In 1960, the people of Nigeria welcomed the lowering of the Union Jack and the hoisting of the country’s flag, the Green-White-Green, with aplomb, excitement and hope that Independence from Britain would allow the country to march into greatness, and truly be the giant of Africa and Mecca for every Black Man. As at that time, and even now, one out of every five black men was a Nigerian. Nigeria had potential to become a destination for African Americans. Abundantly blessed with both human and natural resources, it could have become an economic powerhouse that could have ranked higher than any of the Asian Tigers such as Malaysia and Singapore. Instead it has continued to stagnant and wallow in underdevelopment.
By Christy Anyanwu
We loved soldiers doing march past – Senator Ajegbo
Senator Mike Ajegbo, the Ide Obosi, is the chairman, Minaj Holding Ltd. He spoke to Sunday Sun in Lagos, about Nigeria’s independence in his youthful days.
How old were you on October 1, 1960?
I was 11 years old. I was in elementary school. In 1960, I was very young but one thing I do remember was before 1960, we used to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. I grew up in Onitsha and we used to have soldiers march to the stadium. But after we became independent, we were listening to what we used to call radiovision. It was a radio set tuned to one station and we would be hearing what they were doing at Tafawa Balewa Square. We used to call the Queen’s birthday, Empire Day. On that day, the school would close, and we would go to the field and watch soldiers during the march past and we would clap for them.
As young pupils, how did you feel about Independence?
To us, it didn’t mean much. But some of us, like my father, Michael Oguojiofor Ajegbo, who was then a minister and Attorney General of Eastern Nigeria, he later became a judge of the Supreme Court, I think it meant so much to him. In my house, you knew something important was happening because of all the activities going on around us. When I entered secondary school we were given holiday on that day, and we enjoyed it.
How would you compare October 1 then and now?
It’s a different ballgame, in the sense that there was a lot of expectations about where the country were going, but today we haven’t moved the way we should have moved but hopefully we will get it right. But so far, the people that gained independence about the same time, especially the Asian Tigers, they have grown beyond us. We are still down there on the economic development ladder, we are still down there, almost like a stunted child.
And this is caused by the instability in governance. Coups, counter-coups; each person comes up with a different idea. We moved from parliamentary system to military, to presidential system and we are still not yet a federation. It is a unitary system; we need people to develop their potentials. It is just like a parent who has a number of children, you don’t want your children that stay with you to go out and fend for themselves; you want to continue keeping them. You will be sharing the little you have with them but if they go out on their own they become bigger, they will be bigger than their father. That is the problem we have with Nigeria, we are still having a stunted growth. And with the tension in the country today, everybody is talking about restructuring, but there is no agreed definition of restructuring. My assumption is that the restructuring we are talking about is the devolution of powers to the states so that the states can develop at their own pace but you realize that some of the states may not be viable. That is why some people are talking about zonal system and regionalism so that people can come together, form some economic blocs and get certain things done.
What lessons has life taught you?
I have learnt to take life easy. There is nothing that is worth killing yourself for, just take it easy plan properly.
Your dad was an influential man, were you a spoilt child growing up?
I was not. I would say otherwise I would have amounted to nothing and I don’t think I have amounted to nothing. That means I had a good home training, and have good behaviour. I went to school in Onitsha, then civil war started.
After the civil war I went to university and graduated with a Law degree. I went to Nigeria Law School and was called to the Bar. I did my National Youth Service in Jos, Plateau State and after that I came to Lagos.
Who influenced you more while growing up, your father or mother?
Both influenced on me. After all, my father was a lawyer, so I looked up to him. My mother was more of a disciplinarian.
We spent long hours waving the Nigeria flag as school children – Florence Ita-Giwa
Senator Florence Ita-Giwa on Thursday spearheaded the Nigeria Women for Peaceful Co-existence and unity of Nigeria in Lagos. The meeting, which was devoid of partisan interests, provided a forum for discussing the state of the nation against the background of the 57th Independence Anniversary. She spoke wwith Sunday Sun after the event.
Where were you On October 1, 1960?
I didn’t know where I was because I was very young. I cannot recall. My mother would probably talk better on that. I knew that Nigeria had got independence, I knew that because my mother being a journalist was very much involved. I knew there was a lot of celebration that day. I can’t remember how many hours we were kept in the sun waving the Nigerian flag.
Today is Independence Day, what do you wish Nigeria?
As we mark the 57th anniversary of our nationhood, it is important that we as women, mothers and patriots, join our voices to many other passionate voices advocating for unity, peace and progress of our beloved country. We should start by offering thanks to God for sparing the life of President Muhammadu Buhari and putting him on the path of recovery. As we mark our independence, we want to see a more economically viable country and we want to see a country where the government will eradicate poverty. Once poverty is eradicated, once everybody is united, agitations will reduce, and I cannot say that it will stop. It will reduce. As women and mothers we are not unmindful of the increasing wave of violence against women and children. Reports of cases of sexual abuse and child molestation assail us daily. We call on the police and judicial authorities to redouble their efforts in the apprehension and prosecution of the cowards who perpetrate violence against women and children. We also call on various governments to roll out massive public enlightenment campaigns against violence towards women and children.
As a mother that is calling for the peace of this nation, against the background of the Independence anniversary, what would you tell Nnamdi Kanu, if you were to meet him?
I have not gotten much involved with Nnamdi Kanu’s history. I would just tell him to remember how people suffered during the last civil war. Many of us present at this meeting witnessed the horrors of the Nigerian civil war between 1967 and 1970. About 2 million innocent souls were lost in that war; that also saw millions of others losing practically everything. We lost spouses, fathers, brothers and loved ones who were conscripted to fight in a war that might have been avoided if we had let good sense prevail at the time. Many of us lost three years of our lives and our parents had to start life afresh at the end of the civil war. As a young man, he should embrace the unity of this country.
October 1, 1960 was a big carnival – Sinatu Ojikutu, former Lagos deputy governor
Former deputy governor of Lagos State, Alhaja Sinatu Ojikutu, who spoke at a meeting of concerned women and mothers on the state of the nation her offers her views on the independence anniversary and other related issues.
What do you recall about October 1, 1960?
I was in secondary school in Ijebu-Ode. There was an event for the youths at the Bar Beach. Many buses came down from all over Nigeria. Lagos was then the capital of Nigeria.
They talked, speeches were made and they gave us food in packs. It was fun. It was just like a carnival. There was so much joy that we had got independence.
What is your independence message today?
We should continue to be unity-conscious and we should love our neighbours as ourselves. When we do that, Nigeria will be a better place.
Let us all be conscious that whatever we are doing has effect on other people.
So, we should be mindful of that and do the right thing. We should be patient because the economy is not as it should be. If we allow anger to get the better of us, it doesn’t do anybody any good.
If you were to meet Nnamdi Kanu, what would you tell him as a mother?
He is a young man and I believe that he allowed himself to be used.
I will appeal to him.
He has these followers, most of who are jobless, and even those that are trading are not happy. When they talk about Biafra, Oduduwa is there; everybody wants to say this is my own.
I understand there are over 300 languages in Nigeria; if everybody in Igbo land wants what Nnamdi Kanu is fighting for, what of the Gwari and so many other ethnic groups”
There are so many groups. Even among the Yoruba, you have the Ijebu and Egba; if everybody wants their own ethnic group to dominate and to break away, we will be 300-plus pieces.
When you look at the landscape, it doesn’t favour the agitation to take Igbo land out of Nigeria. He is going to marginalize other people because he’s wants an access to be free, that access will be through other people’s land.
I think he should calm down. I wish I could see him personally to talk to him because God has given some of us the gift of convincing people and I’m happy I convince people positively, not negatively. Whosoever is backing him should please back off and I believe he has external and internal backing.
There are people who have the funds of this nation in their hands, whether at state or national levels and they believe this ‘Buhari something’ is still going to get to them and they prefer Nigeria to be in chaos and war to break out so that the anti-corruption drive would stop. But it will not stop for the sake of all of us.