Now that I think about it, Nigeria's independence day in 1960 must have been akin to some contemporary celebrity weddings. The lead up to the event is exciting. The ceremony is lavish and beautiful. The bride and groom pose for lovely pictures. And amidst all that, observers are convinced that the union will in fact fail.
I say this because when Nigeria became a self-governing nation state on October 1st, 1960, even Great Britain, the former colonial ruler, didn't think 'Nigeria' would make it.
It's been 50 years since that day and unfortunately, the Nigeria of today is, in many ways, worse off. I could quote the statistics, but that would do little more than stress you out. At least, that's what they do to me. And today, I am unwilling to focus on the harsh reality. Not just at this moment.
So, I will acknowledge the following:
- I am thankful that the Nigerian union has made it 50 years.
- I am thankful that there has only been one civil war, though the vestiges of that conflict remain today.
- I am thankful that for all the issues, and there are many, Nigeria isn't in a worse shape. Harsh, I know. But please grant me the liberty.
- I am especially hopeful that Nigeria will overcome it's challenges and prove to be a successful union.
And on this day, I choose to call upon that most Nigerian of attributes - the ability to hope - as my strength. I desperately need to rely on the idea of a better Nigeria because when I look at Nigeria, and I often take very close looks, it's all very nerve racking. The country is laden with troubles. There is an administration that believes in spending millions on celebrations that will not leave a single new school, bridge or hospital to help citizens now and in the future. There are citizens who seem satisfied to grasp for crumbs as long as they exclude others from beneath the proverbial banquet table. There are individuals who have repeatedly shown their disdain for citizens and democratic institutions but claim to seek the people's vote for office. There is the recent kidnapping of 15 defenseless children in Aba. Oh, and there is all manner of what lies in between. Nobody has to say that Nigeria, as concept, is a mess.
And yet, I can have hope for a better tomorrow because I know that there are individuals working alone or collectively to do what they can to be positive representations of Nigeria. Even in the smallest ways. From bloggers creating 'We are Jos' to help child victims of violence in that area, to activists like Sokari Ekine who works tirelessly on human and civil rights issues. There is Maryam Uwais, a Nigerian lawyer who gave a speech that literally changed my life. Or, a group like Youth For Technology who work with communities in the Niger Delta. I am empowered by the group of Nigerian health professionals who gave free services to their neighbors in Alabama, US. Then there is the fact that despite the questionable dividends from almost 12 years of democracy, more than 80% of Nigerians plan to vote in the upcoming elections. And the many individuals and groups that work tirelessly to do good even when they will not be rewarded for it. When I think about these individuals, I am reminded that despite the existence of mediocre governance on the part of many political leaders, Nigerians achieve and do wonderful things. So many manage to not meet the expectation others might have of them to equally be mediocre.
These individuals and groups keep me hopeful that Nigeria will overcome it's problems. I can retain my belief, as deluded as it might seem to some, that that union that took place on October 1st sixty years ago is still on it's way to becoming a shining example. I need Nigeria to be a success in order to affirm my belief that a not so lustrous golden jubilee can eventually sparkle someday soon.
Independence Day- Related Articles from the Archive:
- The Morning After
- At 49....