To use the word ‘celebration’, in reference to the marking of the 61st Independence anniversary of this country today, is a glaring misnomer about which the Nigerian leadership should be ashamed.
Given the fact that achievement, high performance, triumphs and successes are the outcomes that right-thinking people celebrate, there is no justification for any pageantry highlighting the failure, low performance and crass ineptitude that have dogged the country in recent times, and on many ramifications. This is why in the light of the gruesome realities enveloping the country, Nigerians rightly consider as pure tokenism and a shameless act of deceit to be excited about independence, let alone celebrate this annual ritual in pomp and merrymaking.
Nigerians are not enamoured with Independence anniversary, not just because of the country’s failings and steady descent into unbelievable anarchy, but more because such degeneration is grossly irreconcilable with her enviable human and material resources that leaders, in succession, mismanage even as they desperately pretend that what is amiss is insignificant, If the years of military dictatorship were regarded as the ‘‘years eaten by the locusts,’’ the abysmal descent of today’s Nigeria may be said to be ‘‘more years eaten by the locusts.’’
Significantly, the narratives of Nigeria’s transit revisited regularly on occasions such as today, have changed only in the reflection of a deepened tragedy of state failure, leaving as cause for chest-beating only the fact that the country remains one, miraculously; along with sparkles of personal development and individual break-through that have emerged from resilient Nigerians who have risen above the crassness and mediocrity of state institutions.
On the home front, successive leaders have abandoned the dream of our founding fathers for Nigeria and replaced it with motivations of self-aggrandizement. The country is divided, people are very poor, life and property are insecure and life is worthless. Every now and then, we witness Nigerians disowning their country with so much disgust and, spewing the worst kinds of invectives at their motherland. While persons of means have secured foreign citizenship for themselves and their families, others are making frantic efforts to do likewise or emigrate from Nigeria. This is the Nigeria that has been bequeathed to the upcoming generation of leaders: a disillusioned country, morally weak, socially fragmented, religiously disoriented and economically comatose.
This is not how a truly independent country carries on. To chart a course for progress, Nigeria needs big dreamers and, more especially, people who would not want to do things the usual way. To justify any claim of being independent, Nigerians must, first of all, ascertain the basis upon which they lay claim to independence. Do the different people that makeup Nigeria see themselves first of all as Nigerians? Or do they lay claim to clannish or tribal allegiance as their most fundamental identity?
Nigerians need a sense of national pride and national spirit, through which all the values, ethos and cultures from their different ethnic groups are harnessed. In other words, there must be a genuine sense of belonging in this country we call ours. To this end, the political class and ruling elite must not privilege a section of the country over others or treat others as second class citizens. Leadership is not about ethnic domination or selfish power imbalance; it is rather a disposition of moral strength and sacrifice to genuinely carry out a mission for the common good.
The imperative before Nigeria as she marks her 61st independence anniversary is to take a leadership position in Africa and the black world. Nigeria is naturally endowed for this leadership role which indeed she has played creditably in past engagements in the African continent and abroad. Leaders should be looking at the exemplary and inspirational roles the country can play, say, 50 years away. However, this can only happen if Nigeria rids herself of incompetence, greed and avarice that have become embedded in her leadership.
If there is anything worth celebrating at all, it is the tenacity and resilience of Nigerians who have decided to own their country despite its repeated embattlement by various categories of outlaws. These Nigerians include the farmers and locals trapped in the enclaves of terrorists and bandits, the repeatedly hounded school children, the disillusioned women and children in IDP camps, the soldiers in the trenches of war and police officers sacrificing their lives on the altar of parochial leadership; and the forlorn Nigerians who everyday hope in God that this too shall pass away. It is these Nigerians, who have kept this country together, that deserve the greatest courtesies.
If the government, especially the Muhammadu Buhari administration needs to do anything it is to fall in line with the nationalistic agenda of the founding fathers of Nigeria. President Buhari should accept that under his leadership, Nigeria has witnessed the worst deterioration ever. Leaders and followers must do their best to ensure that they desire a new, better Nigeria. Leaders must lead well and wean themselves off the selfishness and minimalism into which they have immersed themselves. To make this country work, citizens, especially the leadership, must be truly Nigerian by patronising Nigeria.
Nigerians at all levels should be well-meaning enough to embark on conscientious sober reflection on the state of the nation. Leaders should examine themselves on the quality of leadership they have meted out on the polity. They should reflect on whether or not they have fostered any home-grown solutions to Nigeria’s problems in the economic, educational and health sectors. Leaders must ask themselves whether their stewardship has done the basic minimum for their people. All Nigerians must question themselves about their positive contribution or negligence or indifference to the fight against corruption. Everyone should respect the rule of law and place a high premium on its human capital.
The need for concerted efforts is hinged on the fact that both the leadership and followership are complicit in this degeneration at all levels. Whereas the elite are parasitical on the misfortune of the hapless masses, the followership is largely complacent. As we have often noted, the duty to salvage the country is a moral obligation built on character. Great nations are built on the strength of character of their people. If Nigeria must be great, every person must take responsibility; everyone must commit to doing what he ought to do to his/her community. This is the basic moral obligation to the country. This is the meaning of being truly independent.