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SIXTY ONE YEARS OF NIGERIA’S INDEPENDENCE: FREEDOM, PEACE, AND UNITY INDEED.

There was a country. How do nations come to be? And why is ours such a sorry excuse for a nation?  

Last year, on the 20th day of October, young Nigerians gathered en mass at the Lekki Toll Gate in a peaceful protest against rogue police officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit. The protests had been on for weeks across states, as Nigeria witnessed a movement of social uprising after years of agitations and complaints by victims of the SARS police, and many well meaning Nigerians. For many of us, it felt like a cloud of anticipated rain gathering to pour, before the government stroke against a down pouring that could have set a new day – perhaps, the fruition of the Nigeria of our dreams? 

The government of the day said nay. And so soldiers stepped out by state command and fired live rounds at the people protesting for a better society; the ones asking the questions which have longed been ignored; those who were singing and shouting chants of the Nigerian dream; the ones who were expressing the angst of the misgoverned in the constitutionally appropriate way. What a day! Reports from credible sources highlights that close to a hundred people were wasted that evening, and many more injured. Families have lost loved ones since then without closure, dreams were ended, and everything has moved on just fine. It still feels surreal to believe the Lekki Massacre happened.

The Nigerian story would not be complete if not told from the very inception: that in 1914, Sir Frederick Lord Lugard amalgamated the Southern and Northern protectorates in the Niger area of West Africa to form what today is the most populous black nation on the face of the earth; and 46 years after amalgamation, on 1stOctober in 1960, Nigeria became Africa’s 29th independent state following many years of British colonial administration. Today, six decades of independent rule later, what can be said of Africa’s most diverse nation, and the once purported giant of the black continent?

While the first few years following independence may have sparked blistering flames of hope for a greater Nigeria – especially after the oil boom in the 60s –the years lived later on and what we have today have simply proven the starkest contrast in reality. Beginning with the ethno religious tension created by the first coup d’état in 1966, to the disproportionate sharing of the South’s oil revenue; the marginalization and underrepresentation of minor ethnic groups, the cold and bloody war against secessionist threatening people of Biafra, to the nepotism, tribal bigotry and terrorist sympathizing ‘change’ charade of the day; our sixty one years of togetherness truly have seem abysmal with too many questions about our unity still being debated on daily shows.

Have we at any point in time lived up to the hype of yester-years? All what has followed since independence from military to democratic regimes have seemed a mere tussle for power between Nigeria’s elites – a blatant game of interests ensured for wealth sharing and self aggrandizement at the expense of the poor masses. It is no wonder why today, we are the poverty capital of the world and home to over 90 million people living below $1 per day according to the World Bank’s data. Despite the promise and potential of Nigeria, amidst its vast wealth of natural and human resources, our dear fatherland has continued to chase the shadow of its purported heights whilst retrogressing at an alarming rate in every sector where progress was made.

In 1999, at the return to democracy, hopes were once again raised with the prospects of restructuring in a bid to heal the wounds of the past years of war, misrule and dictatorship. We cannot collectively agree that by first world standards progress has been made. What has followed has been a case of public looting and unaccountability, to state sabotage and dwindling in educational, health and the agricultural sectors of the nation. On the global stage our talents continue to excel and do exploits, while back home there is next to nothing to be written about. The mass exodus of our professionals in search of greener pastures in Europe, America, UAE and Australia serves a tale of our predicaments. As with all times, Nigeria continues to give hope like a mirage, which is crushed as time draws nigh.

Today, many Nigerians are turned apart on the ‘One Nigeria’ mantra as events continue to clearly prove it a farce, a mere political agenda to sustain this unfruitful marriage of 1914. While intellectual debates continue to ensure on the issues threatening the unity and progress of our nation, it is unclear what truly can be pinpointed as resolve for our unending problems; and although it is true to blame inept leadership, it is unarguable that the masses have in the same vein enabled the dysfunction, and as such, it puts us in a difficult situation to attempt any successful thoughts of resolution. Nigeria therefore, can be likened to a recurring fire proving impossible to quench, a case of a dysfunctional system pit against the resulting consequences which are its people.

We are at crossroads today, troubled by terrorism and a sinking economic ship; I pen this down as a born Nigerian who is doubtful of Nigeria’s tomorrow, unless we salvage what is left of this nation as soon as possible. While in the past year on 20th October, we saw at the Lekki Toll gates what the government of the day is capable of, I dare say the last straw in the pack remains the 2023 Presidential polls which I am still very wary of its fruition, given the complacency shown in the fight against terrorism and the seeming tendencies of another civil war with erupting chaos in the South East.

The past years have shown clearly that Nigeria cannot continue on the current order of events to self sufficiency and development. We either split up now or reorder the way things are done here, or continue on this path which will lead us nowhere but into more chaos, poverty, and self sabotage. One nation bound in freedom, peace, and unity indeed. And before I forget, is Baba around to drop you guys another independence threat or he is en route to his UK hospital bed? Sixty one years and I don’t think “Happy Independence Day” is a good thing to tell someone today, except of course you have not taken a good look. I was not intending to raise any hopes, only your japa plans I pray should work before Nigeria kills you.

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