By Sunday Ani
Today, October 1, Nigeria celebrates her 62 years of independence from the British colonialists. It is a day of sober reflection, pomp and pageantry. On this particular day and month in 1960, the nation, acclaimed to be the ‘giant of Africa,’ got her independence from the British Colony and the Union Jack was lowered and replaced by the nation’s green-white-green flag.
Historically, the independence was a breath of fresh air as a new constitution, establishing a political system with an elected prime minister and a ceremonial head of state was established. It brought hope and a sense of freedom to Nigerians who took over the reigns of leadership from foreigners.
So, despite the myriad of challenges facing the nation, the event usually comes with fond memories and a feeling of nostalgia. Upon the announcement at midnight of September 30, 1960 by late Emmanuel Aghanjuebitsi Ewetan Omatsola, an ace broadcaster and radio commentator that “Nigeria is a free, sovereign nation”, many then had thought it was the beginning of good things to come for the country.
But corruption, bad leadership and outright mismanagement of the nation’s God-given resources have kept the country literally crawling, with hopes of the majority dashed.
For many people, it has been a wasted 62-year journey as the country bleeds on all fronts; politically, economically, socially and virtually in all other indices of development. In their estimation, rather than celebrate the day, it should be one of lamentations and stocktaking because the country has failed to live up to the wishes and aspirations of the founding fathers, which among others, include to foster unity among various ethnic nationalities through the promotion of religious tolerance; protection of lives and property of the citizenry, creation of room for economic prosperity of the country and placement of the country on the world map, both technologically and economically.
Those on this divide, who ostensibly are in the majority, believe that the country has totally failed as a nation, so much that today, the question of the country’s continued existence as one indivisible corporate entity is under serious scrutiny. How to navigate the divisive web into which it has entangled itself, in their estimation, is a question that constantly reverberates strongly on the lips of many Nigerians.
To many, the situation has worsened under the All Progressives Congress (APC) government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, in the last seven years which has failed to strengthen the unity of the country. Many Nigerians believe that the actions of the administration have exacerbated the fault lines of the nation, hence the clamour by different ethnic nationalities for self-determination or even total separation from the union.
Today, politicians are already warming up for another round of elections where a new set of leaders will emerge. As usual, they have been stockpiling funds for campaigns, which just began on Wednesday, September 28. Predictably, many of them would spend millions of naira to buy the conscience of the poor voters with peanuts. They have become so insensitive to the suffering of the people. But the hope is that in 2023, many Nigerians have become politically conscious and are ready to participate actively in the electoral process.
With the electoral system, there seems to be a ray of hope with the new electoral law, which gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the power to use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to conduct elections and transmit results electronically. Many now believe that there might actually be credible and fair elections in 2023.
On security of lives and property of Nigerians, which is a primary responsibility of any government, Nigeria today can be likened to the utopian state of nature as stated by the great English philosopher, Thomas Hobbs, where life is poor, nasty, short and brutish. Nigeria, in the last few years, has become a country where only the fittest survived; a development that sharply negates the rationale for the formation of a state.
From East to West, North to South, the blood of innocent Nigerians are being wasted on a daily basis, through the criminal activities of bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, Boko Haram insurgents and ethnic militias who attack various villages without let or hindrance. In today’s Nigeria, nowhere is safe as movement from point A to B has become as dangerous as living in a war ravaged environment.
On the economic front, the country’s currency is not better with the Naira currently exchanging for over N700 to a dollar. The cost of living has hit the rooftop, reducing the standard of living to the lowest ebb and throwing many into abject poverty and squalor, while a handful of the population, especially the elite, still swim in opulence.
On the social front, the injustice in Nigeria is crying to high heavens. Many Nigerians believe that the nation has only gained independence from the British overlords but got entangled in a web of domestic slave masters.
Many believe that at 62, Nigeria remains a democracy only in theory. In practice, all the elements of a democratic government, including security of lives and property of citizens, credible elections, access to good health facilities, quality education, basic needs life like food, shelter and clothing are all conspicuously lacking in the nation.
However, to many critical observers, the 2023 elections present another ample opportunity for Nigerians to make the right choice that will put the nation on the right path. The hope is that as Nigeria turns 62, it is time for citizens to reflect and do the right thing to build a new nation.