Change, Politics

Another Independence Day

Here we are again at another start to the month of October. For most people around the world, October is just the first day of the tenth month for each year, but in Nigeria, it is a day to mark the country’s shift from a colonial serfdom to an independent entity. Go throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria and the views of Nigerians would likely range from intense optimism to resigned dejection. On my part, herein lies my own view. 

I published my first personal blogpost on October 1, 2014. Being my first day of running a personal blog, I was more focused on writing an introductory post. However, as had been my custom, I took to Facebook to express my thought about Nigeria’s Independence Day.

That 2014 Facebook post summarised my optimism at that point. Move on to 2015 after a year of blogging. This time, I wrote a proper blog in which I sermonised on a need for unity; a post published in the context of the 2015 general elections that had highlighted pre-stressed seams in Nigeria’s fabric. Then 2016 arrived, and in the midst of a biting recession, I wrote about Nigeria’s independence being an illusion. That article ended on this note:

“As Nigeria clocks 56 years today, may we begin to think about the responsibility of independence. Such thinking should start from the top where the power is concentrated, to the Nigerian on the streets. If we can dump the delusional grandeur of pseudo-independence, then we can work towards achieving real independence— one that benefits everyone, elite and proletariat. Then, whenever it’s October 1, and people say “Happy Independence Day”, it would be because they believe in Nigeria’s independence, and not because they are following a meaningless custom.”

Today, in 2017, I do not think the last sentence in the quoted paragraph has been achieved. True enough, there are countless posts on social networks and blogs celebrating Nigeria’s 57 years of being an independent country. However, I can argue that much of those posts are inspired by a “follow follow” culture, a sense of duty like some persons view marital sex, and for some religious persons, a religiously-nurtured expectation of hope and faith that the dark tunnel has light at its end. I think my argument is validated by the kind of posts that preceded the Independence Day, and the posts that would be seen after the clocks strike to announce the end of today.

If the last paragraph seems rather gloomy, please fear not. As a person, I have gone from being idealistically optimistic to being pragmatically optimistic. This change has come because I realise chants of “e go better”, millions of hours of misdirected prayers, and shiploads of wishful thinking would not cause any positive change in Nigeria. Instead, I look at the concerted effort required to change Nigeria’s bearings. The amount of work to be done is massive, and we seem to be barely scratching the surface. Fixing Nigeria is like erecting a structure from the foundations. The only problem is that the building site was near the epicentre of an earthquake, and clearing the site of debris has to precede any construction work.

Fifty-seven years is a long way for any country. Sadly, some countries who gained independence at a similar time with Nigeria have outrun Africa’s supposed giant. Improving Nigeria’s fortunes requires us to understand the shackles pulling us back, and address fundamental issues that we have sidestepped for too long. As I typed this article, I listened to a discussion programme on Channels TV: “Nigeria @ 57: In need of a rebirth”. In it, two panellists, Bismarck Rewane and Tope Fasua, highlighted “dodgy data” that has plagued developmental planning in Nigeria. For example, when we say that Nigeria would be the fourth most populous country by 2050, the projection basis is the current population estimate of about 180 million people. However, can we look ourselves in the mirror with assurance that we truly believe this population figure? The same way we assume the country’s population is the same way we have made assumptions about other germane areas, for example, the assumption that “Nigeria is one”, when our actions and ground-level realities suggest otherwise.

Is there a silver bullet to fixing Nigeria? Sadly, if there was one, the Nigeria I know would have sent its massive population to the mines to find such silver instead of thinking and creatively working its way into true prosperity. Nigeria’s problems are myriad, from illiteracy to mis-education, poor leadership, infrastructural challenges, policy misdirection, insecurity, heightened religious and ethnic identities, and extremely weak institutions. Talking about Nigeria’s problems would be like rewriting the Lamentations of Jeremiah. However, lamenting would take us nowhere.

I feel like writing a lot more in this article, but seeing that there is no need to win an award for the longest unreadable blogpost, let me stop. Some would say, “You have not said anything concrete about solving the problems”. I think I have painted the solutions within the hundreds of words you have read so far. Let me end with a question for Nigerians: What would we do to change our story, become the next “Asian tiger”, attain great lofty heights, and build a nation where peace and justice reign? 

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