Happy Independence day, to all Nigerians! We often forget that we are just the second generation to be born post-independence. Our nations birthing pains having climaxed with the Civil War, and with the Nigerian “idea” lying comatose ever since, the responsibility now lies on us, on our generation to confront Nigeria’s current nihilist path head on and define for ourselves and our progeny the purpose served by a united and independent Nigeria, and how we should achieve that purpose and by so doing, cement our unity.
There are those who repeat the familiar refrain, better suited in my opinion, to the world of our fathers’ day, that Nigeria is an empty creation of the United Kingdom, that only the constituent ethnic groups have any legitimacy, and that the country is, to quote a respected father of this nation, “…a mere geographic expression.” This sentiment is wholly false. It was true in their day, but it’s no longer true now. We have come a long way from 1960. Nigeria, as a nation, as an idea and as a political force, exists in a space that cannot be filled by a rag tag army of 200 or more autonomous ethno-nations doing their own thing in tiny little fiefdoms across the Gulf of Guinea. We may not be living up to our potential, but split us apart and see whatever potential we have disappear like sh*t down a flushed loo. We are better together. We will achieve nationhood and the attendant destiny, when we stop fighting to one up one another, and start pushing for a collective Nigerian greatness.
There are others who repeat our litany of woes as a justification for their ingratitude. Independence is a memorial of our sovereignty, our right to exist as a standalone, self governing, nation. It’s something we have taken for granted because we have not achieved much with said sovereignty, but the truth is, if we did not have it, so much of our destiny would not even exist, let alone be unfulfilled. Let us not let familiarity breed contempt. If our nation is deplorable, who made it so? And if it lacks the requisite leadership, who is responsible for that? A 17 year old galvanized the protests in Hong Kong over Beijing’s interference. They didn’t sit and say, “man, our leaders are ruining it.” like we do all the time. How old are you and I? We are a nation of comfortable people, satisfied with complaining without risking our neck to do anything to change it. Given the choice between standing up for the right thing or choosing the convenient wrong (and that choice presents itself everyday in Nigeria,), what do we often choose? We sigh, and shrug, and say, such is life as we perpetuate the very ills we complain upon day and night. We can’t even summon enough of a care to put a stop to the police fleecing us in traffic. If you want to blame anyone for the state Nigeria is in, stand up to a mirror and lash out at yourself.
For those of us who wonder if Nigeria has done anything to be proud of, the answer is an emphatic, yes. On a national scale, we made ECOMOG what it was, we went into Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan and risked our men’s lives to quell conflict, before anyone else in the world, at a greater number, when everyone else would leave them to their devices. We did that. We taught, and financed, and assisted anti-apartheid leaders of different countries in Southern Africa at a time when the rest of the world was paying mere lip service to the fight to restore dignity to our fellow black people in their own homeland. We built a globally relevant, multi-billion dollar entertainment industry, that is even now still in the early stages of what it could be. We beat Ebola in two months (yes, I include that, because can you count how many lives we could have lost if we didn’t?). We gave the world Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chimamanda Adichie, Fela, King Sunny Ade, among others. We won Olympic Gold, Commonwealth Gold, soccer gold and more. We are the dominant economic, cultural and political force on the continent, without a single doubt. And even now, young Nigerians within and outside the country are embracing technology and building the future. Yes, we can do so much more. Our bane has always been to order our domestic affairs properly. If we get that right, if we stop tolerating our fate and start demanding more from our leaders, we can change our destiny. It’s our collective responsibility. Rather than complain, let us do. Let us be a little less patient. For instance, our national assembly consumes about 20% of the entire budget, if not more. Why aren’t we screaming down the place until they cut their pay down and put that money to better use? A number of young girls are still being held captive by BH? Why do we sit at home when others go to protest? Why don’t we do more? Why haven’t we put a stop to the things we can. Fear? Apathy?
If we don’t change things, who will?
We are afraid because we are disunited. And we are disunited because we lack purpose. Why do we lack purpose?
Because no one has defined one for us.
In that sense, we need a leader. And in that sense, our job is not complete.
And therefore, instead of refusing to celebrate Independence because of the state of the nation, celebrate it even more because 1960 was only the beginning. Our fathers cast off servitude and handed us the ship. Because of 1960, we can talk about our destiny. Because of 1960, we have the opportunity to finish the job.
Let’s all get to it.