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Nigeria @ 61: Many rivers still to cross – Daily Sun

By Sunday Ani
Sixty one years after Nigeria gained political independence from the British colonialists, there seems to be discordant tunes from different quarters about the continued celebration of that historic event on every October 1.
To some Nigerians, rather than celebrate the day, it should be a day of sober reflections and even lamentations. Some other Nigerians believe that 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; protect lives and property of the citizenry, create room for economic prosperity of the country and place the country in the world political map.
Many critical observers 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 threat. How to navigate out of the divisive web into which it has entangled itself is a question that constantly reverberates strongly on the lips of many Nigerians. They argue that the fibre of the nation’s unity is completely broken down, hence the clamour by different ethnic nationalities for self determination or even total separation from the union.
For those who hold this view, there is nothing to celebrate about a country that has failed to fulfill its primary objective of existence – the protection of lives and property of citizens. Nigeria is today like the Hobesian state of nature as described by the great English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, where life is poor, nasty, short and brutish. They advanced the argument further to depict Nigeria as a country where only the fittest survives; a condition that sharply contradicts the reason for the formation of any state, Nigeria inclusive.
Apart from the insecurity, which has today become the country’s signature tune, with the blood of innocent Nigerians being wasted on a daily basis from the North to South, and East to West; life has become meaningless and unbearable for many in the midst of plenty. The cost of living has hit the roof top, reducing the standard of living to its lowest ebb and throwing many into abject poverty and squalor while a handful of the population, especially the elite, swim in opulence.
There is a segment that also believes that the injustice in Nigeria is crying to high heavens. It is their view that Nigeria has only gained independence from the British overlords but got entangled in a web of domestic slave masters of fellow countrymen, who, at every opportunity, have recreated George Orwell’s famous fable, ‘Animal Farm,’ where all animals appear equal but in reality, some are more equal than the others. “And until this great injustice is addressed, there is no independence to celebrate because Nigeria is still in a struggle to gain independence,” they reasoned.
But, there are those who believe that in spite of all the challenges bedevilling the country, there are still very many reasons to celebrate the country’s independence anniversary. They argued that for the country to have remained united for 61 years, even after fighting a civil war that lasted over 30 months, the celebration is worth the while.
They described what the country has been passing through in the last 61 years, including the current happenings in Nigeria as a phase which all great, advanced and even developing countries of the world all went through. They strongly believe that at the end of the tunnel, there will always be light.
To them, Nigeria has achieved so much that celebrating its 61st independence anniversary would only encourage and constantly remind future leaders that they have a greater task of putting the country on the world map as far as economic and political developments are concerned.
However, there are others who believe that what should be done is simply to recognize that Nigeria has added one year to its age, and reflect on the myriads of problems confronting the country at present. They lamented that Nigeria’s economy has been so messed up such that its currency is almost valueless. This, they argue, has made life of an average Nigerian so miserable that diseases as common as malaria are claiming in hundreds lives because the majority cannot even afford to access the few ill-equipped health facilities available. Security wise, the signal is not looking good also. They stressed that Nigerians are no longer safe anywhere, not even in their home, as terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers are all on the loose across the country. No part of the country is exempted. Poor farmers can no longer go to farm for fear of being hacked to death by the killer herdsmen, who allegedly enjoy the protection of those who are in control of the levers of power. They believe that the foregoing developments have further put a wedge on the unity of the country, with all the indices of cohesion looking bleak and raising a red flag.
On the political scene, political parties are not helping matters. The way and manner politicians defect from one party to another leaves Nigerians with the conclusion that there is no party ideology and that politicians are only after their narrow, selfish and self aggrandising interests at all times.
Even the electoral system, which ought to be improving, is also on the reverse gear. Political leaders are doing everything possible to ensure that the right to choose who occupies what political position is not determined by Nigerian voters but by a few selfish individuals, who arrogate to themselves the position of godfathers and kingmakers. That is why the country’s national assembly vehemently kicked against the electronic transmission of election results; a new innovation that the electoral body was proposing to ensure that sovereign power returns to the people. Electronic transmission of election results, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), would ensure fraud free, rigging-free, credible and fair elections but members of the national assembly thought otherwise.
In his contribution, the National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Ogbonnia, wondered what is worth celebrating, arguing that what should be done is to observe Independence Day as a day of reflection. He likened Nigeria to a clock moving anti-clockwise, which according to him, is a sign of negative tendencies in the land.
“Evidently, there is no way Nigeria can cope with what is happening; the leadership doesn’t have direction. The leaders don’t want to do the right thing. They think that governance is orchestrated by punishing a section of the people in this country; that is not the way because things are actually going bad,” he said.
He also identified injustice and nepotism as the bane of the country, stressing that a leader should be seen at all times doing those things that will bring the greatest good to the greatest number, rather than being parochial and selfish. “Do you know that nepotism is corruption? As a leader, the moment you leave the right thing for the wrong thing; the moment you consider things based on narrow, selfish, ethnic or religious interest, it amounts to corruption because there are diverse negative consequences of such action. But, the moment you pursue ideals, based on equity and justice; thinking about what will be in the interest of all; creating an ideological framework based on truth and facts, you see things moving in the right direction. But, the moment you become narrow-minded, lopsided in appointments, nepotistic and ethnocentric, there is no way things can move forward,” he said.
He submitted that October 1 should be a day when Nigerians must sit down to reflect on how they started, where they are and where they are headed as a people. “Every Nigerian knows that things are bad and it appears there is no effort being made to move in the right direction. Look at what our brothers in the North are saying; that power must remain in the North. That is where their interest lies; they are not interested in offering solutions to solve the problem facing the country currently. The moment you begin to talk about retaining power in the North, it is another way of saying you are interested in nepotism and ethnocentrism. That is the meaning of that language and nothing more, and the more ethnocentric you are, the worse for the nation. The message that the North is sending to Nigerians is that they want to retain power so that they can corner the resources of the country. It is another way of telling Nigerians that they are ethnocentric; that they are more interested in their own group than others. It is also a way of telling Nigerians that they are not large hearted and that they are not interested in what will benefit others and it is leading everybody to doom,” he warned.
President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, is among those who believe that when you have an addition to your age, whether the circumstances are good or bad, you celebrate just to remember that you have added one year. It is in that light that he sees the October 1 independence day celebration, but to say that Nigeria has achieved something appreciable, that is where he has a problem with some people. Nigeria, according to him, has progressed in the areas of infrastructure, education and even population among others, but it has also retrogressed because things that were done in the 18th and 19th centuries are being experienced in the 21st century Nigeria; things like banditry, kidnapping, and terrorism among others.
He lamented that the economy, instead of progressing, has retrogressed.
He insisted that the indices on ground do not call for celebration of the day, instead it should be a day of reflection and even lamentation. “Yes, when we say we have added one year, why not, we can celebrate. But, the indices on ground do not call for celebration; rather it calls for reflections and even lamentations because instead of addressing our problems and moving forward, we are adding to our problems; creating divisions rather than cohesion among ourselves,” he said.
For the former second Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Monday Onyekachi Ubani, there is hardly anything to celebrate apart from life which God has graciously given to Nigerians.
“I have looked back and forth, and I don’t see how Nigeria has actually impacted on us”, he said.
He stated that the current crop of leaders, both at the legislative and executive arm of government are all engaged in jamboree, competing to outdo one another on how to squander the commonwealth of the people. “You can see that they are still borrowing and the Senate President has told us in plain language that he would approve anything the President brings before him, whether it has any positive impact on the people or not, so long as it is a request from the President,” he said.
Indeed, Nigeria has many rivers to cross before it can achieve the desired level of development and prosperity for her citizens.

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