Nigeria at fifty seven
Genuine, practical and enduring independence is seldom predicated on a single factor. Independence is a continuum and a state of existence which manifests the attainment of a modicum of features and a convergence of forces that synergize to ensure sustainable growth and development. Furthermore, independence not only connotes viability, vibrancy and potency, but also the potential to effectively propagate these dynamics in the long term. To the extent that Nigeria was granted Independence by Britain in 1960 after a long history of colonial domination and rule, we became a self-governing and self-determining sovereign nation.
The birth of an Independent Nigeria, comprising of a cynically contrived union of disparate, disjointed and haphazard groupings, could in human terms, be likened to the birth of an anomaly bordering on the bizarre and freakish. Regardless of however deformed, unbecoming, awkward, odd, helter-skelter and confused, the entity appeared to be, there was a fragile underlying capacity for growth and a vague potential for purposeful movement. The Developmental psychologist Erik .H. Erikson, identified various distinct stages through which a healthy human being should successfully traverse from infancy to adulthood.
The implication being that earlier challenges not addressed or mastered would constitute recurring and debilitating impediments. Drawing on the human analogy, Nigeria survived its infancy only to be plunged into near death throes in 1967 as a result of the secessionist Biafra war which lasted for three years. The brutal civil war was followed by decades of self-rule and governance at gun point as the country was subjected to intermittent military rule until 1999. By definition, the rule of law was upended, democratic institutions cudgeled, socio-economic development abandoned, basic rights and freedoms abrogated and the general populace dehumanised.
Contemporaneous with this epoch was the triumphal commercialisation of our vast petroleum resources, establishing Nigeria’s position as the leading oil producing nation on the continent and solidifying our status as a full-fledged petroleum economy, as a result of the marginalisation of other revenue generating sectors. The gross myopia was matched only by the accompanying runaway bacchanalia. The cumulative effect of the foregoing was to serve as a swirling vortex, which inexorably and ineffably destroyed nation building values, tools and goals, such as they had once existed on the national landscape, as tender shoots of a nascent democracy. Nigeria’s descent into becoming a soulless nation was complete.
Continuing the human analogy, this time frame represented middle childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. During these fundamental growth periods, crucial elementary and major lessons, having the gravest existential ramifications should have been learned, processed and capitalised on. We are currently into middle adulthood and by right had these lessons become part of our national identity and fabric of society, we would be supremely confident of our pathway to stability and progress. We would also rest in the knowledge that the sun would cast its benevolent rays on cultivated nation building seeds of patriotism, sound governance, hard work, discipline, unity, empathy and sacrifice. In order to be not only independent, but indeed to survive, a species must have the ability to protect itself against external threats, manage resources, develop, adapt to changing conditions and most importantly be able to reproduce itself with thriving, successful offspring. Since all these essential markers are glaringly and painfully lacking in Nigeria at 57 years, I would venture to advance the argument that Nigerians in our indigenous habitat are moving towards “endangered species” territory.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists various categories characterising endangered species, including vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered and extinct. Where are Nigerians today on the sliding scale to extinction? The truth is that we are moribund and clinging tenuously to life with a barely discernible heartbeat and are scarcely self-sustaining, ergo, are we really Independent? This is the question and maelstrom we need to face and grapple with as we approach our 57th Independence anniversary. There is no crime, shame, inertia, sloth, negligence, regression, idleness or failure in retracing one’s steps in life, regardless of one’s advancing years, in order to imbibe foundational truths, behaviours and disciplines.
The silver lining on an otherwise dark scenario is the resilience, courage and optimism of the human mind and spirit, which in the face of failure and ominous clouds is willing to sacrifice and summon the strength to rise up out of the quagmire and loathsome chains, into the open blue skies of maximised potential. For this to happen, it is incumbent on our leaders to commence to lay the cardinal bed rock and tenets of nation building required for true and lasting Independence.
Happy Independence Day Nigeria!
Fowler is an international lawyer.