Today marks the Independence Day anniversary of our beloved country. Some fifty three years ago on this same date, the 1st of October 1960, Nigeria became an independent nation. It was a moment of triumph for the Nigerian people. There was celebration all over the country. At last, we were off the grip and reign of imperialist subjugation. Self-rule, it was believed, will bring greater developments. Deplorably, this expectation was never actualized. Again, fifty three years… Fifty three years have passed away. Those are years of our common history as a nation. In commemorating this day, let us think, reflect, ponder and cogitate.
No attempt at flattery is made in this piece. In commemorating this day, I call on all true Nigerians to reflect over the present state of our democracy. Reflect over the varied short shortcomings, and abortion of the people’s hopes, dreams and expectations since 1999 when we returned to civil rule. A reflection of this kind, having recourse to the gamut of political, sociological, environmental and economic endemic challenges facing the poor masses is part of the steps we must take in proffering solutions to these problems. That, in itself is a statement that must be delineated properly before its implementation phase.
The phrase, “giant of Africa” while it is superficially inappropriate in describing Nigeria due to the preponderance of such economic disturbances as insecurity, poorly developed educational institutions, unemployment etc, is yet an apt one if you take the negative connotation of the word, “giant.” And so contextually, we can be called the giant of Africa which is true but I dare reiterate that the actual meaning intended is a negative one. In other words, the negative connotation of “giant” which is anything or person causing loathsomeness, or anger to another underscores the actual connotative sense of the phrase, “giant of Africa” when used to describe Nigeria. Our high level of corruption has brought us mockery, derision, ridicule, lampoon, etc to state the pitiable list of what I call a “malevolent giant syndrome.”
This syndrome puts us in the “limelight” in reports published by Transparency International. Of course, you know the ratings! This is even more worrisome when you consider the huge revenue derived from crude oil by Nigeria. It is deplorable realizing the dearth of infrastructure and other development parameters despite this huge oil revenue. In countries like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar where crude oil is the mainstay of the economy there is a vibrant and healthy economy. There are good paying jobs, robust welfare schemes, infrastructures, etc to justify the revenue derived from oil. Over here, we have a different tale.
Fourteen years of democratic governance in the midst of abundant natural resources and yet our international human development indicators show that we are still at the drawing board. In 1999 when the military handed over to civilian rule, Nigerians heaved in relief believing that the usual human rights violation which was common in the military era will be done away with. Such genuine ignorance can be easily understood, explained and excused in the light of nationalistic fervor that welcomed democracy at the time. That fervor, in practical terms, was short-lived. Pragmatically, the sack of Odi town in 1999 was an issue of great magnitude which raised a whole lot of rights issue in municipal law parlance. Hundreds of inhabitants from that town lost their lives in the massacre. To dwell on this fact alone may not extend the germane points of this discourse.
The current oligarchic set up in various political offices in the country particularly at the federal level, whose aim is sheer self-enrichment I have observed, continue to perpetuate their vicious circle of oligarchy. I think it apt describing them in semblance of that kind. For while on one side of a coin, they occupy the vicious circle of oligarchy, on the other side we have the vicious circle of poverty orchestrated by them but suffered by the average Nigerian. They do not know what it means for undergraduate students to sit at home for months due to strike action while waiting on them and ASUU to come to terms with demands earlier made and implement same. Even a vicarious experience of this kind is unknown to them.
Every year thousands of fresh graduates are produced from several Nigerian tertiary institutions. They embark on the compulsory one year of national service. Regrettably, after call-off there are no jobs for majority of them.
The same syndrome is well pronounced in the power sector where our nationwide power output is still at a meager 2,766 megawatts. The epileptic power failure is quite a common phenomenon. What more do we say about our moribund refineries? What more about weak local manufacturing industries, and an over reliance on imported goods?
This 53rd Independence anniversary should be commemorated with deep reflections over the state of our country. An introspective analysis of the polity is imperative. While it is believed that positive change is on the way, proactive measures must be put in place beginning from the present. Vague goals without proper implementation is only a confirmation of the continuous exploitation of the masses through loud manifestoes in election periods.
I am optimistic about our future as a nation. As we have always said it, “E go better.” But for our nation to change, and for the present administration to deliver good on its transformation agenda there must be a change of our value systems. Value systems that have encouraged and celebrated ill-gotten wealth must be cracked!
In view of our anticipation for a better today and a glorious tomorrow, and in view of few laudable achievements we have recorded in our fourteen years of experimental democracy, 1st of October is worth celebrating. We can still be called the giant of Africa—and in a positive sense. We can still be looked up to by other nations and be seen as a big player in the comity of nations.
It is on this premise I say a happy Independence Day, my fellow Nigerians.
[ONIS SAMPSON is a young Nigerian author and lawyer based in Port Harcourt.
This article was written in commemoration of the 53rd independence anniversary of Nigeria and published in the Literati Section of THE PEOPLE’S HERALD newspaper. THE PEOPLE’S HERALD newspaper can be purchased from your nearest newspaper stand.
The Literati Section is a remarkable aspect of the paper that features works of art in categories such as Creativity, Reviews, Events, Poetry, Short Stories, Profiles, Treatises, Announcements and Ovation. Indeed it is a one-stop place for the art intelligentsia. For reasons of particularity an apt nomenclature for that is the “literati,” hence the title, “The Herald Literati.”
The Herald Literati has featured series of scintillating book reviews. Chimamanda Adichie’s novel, “Americanah” has been reviewed in this section; likewise a review of “Dappled Things,” a novel by Iweka Kingsley. These are writers of great repute. The current edition of the paper features an essay that encapsulates the life and times of departed Ghanaian literary bard, Kofi Awooner whose death came tragically in the hands of the East African terrorist group, Al-shabaab. This same edition has the essay above by Onis Sampson. Also featured in the Literati Section is a symbolic poetic piece titled, “Colloquy” written by Magnus Abraham-Dukuma, a young distinguished writer and lawyer based in Port Harcourt.
The Literati is an intellectual hotbed that celebrates great works of Literature. It celebrates literary giants like Shakespeare, Elechi Amadi, Soyinka, Achebe etc etc, and provides the right clime for rising giants to stand tall in the world of literatures from various parts of the world.]