The last time I really and truly enjoyed and celebrated Nigeria's Independence was in 1970 (our 10th Independence Anniversary). The country was at war within itself then (The Biafran Civil War) and General Yakubu Gowon was the Head of State. Even with the war just recently ended, Nigerians, at least those who were not Biafrans, were still full of optimism for the country called Nigeria.
Go and read most history of Nigeria pre-Independence and even shortly after Independence, and what you read are comments full of high hopes, optimism and regards for the new country called Nigeria, by even colonial writers. I have several books and articles, written by British writers where they were confident that a lasting legacy has been left for Nigeria and that Nigerians, being resourceful people, will make the new country into the greatest country in post-colonial Africa. Nigeria, along with India and Brazil, was identified as the most likely Third World country to become a “Developed” country within a very short time in the 1960s decade. Every developed country then was full of hope for Nigeria. The new crop of Nigerian elites, leaders, administrators and people was also full of hopes and optimism for themselves. Those were heady and patriotic times. So what went wrong?
For me, our problems started with the military’s insidious and invidious incursion into governance in Nigeria. They caused the majority of our problems today. They divided us; they misruled us; they stole from us, they oppressed and diminished us as a people; they introduced a siege mentality in us. And ironically, the military who did these on us are still the ones ruling us today as democrats. Crazy and unexplainable, isn't it? Because we allowed it to happen! We were deceived because they made out to us that democracy is not suitable for us. We had no choice but to acquiesce to them, after all, they are the one holding the guns.
Of course since then, our story, much as our prospect, progress, development and reputation has been on an amazingly speedy downward spiral. All in a short space of time due to greed, selfishness, declined moral, ethical and cultural values, depravity, decadence, abandoning of our very essential societal and community/communal values, corruption, nepotism, sycophancy, inability to identify, tell or accept the truth, lack of conscience, a conspicuous absence of love and compassion for one another, religious and ethnic intolerance, mediocrity over merit, self-flagellation and deprecation, etc. we find ourselves in dire straits as a people, as a country, as a nation, as a people (divided), and direction-less and despairing.
However, sentiments aside, there is no country in the world, whatever their history of iniquity, disasters, failures, etc. that will not celebrate or observe their National or Independence Day. And this is why I will always subscribe to its observation.
And while I will not be attending the various Independence Day dinners, lunches, luncheons, parties, parades, etc., I will be observing, as I always do, quietly reflecting on the survival of my people, my country. I will be watching on TV how shameless and corrupt leaders will again be spouting the same pseudo-patriotic nonsenses and exhortations they spew out year in year out. Talk, they say, is very cheap. And like Warren Buffet said “Honesty is a very expensive gift; do not expect it from cheap people” And let’s face it, our leaders, past and present are cheap, and that is why we see day in day out, that they have not got a single iota of honesty, sincerity and truth in them. Add commitment, conscience, intelligence, selflessness, vision and focus. And I will be angry and frustrated again, but with a plan in mind.
Normally, for a country in deep moral abyss and remiss like Nigeria, it should be a day of reflections on national issues and engage in correctional attitudes, unfortunately, it is not.
BUT/AND, don't blame the leaders alone, blame the follower-ship too, including me and yourself. A country is its people. A people, they say, deserve the type of leader they get. A bad society will continuously and consistently throw up bad leaders to lead them, while a good society will also do the same for good leaders. It is a fact and we see it all over the world every day. Of course no society is perfect, but we know those that are good and bad. Our Nigerian society needs at least a partial overhaul. Our hypocrisy is too much when it comes to issues of national development. Therein lies the challenge. How do we change as a people, with hundreds of centuries of deep-rooted cultural habits? Maybe a reference to Wole Soyinka’s “The Avoidable Trap of Cultural Relativism” will be of help, but I am not a philosopher or student of such academic theories.
However, we still have to nurture whatever little hope we have, and what we should do is reflect deeply and build on what we have on optimism, God's blessings (our resources) and start doing things rightly and righteously, without regards to religious and ethnic sentiments. It is when we are not able to celebrate or commemorate (I would rather call it "observe") our Independence or National Day that we should start really worrying.
Go and ask the Somalians.
Try and have a Reflective and Happy 53rd Independence Anniversary. Nigeria still remains our very own country. It is the least we could do for our battered country.