Fifty-nine years ago, Nigeria, after a bloodless clamour for independence through six constitutional conferences of 1953, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960 became an independent nation and a Prime Minister was appointed and regional Premiers and a President to oversee the new independent nation in 1963 when Nigeria became a republic. From that state, regional autonomy was recognised as regions had independent constitutions to run the affairs of their region. This created a healthy competition and thereby produced development in Agriculture, Education, Commerce and other areas while it aided comparative technological advancement.
The Independence fighters from Anthony Enahoro; who moved the motion for Independence, to Herbert Macaulay, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello and others were however of different ethnic nationalities creating a tendency for divisions under and with the influence of religion, history, culture and other affiliations of our various humanities. Superiority soon became a major reason to be at daggers drawn. This is however a diversity that is naturally supposed to exist but its management is a need that has been unavailable until we had a bloody avoidable civil war which saw brothers at war and created suspicions which however not incurable but appears incurable with the character and will of successive governments from the military to democratic governments so far.
The country, blessed with every human resource existing on planet earth can best be described as a nation suffering amidst plenty. To make matters worse, just recently, the headquarters of poverty, not in Africa but in the world was shifted to Nigeria, a land of plenty but a mismanaged plenty.
The ritual is here again as we remember our history and pains of a nation. Some pundits even say we are better off as a British colony but that is obviously an overstatement because freedom is the first step in the process for self-development. Our individual and collective responsibilities have been lacking or inadequate in the development of Nigeria and it has created an almost zero grounds for patriotism. This is evident by the national disgrace of terrorism, kidnappings, destruction of values which represent what we are as a people. Even our foreign policy is not as independent. How many people even care and respect the insignia of our independence like our flag, anthem, coat of arm etc. Is it true that ‘’ There Was a Country’’ as written by the great novelist and poet Chinua Achebe?
As we celebrate yet again this ‘ritual’, we must ask and answer the questions on how we have individually and collectively added value or destroyed the values of a great nation. The values of a great nation is justice, fairness, equity,patriotism and honesty.
Give a smile against hate, a smile cost nothing, it pleases those who receive it, harmless to those who give it, though short lived but its a memory enduring till eternity. Ethnic suspicions are bad dreams insufficient to alter the immortality of our sovereignty, as Aguleri is not just the home of Ibo but the entire Nigeria, as Daura is not just the home of Hausa/Fulani but the entire Nigeria and also that Ile-Ife is not just the home of the Yoruba but the entire Nigeria. Lets stop imagining a world of paradise after 59 years of independence but begin to live our world into paradise of development, oneness, patriotism and commerce. Nigeria is my country, Nigeria is your country, Nigeria is our country.
Happy Independence day. Akinola Iwilade, Lagos.