TODAY been 1st October marks 54 years Nigeria got independence from the British colonial rule, however the question on the lips of most Nigerians; especially those that are not in the acquisition of power or the vast majority of Nigerians that have neither links nor access to the tiny but very powerful and stinkingly rich and well protected ruling class, is whether there is anything truly worthy to celebrate or whether their lives have been truly fulfilled in the 54 years of the country; to warrant them to roll out the drum to rejoice.
It is indeed an achievement though nominal to gain self-rule but again the inescapable question again is how this has translated to development, progress and improvement in the lives of the vast majority of Nigerians.
If human beings are the same all over the world, it un-arguably follows that the prerequisite for survival and a good standard of living is nearly the same if not the same, irrespective of which part of the globe or country they live.
This is why the world over certain programmes and concept such as basic social infrastructure good governance, security, quality education, affordable and good health services, good road network, electricity and others have become the benchmark to define the responsibilities of a nation to her citizens.
Some Nigerians who spoke with The Guardian are of the common view that “the only significant thing her citizens could boast of is the fact that the colonial master is no more in power. We now have self-rule”
Others however have mixed reactions as to how well Nigeria has faired in relation to her peers when they say, “the Nigeria we grew up to know before independence is far better, well organised, disciplined, functioned and united than what is currently happening, where few politicians and those who have access to the corridor of power both at the centre and the state level, have cornered everything.”
Despite this wobbling and fumbling the post-independence the Nigerian journey has continue to be, there are still some Nigerians who believe that even if today is not rosy there is hope for a better tomorrow.
One of them is elder 88 years old elder statesman
Elder statesman Obafemi Olopade who turned 88years recently is no doubt a patriot to the core who holds the view that notwithstanding the multi-ethnic nature and the increasing diversities of Nigeria, its unity must not be compromised under whatever disguise because of the enormous and exclusive advantages this confers on the country and the citizens.
He was a member of the Association of Nigerian Students in the United Kingdom that sold the idea of the National Youth Service Corps to the then Military administration of General Yakubu Gowon in a clear demonstration of his unflitching belief in the indissolubility of Nigeria and the need to continue to seek measures to promote its unity,
Even at nearly age 90, Olopade is more than before committed to the unity and indissolubility of the country, though he admitted that Nigeria at 54 is a complete disappointment as it has failed to meet the aspiration and desire of the founding fathers and the succeeding generations.
Olopade at independence however said despite this failure. Nigerians should increase their faith in the oneness of the country and continue to work for his greatness, expressing the hope that one day, Nigeria would reach the Promised Land. In his view Nigeria has everything to make it great and belong to the first five countries in the world, nothing that this would be attained the moment the right cord between the leadership and the followership is struck.
His words, “My way forward for Nigeria as we mark the country’s 54 independence anniversary is unity, a sense of belonging, that you belong to one nation called Nigeria. We have been brought together as members of one family.’
“We should stay together as member of one family. And make sure that we have the right person at any given time to govern us. Not the person who can throw money around or who can talk loudest. We need an honest, a God fearing, hard working leader, who is prepared to dedicate his life to the good of mankind and to this country. We need them, we have them. Let us not deceive ourselves, you have Nigerians who can help to govern this country in a way that we can raise our heads high in public places.”
“Nigeria can never break up. There are too many reasons why Nigeria can never break up. We are so interwoven that I have very good friends from the Northern part of the country and the Eastern part where I grow up. Friends that I can tap their doors and enter their house and eat and sleep comfortably, the same thing in the West. Why do you want to break up.”
“Those saying Nigeria should break up don’t understand what is going on in the minds of the people. Some people who want to build up their names are the people shouting that Nigeria will break up. We cannot compare the defunct Soviet Union with Nigeria today. Look at Ukraine from the old Soviet Union today it is in crisis.”
Taking a critical look at Nigeria from independence, although the country gained partial independence from Britain on October 1 1960, it was not totally independent until 1963 when the Declaration of Independence was signed.
The First Republic was the republican government of Nigeria between 1963 and 1966 governed by the First Republican Constitution.
From 1963 to 1966, before the military struck and took over power from the civilian administrators, the country never knew political peace.
The country was split into three geopolitical regions—Western Region, Eastern Region and Northern Region—and its political parties took on the identities and ideologies of each region.
Each of the political parties represented the interest of their geo-political regions. The Northern People’s Party (NPC) represented the interests of the predominantly Hausa/Fulani Northern region, the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC, later renamed National Council of Nigerian Citizens, represented the predominantly Igbo Eastern Region, and the Action Group (AG) dominated the Yoruba Western Region.
However the consequence of the 1999 coup, which was believed to have been a deliberate attempt by some South Eastern officers in the military to wiped out the northern leaders led to the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War in 1967 in which millions of people lost their lives.
The ensuing Civil War from 1966-1970 after Biafra was overrun and the nation re-unified, military rule continued for another nine years until 1979 when the country returned to civil rule under the Nigerian Second Republic.
Unfortunately the Second Republic was terminated when the military struck again in 1983 bring an end to the four years democratic rule. The country did not return to civil rule until 20 years after in 1999.
But reacting on whether there are things to celebrate, the a member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, Lanre Odubote, who represents Epe Federal Division, said in the midst of the thousands of challenges and setback Nigeria has encountered since she gained independence, there are lot to celebrate.
According to him, “It is obvious where are not yet there in terms of development and growth, the infrastructure we have are grossly below capacity of the large population it is however expedient to realise the fact that we have, as a nation, overcome some terrible situation that could have turned Nigeria into shreds in the past.
“One of such challenges was the Civil War and the annulment of the most free and fair election of 19993, where late Chief MKO Abiola was adjudged winner but the military denied him and the people who voted for him that ticket.”
Odubote also pointed to the ongoing Boko Haram insurgent as a challenge, which only God has helped the country to manage otherwise it could have posed serious danger to the corporate existence of the country.”
While pointing to that and several others, the legislator posited that despite the entire previous and present fracases including the controversial 1999 coup, which consequent was the civil war, the country is gradually growing politically.
According to him, “We cannot compare our situation with some nation that have disappeared from the world map or those that have been long at war. It is interesting that the democratic institution in Nigeria is growing rapidly. In the last few years there was not a singly impeachment in the National Assembly where we are now free to debate any issues relating to the growth and development of the country.
“Other than the fact that we have cases of insecurity predominantly in the northern region the country is forging ahead and with the way things are I do not share the pessimism that the country is retrogressing.
Odubote warned those fanning the ember of disintegration to drop such dangerous and callous idea “as it would not do the country any good.”
The spokesman of Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin in his comment noted Nigeria should be celebrating by now given our great endowment “but for the crisis of nationhood, which we have failed to address in the last 54 years.
“All the issues that are making Nigeria unworkable today have their vertical links with a structure that is not conducive to progress, development and modernisation. Nigeria will not be able to fulfill its potentials until it adopts a true federal arrangement that frees the creative spirits of the different sections of the country.”
Odumakin, who was a member of the just concluded National Conference said there is great potentials in unity but his emphasies is on the need for the restructuring of the country to true federalism.
He however urged Nigerians not to loose hope but to continue striving and work in whatever capacity they have towards the progress and development of the country.
The Presiding Bishop, The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) Dr. Mike Okonkwo said there are many things to celebrate about the country at 54.
The cleric posited that the nation’s democracy is evolving “for the first time Nigerians could boast of stable democracy for the past 16 years.”
While lamenting the fact that we are yet to attain the feet necessary, he said there is none of the advanced democracy we are looking up to today that does not went through their turbulent period “Nigeria would not be an exception.”
To Okonkwo, one of the greatest challenges to the nation’s growth is that the majority of the present politicians are mere seeking after their personal gain and not the interest of the masses. On this premise, he urged Nigerians to use their vote judiciously in the coming 2015 elections “I feel we should not allow any politicians to deceive us with tokens of money or bags of rice and beans.”
The cleric also warned against the mindset of disintegration “I think this is what any serious Nigerian should never envisage or pray to happen, the consequence would be devastating.”
But popular views on the street are that as Nigeria marks her 54 anniversary of independence, there really is no tangible or reasonable cause for celebration. What we should be doing is to mark a day of thanksgiving rather than a celebration of our shame as a nation.
Many respondents agreed Nigeria has a lot of things to thank God for but hardly anything to celebrate. That we are still one country though not a truly united people who trust one another is one miracle and a major reason to give glory to God.
That the ominously dark cloud of the Boko Haram insurgency, the petroleum subsidy removal riots and others did not turn into ethnic conflict is also a cause to thank God. That despite the corrupt acquisition of the nation’s wealth by unrepentant public officers and political office holders, our economy has not totally collapsed is also a reason to be grateful to God. What really is there to celebrate? It will take a people without a sense of shame or remorse to roll out the drums to celebrate given the level of challenges currently facing the nation.”