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Random musing on independence

By Anthony Ademiluyi
17 October 2016   |   3:45 am
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who largely spearheaded the nationalist efforts was highly fascinated with Uncle Sam which saw him studying there instead of the popular British route.
Nigerian children attend independence day celebrations in Lagos in October 1, 2013. PHOTO: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP

Nigerian children attend independence day celebrations in Lagos in October 1, 2013. PHOTO: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP

On March 23, 1775, fiery lawyer, orator and nationalist stood before the Virginia House of Burgess where he delivered an epoch-making speech which ended with ‘Give me liberty or Give me death.’ That speech coupled with Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the American Declaration of Independence and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense stirred up nationalistic feelings which set in motion the chains for the rising up in arms of the continental army dealing a fatal blow to King George 111’s highly prized colony.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who largely spearheaded the nationalist efforts was highly fascinated with Uncle Sam which saw him studying there instead of the popular British route. That decision nearly pushed him to the brink of economic annihilation as the colonial government refused to offer him a job as he possessed a suspicious degree. He saw the hitherto despised journalism profession as an economic independence ladder which he embraced whole-heartedly in championing the struggle for indigenous rule.

The independence struggle was largely a southern affair as no Northerner could lay the remotest claim to agitating for self-rule. In an interview granted by the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, he revealed that Zik found himself in a rather awkward position as a nationalist agreeing to a delay of the independence date so as to give room for the north to catch up.

The first sign of a crack came when Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello refused to become the nation’s Prime Minister, preferring to stay behind in the north to direct things from behind the scenes. We then started on a rather shaky note of the Prime Minister not being the leader of any political party.

Other countries like Ghana and Zimbabwe renamed their countries after independence but we were reluctant to do away with the colonial vestige. There wouldn’t have been any harm in conducting a referendum to ascertain if the forced marriage of 1914 was really worth it. Part of the Southern Cameroun that was with Nigeria decided to part ways with us and join Cameroun and the Heavens didn’t fall. There were deep rooted tribal issues which needed to be resolved. Independence did little to build a national cohesion which the then young nation so badly needed. We still viewed one another with suspicion as strange bedfellows and tribal loyalty was the benchmark for pragmatism. A referendum may have averted the civil war. There was nothing wrong with choosing if we truly wanted to live together as one after being free from foreign rule. The irony was that a referendum was conducted by our erstwhile colonial masters to determine Scotland’s continued stay within the UK.

The locust years of the military came which set the country aback by decades. Visionless leadership both civilian and military ensured that the state was perpetually underdeveloped. The curse of oil was another reason for our failure to achieve our gargantuan potential. Some pundits opine that if the British had discovered oil earlier than the 1956 year, we may have witnessed what happened in South Africa where they would simply refuse to vacate. That opinion is subject to fierce debate but the culture of organised sloth and entitlement has badly damaged the collective national psyche.

The IBB years saw a massive exodus of the bright and brightest to the West and to all the corners of the earth which welcomed them with open arms and gave them the leeway to make unprecedented exploits from surgeons to academics, lawyers, writers, pharmacists, engineers and so on. Nigeria became a distant homeland that buried grand ideas and dreams. Another type of sojourners became those who travel for greener pasture illegally. Some are ready to cross the Sahara Desert and Atlantic Ocean simply to have an ounce of a decent life. Some go as far as selling their patrimony to raise the funds for the ‘journey of death’ all because the opportunities for self-actualisation is simply lacking. It makes more sense to these people to be undesirables in faraway climes than to continue to grapple with getting the essentials for day to day living.

Democracy finally returned in 1999 but did little to raise the hopes of the ‘Giant of Africa’s’ rising to take its rightful place. The mindless looting that has gone on in the last 17 years is enough to make the Kleptomaniac Abacha simply wake up and gasp for breath. The ‘change’ that occurred last year is no better than what was witnessed in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The Boxers can’t even be sold anymore.

It’s tragic that the nation still wobbles in diapers at 56 and each Independence Day rather than bring joy elicits more tears in the eyes of incurable optimists. Speeches on this supposed memorable day are no more than footnotes.

Granted that we have wasted enormous opportunities to become among the globe’s greatest, it is still never too late to begin anew. The change begins with me campaign of the President should actually start from him. What policies is he putting in place to steer our over dependence on oil? How is he leading the nation to plug into the world knowledge driven economy? When Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, came, his first port of call was not to Aso Rock or Alausa but to CC Hub as he knows the future lies in creativity.

The call for the production of pencils by the Science and Technology Minister, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu is worse than a farce. Beyond rhetoric and sloganeering, what is the roadmap to power the nation’s development on the back of a knowledge driven economy?

We all recall how India leapt into a technological power house because of the policy crafted by Mahoman Singh as Finance Minister which plugged India into the freelance IT economy and led to the development of Bangalore.

The Chinese miracle is built on the back of creativity and innovation. What is the policy thrust of the PMB administration to get the nation out of the woods through taking advantage of the natural resilience of Nigerians by creating the enabling environment for them to thrive? Body language won’t suffice; it must be backed by a strong will and sturdy action template.

The Holy Book says that we should rejoice at all times so even in this bleak time I wouldn’t hesitate to say a loud congratulations Nigeria at 56 even though a part of time still has a tinge of caustic sarcasm. I hope there is something better to write by this time next year and wonder if the sale of some national assets would also be extended to some mortals as the line may be thinly drawn.