Thursday, October 2, 2008

I remember it like it was yesterday. October 1985. The mood was electric. There was excitement in the air. I was a child, happy to have a day off from St. Mary's Primary School, happy to have my mother home from work and happy to be surrounded by family, friends, food and crates of 'minerals'.

It was October 1st, the day Nigerians celebrated Independence Day. My favorite jingle, at that time, was blasting from my mommy's Sony television set. "Nigeria is 25" the singer sang. His voice was melodious and conveyed an enthusiasm that was infectious. I was a very young child then and although I was a curious and rambunctious child, I had little context of what 'Independence' meant. My family had just returned to Nigeria after years abroad and although my teacher had given us a quick lesson on the basics of Nigerian Independence, my young mind did not truly appreciate the significance of what 'Independence' meant.

Nevertheless, I knew that whatever 'Independence' was, it made me happy. I knew that whatever 'Independence' was, it made my beloved and now deceased grandmother, whom everyone called 'Mama', ecstatic. She told funny stories in her colorful Pidgin English about the original Independence Day and the pride everyone felt. She shared jokes about her old neighborhood at Pike Street and how on Independence Day, a fight broke out between two drunken neighbors. As she spoke, my lovely cousin Vicky sent me to the kitchen to get Uncle Max (RIP) a bottle of Star Beer. I would usually grumble at such an errand, especially whilst listening to the sweet gist my Mama always had. But, on that day, Nigeria's 25th birthday, I was happy and nothing could have soured my mood.
23 years later, on October 1st, 2008, my mood was far from happy. It was Nigeria's 48th birthday and I was faced with the reality of the country I love. The issues I focus on - politics, economics, health, power - forced my mood to sour because I realized that if I had to give Nigeria a grade on those issues, it would not be an 'A'. I could not help but wish, desperately, to be transported back to 1985. To, once again, be a child with little to no idea of the realities. To be with my grandmother, mother, cousins, aunts and friends laughing about hilarious stories and looking expectantly to Nigeria's future. I can't help but wonder what my Mama would think about what Nigeria is today. I wonder if it would measure up to her expectations.

Yet, at the same time, I can't help but feel proud. I have always worn my Nigerian citizenship and heritage with pride. It has served me well a majority of the time and yes, it has brought me pain many a time as well. However, I consider the challenges Nigeria faces and I am amazed at the fact that Nigeria has not fallen apart. I am encouraged by the happiness in the voices of those I speak to back home who, despite their problems, are thankful for what they have and grateful for the blessing of life.

Yesterday, Nigeria's 48th birthday, was a day I spent wishing to go back to the blind optimism of 1985. Today, on the morning after, I chose to be optimistic. Not blindly optimistic, however. After all, the mind of a child cannot compare to the intellect and experience of an adult. Despite that, I choose to believe that Nigeria, despite the stalled starts, the many steps backward and even the outright failures, will emerge from its drunken stupor to a bright morning after. And, I continue to commit myself to play a role in ushering that morning after.

I hope you will too.

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Anonymous said...

eyaaaaa!!! I miss Independence too!!!

N.I.M.M.O said...

"Rise and salute the Nation
Come join the celebration
And let the honey flow (?)
Nigeria is 25!"

I still remember that song but then we cannot fault the hope that the song represented, we can only fault ourselves for the opportunities we have missed to make this nation great.

I beg dont make an old man start crying. If I tell you where I was in October 1985, I will just start crying.

Stuck in my throat said...

Optimism is a goor thing...but in being optimistic, we shouldn't lose sight of reality.
It is even more shameful that we have to think back to our childhood to remember happy times.
We should all be happy regardless of anything.

Chukbyke.Okey,C. said...


Shubby Doo said...

i hope i too do the same...1985 wow...

Anonymous said...

Wooow...intresting i believe too dat nigeria will one day be wat we dream of, like U.S and Europe, oct 1 1985 i was a few months old then,and i also went to St. Mary's Private sch, ajele lagos.

Anonymous said...

Hat tip to you my dear for being able to keep that optimist hat on. Please keep it on, and keep one posting on issues on the homeland.

Just like you, I was driven by a keen sense of optimism for 9ja, I still am by the way, but I must also say that I've grown somewhat angry and depleted over the years. The recklessness of OBJ and the lukewarmness Yar'Adua have all helped to make this possible.

I am becoming convinced that not much good can ever go out of the center - the federal government, but from the hinterlands - the local and state governments. Unfortunately, these areas have yet to be the focus of the Nigerian mainstream media, nor the blogosphere.

Thank goodness for people like Gov. Fashola of Lagos. Maybe there is hope, after all. Maybe people like him will re-inject some sense of optimism back into the polity. But as it is today, we have a long way to go as a responsive and responsible nation, even after 48 years of self rule.

Waffarian said...

I guess that's all we can do, "hope".

TheAfroBeat said...

wetin for do again, if not hope.

thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I have not been here in a while and quite frankly forgot about Independence Day. I'm glad I read this. It is nice to see that you are still 'optimistic', but are you really? Things don't look to good and they were definitely much better in the 80s than they are now. The poor are far more poorer in that country.

I went to Nigeria recently and could not believe the poverty and desperation in some areas. There are some seriously rich people, though. I saw cars I don't see anywhere else in the West but in Abuja, they drove down nice roads in abundance.

Well, I am glad that you were at least thoughtful this Independence. So many Nigerians just see this as a time to have parties and not a time to think about what Nigeria is and how they contribute to the problems or solutions.

Sherri said...

i am very hopeful too.
we can do more than hope. we can give hope life by taking action.

how u dey sista solo?

ababoypart2 said...

I am hopeful, but not for Nigeria as a nation. There isnt a fix for Nigeria, we are all pulling in different directions. Before it used to be a tribal thing, now its an individual thing. Folks are all rushing to grab what is left of Nigeria..Excellent post again.

Anonymous said...

I would like to go on and on and say how I miss the Naija I loved as a child in the 80s, and singing "Nigeriaaaa my beloved kontri" song, SAP, War against indiscipline (WAI), and all the random things that the govt tried to do to better our lives but I'd much rather say I miss your grandma! Remember when she was vexing for me that I had abandoned her and hadnt come to see her, and I finally came to see her at the small hospital by your place? For someone who was sick, she was even the life of the room, and was her usual entertaining self!
God Bless you my sister
God Bless Nigeria!

Lost at The End said...

It's not a matter of hoping or not hoping. It will take a looooooooooooooong while before nigeria gets it together. If we do not break into many pieces under the pressure of time, we will come out of it regenerated. But, remember it's if...

[G@ttoGiallo] said...

Gosh! but happy (sic) Nigeria's birthday all the same...
I'm totally with you in your sadness, Sol.

Thanks for your last comment, even if I'm late with my "Obudu Cable car ride" promise.

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