Independence and freedom
“As the clock struck mid-night, they took their positions on the dais and watched the lowering of the Union Jack (British Flag) and the hoisting of the Nigerian flag…And so ended 100 years of British rule…100 years of colonial bondage…And I am happy. And I am sobbing…”
That was the classic impressionistic reporting by Alhaji Babatunde Jose, the exceptionally gifted editor and newspaper administrator extra-ordinary, the one and only managing director/chairman of the Daily Times. He filed his report from the Race Course years later renamed Tafawa Balewa Square. The report was appropriately bylined Babatunde Jose, Editor, Daily Times Newspaper on 1 October, 1960. For those of us privileged to have passed through his hands in our magic kingdom and empire, the largest newspaper in Africa South of the Sahara, the report and the thoughts of Alhaji Jose cannot but engender sweet nostalgic memories. For the campaigners and freedom fighters, for the generality of Nigerians it was dream come true. School children marched through the streets to gather on fields designated for the great day, waving the Green-White-Green National Flag to blow away the Empire Day to welcome the dawn of independence and freedom in their land.
That was 57 years ago? What were the dreams, what was the vision of the Nation’s founding fathers and their lieutenants in the field of battle? Have the promises of the day held aloft been realised? Editorial writers and political pundits have done justice to this in the run-off to last Sunday. Political leaders of different hues did broadcast or issue statements the kernel of which hinged largely on the imperative of unity. President Buhari said the anniversary “is a day for thanksgiving, reflection and re-dedication.” While recognizing the call for restructuring of the country, he repeated his stance that the places for debate and constitutional amendment are the National Assembly and Houses of Assembly in the states. He is not interested in the argument that the constitution that threw up the Assemblies is fundamentally flawed; it is not a product of a national consensus and it suffers from inherent lopsidedness. Therefore, products of a defective grundnorm cannot be the right gathering to rejig the constitution, a very crucial and fundamental instrument of governance. And their attempt at doing so in August was a woeful failure.
Be that as it may, this column will like to take a cue from the President’s recognition that an anniversary is a day for thanksgiving, reflection and rededication. As it is in the lives of all human beings, that we are travellers, a country is on a journey also. An anniversary provides the opportunity for reflection, opportunity to look back: How has this journey fared? Then, a resolution ensues for renewed striving to attain the goal. For human beings, that goal is fulfilling the purpose of life. For a nation it is to facilitate the attainment of the goal. What then is the purpose of life? Are independence and freedom vehicles for reaching the goal? Contemplation of the Independence and Freedom thus becomes germane.
Independence is not being dependent, whether as a nation, community or a human being. It is a state the nation is not dictated to. It is in a position, even if influenced by experiences and lessons of other lands, to take its own decision thought to be in its interest, and own that decision. It is in a position to take its destiny in its own hands. The nation can plan its life— political or economic plans without external interference. The nation can plan to fashion out its own means of protection and secure its borders. An independent nation is free to make its own laws and regulations. Among the laws will be those that guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought, freedom of movement, freedom to own property, and freedom of assembly; and the laws must guarantee fundamental human rights. There can be expansion of such rights by going into a collaborative working or entering into alliance with other countries and signing treaties with them. To protect their citizens and see to their wellbeing, nations post ambassadors to these other lands. So, important, therefore, is independence. Independence enjoins a nation to own allegiance to no other land but to its citizens.
The independence, however, is a means to an end; it is not an end by itself. That end is free will. The laws which are a feature of independence only serve as guarantees for free will which constitutes an inalienable and inherent essence and property of a human being, the human spirit. Any wonder, therefore, that governments can constrain exercise of freedom only for a while. Over millennia, nations have fought wars; communities have gone to battle in defence of freedom. But then there are restraints to freedom. For there not to be restraint to freedom, there would be chaos and confusion. It is not infrequent that we hear it said: “Your freedom ends where mine begins.” We cannot use our freedom to harm others. The immovable limit to freedom is encapsulated in the statement by the Lord when He said: “Do unto others as you would want done unto you.” He also admonished mankind: “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” As it is with us human beings so is it with nations. A country cannot in exercise of its freedom invade another country. It may wish to from the point of view of independence, but it is forbidden by international sanctions.
National laws are consequences of debates among legislators who may have come under external influences such as pressure from constituents, friends, experiences or practices from other nations. The external impressions may have arisen from learning, from reading journals, reading of newspapers and magazines, or watching television, videos or listening to radio. In these days of social media, internet susceptibility to external impressions is real. All these assail the brains. Thus, the brains receive these for internalisation by individuals. The internalisation requires that the impressions are passed down for sorting, weighing and examining by the spirit which has as its handmaiden the free will. In the modern world of imbalance between the frontal brain, the cerebrum and the small brain, the cerebellum also known as the hind brain, however, the spirit is unable to sift, sort, weigh and examine. And so the laws are not infused with the loftiness that is its inherent quality. Thus, what passes as law today is largely the product of the frontal brain. And the laws are passed by show of hands: The yeh’s have it!!
The spirit is a non-material consistency totally alien to material in which it sojourns. It can make contact with the outside world only through its body which is material. The brain on the other hand is wholly material even if more ethereal more than any other part of the body. The order is for the spirit to be assisted by the frontal brain which is of material consistency with materials it has gathered, using its own instrument, the intellect. The spirit is to take the decisions while the intellect carries them out. The spirit has its own freedom of choice called the free will. The more the frontal brain is consulted the more weakened the free will gets, and the situation gets to the point the faculty of the free will is totally forgotten. Without the input of the spirit all manner of aberrations ensue. Because the spirit is not called upon to make decisions it is unable to unfold its abilities. And so is it that the law becomes fulfilled; what we use develops and what we don’t use atrophies. In the unfolding of the abilities of the spirit, we develop the essence of true love, compassion, helpfulness, patience, understanding, gracefulness, beauty and love of beauty, humility, kindness, and nobility of spirit. And there you are: A true human being. He stands there radiant, confident, unhampered, healthy and full of joy.
All these cannot happen without the spirit, in the exercise of its free will, living and swinging in the divine Laws also known as the Laws of Creation or the Laws of Nature. They are the expression of the Will of the Creator. Without the familiarisation of oneself with them and obeying them no man is free, for without inner freedom a man is a slave even if he were a king! He is dependent! There can be no true independence without freedom as its foundation, and freedom not based on the exercise of free will as the basis soon leads to unfreedom, indeed, enslavement. The ultimate freedom of man, therefore, lies in the inner freedom.
Next Week: What are these laws and what is the purpose of life?