Without thinking much about it, I sent a happy independence anniversary message to a friend of mine yesterday. I should have known better. This is one of those people who are very cynical about Nigeria and the plague of incompetent leadership that bogs it down.
Soon enough, a caustic reply along the following line:” what’s happy about the independence” landed on my phone. Being early Saturday morning, I ordinarily would have let this go but I couldn’t stand the attempt to make nonsense of this all important day. So I reminded her it was national day and even if there was nothing to celebrate about the country, we should thank God for being alive.
She unrepentantly dug in saying “then we should say happily alive day instead.” At that stage, I ran out of steam to purse the issue. I however couldn’t stop wondering how anyone could be so dismissive of a country of her birth and residence. Curiously, after a while, I began to see some sense in my friend’s position even if for different reasons.
What exactly are we celebrating about Nigeria after 56 years of independence from Britain? But for deleterious tendencies like the impunity with which public officials in Nigeria plunder the wealth of the nation, it is not likely that we would be able to point to many ways in which life is better for Nigerians than it was in 1960. Without any doubt, Nigerians had a better life, children went to school without parents having to develop blood pressure on how to meet their obligations, the health system worked just like efficient transportation could be taken for granted. The same was applicable to security. Nigerians generally had a ball at that time.
Fast forward to 56 years later and see unspeakable levels of retrogression.
Stealing has become a tradition over the past few years such that the national economy is now prostrate. Cluelessness and lack of capacity have gradually become prerequisites to attaining public office in Nigeria and the country has progressively moved from frying pan to fire.
The effect is that life has become increasingly unbearable for the people; inflation has become uncontrollable just as unemployment is out of hand, life has become brutish and short and fellow feeling has become history
It is doubtful that there is any way in which you could say that Nigeria is on track for sustainable development. A country that has 50 per cent of its youth population unemployed or underemployed and about 11 million of its children, that is its future roaming the streets when they are supposed to be in school is not seriously thinking of the future. There is nothing, today, that can be called a health system in Nigeria while security has been left to the supernatural or every man for himself at best. So what are we celebrating?
Someone could say we should be thankful that we are still one country in spite of all we have gone through but do we really have a country? What exactly does it mean to be a Nigerian? Don’t we all find comfort in our ethnic cocoons than in whatever our Nigerian essence might be? And this is perhaps the greatest tragedy of the past 56 years. If we choose to pardon the lack of integration at this time in our history, it is unforgivable that we are not even trying!
Truth be told, I do not think there has been any time since the civil war that we have had a more divided nation. Ethnic and religious strife daily ride on the back of official injustice, neglect and partisanship. Doesn’t a divided country deceive itself by celebrating its independence?
So what’s all these suffering and smiling about? If we cannot come together to make our leaders see the sense in taking us more seriously as a people, we should all bow our heads in reflection over the lack of direction that we suffer.
But we are a special people. Too tolerant to be angry, too religious to be critical. This is why our leaders take us for granted. We get high when they describe us as “resilient” A disposition that is as positive as it could be negative. Nigeria is where you find a people who adapt to anything and would make excuses for nothing. When cooking gas is too expensive for us, we move to Kerosene, when Kerosene becomes unaffordable we get saw dust or we hit the bush and fetch firewood. We are the irrepressible people who celebrate leaders and a country who do not care about us and that is the main reason why our country may never change.
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