and other terminal infirmities.
Is it not very shameful that at 54, Nigeria lies prostrate, heading irredeemably towards the precipice, occasioned the well integrated forces of corruption, bad governance, poverty, decayed infrastructure and other myriads of problems besetting our nation?. At 54, our president who preaches “transformation” sees absolutely nothing wrong in associating with and appointing individuals standing trial for corruption into ministerial and other executive positions. President Jonathan has turned the National Honour Awards to a yearly criminal feast of shame where those who are fleecing the nation to death are celebrated.
At 54, the Nigeria police Force and security agencies are still operating with the colonial policing mentality with its usual trademark; extra-judicial killing, rape, extortion, illegal detention and other gross human rights abuses. Life in Nigeria today is not just worth less than a coin, but short, nasty and brutish. Nigeria today is a preparation ground for what the religious sects called ‘Hell Fire’. Indeed, whoever has survived in Nigeria will find hell fire a place of solace and comfort. Can any place be more hellish than Nigeria? It is debatable.
Amidst this state of excruciating hopelessness is the nauseating imbecility and selective amnesia of a suffering and smiling citizenry, totally destitute in civics. Nigerians today are bordered about anything but their collective agony, we seem so comfortable with our present shared sorrows that we are ever prepared to abuse, curse and denigrate whoever dares to urge us to do something. We are ferociously ready to defend the stupidity, corruption and tyranny of the vagabonds in power who falsely pride themselves as our leaders once they our of our tribal, ethnic and religious leaning. Simply put: we are slaves madly in love with our chains.
Given our fatal failures at 54, we should not be talking about celebration. Rather, we should be on the streets protesting; demanding good governance and better welfare. For us to dissipate time and resources in the name of celebrating Nigeria’s 54th independence day anniversary is to show the world that we are doomed as a nation and people. Some people will ask whether I have not seen anything worth celebrating, my response is that that is sheer mediocrity.
Why should I celebrate when Chibok girls have not been rescued? Why should I celebrate when people are going to bed with one eye widely open? Why should I celebrate when the poor is getting poorer and the rich richer? Why should I celebrate when our hospitals have become death centers and our roads death traps? Why should I celebrate when graduates have no jobs? Why should I celebrate when we are more divided than ever? Why should I celebrate when corruption is now an official state policy? Please tell me what or why I should celebrate?
As a citizen, I am not happy, so I cannot wish Nigeria or anyone happy independence. Rather, I say to fellow countrymen; arise, fight and take back your country before it is too late.
Inibehe Effiong is a Human Rights Activist. He can be reached via +2348065142135