Every October Ist, Nigerians look forward to not only the public holiday but also the parade and parties that come with our Independence celebration. In the days of yore, “Independa” as it was popularly called was a day of great expectations. Nigerians rolled out the drums at all levels to commemorate their freedom from colonial rule. Everyone got involved, everyone looked forward to it.
But now, the noise and euphoria that characterise of our independence celebration have dwindled and gradually been replaced by a kind of indifference, especially where the people themselves are concerned. The reasons are not farfetched. Nigeria is believed to be a failed state.
Last week, Nigeria celebrated its 58th independence but the majority of people could not be bothered by it. There was the usual public holiday which both workers and students enjoyed as it gave them time to rest. But many Nigerians did not mark the day in any significant way neither did they take a few minutes to reflect on the true meaning of independence. People were busy looking for ways and means to survive in a country where life and living have become a daily struggle. Things have become so difficult, with rising hostility and greed, particularly now our general election is around the corner.
None of the 36 states of the federation can be said to be progressing as expected: the problem of poverty, unemployment and poor infrastructure are nationwide although they are worse in some states than others. Many people are really grinding the wheel, or making bricks without straw, to borrow the Old Testament phrase narrating the plight of recounting the Israelites under a hostile Egyptian pharaoh.
Things are unbelievably difficult countrywide, especially here in Imo State where many people’s livelihood has been brutally uprooted by the very Government that should be caring for them. The destruction of Eke ukwu Owerri and other markets, as well as homes and businesses, which fell victim to the Government’s unplanned road expansion project, have created much suffering and orphaned not a few people.
Who then would blame anyone for not celebrating or even remembering the Independence Day? Fifty eight years after independence, Nigerians have no water, electricity and cheap flight“>flight”>travel on some of the most dangerous roads in the world. It is known that more Nigerians die from road accidents that any other causes. Why then should anyone celebrate independence, especially now when things are biting harder.
It will be unfair to put the blame on any one Government. But it is worthwhile to note that the problem with Nigeria is leadership. Governments at all levels have failed to live up to expectation. Our Governments have put parochial interests before public good. The word Nigeria is still very much a geographical entity rather than a people with common interests.
What hurts most is that many Nigerians who have left home in frustration do well in other countries. Whereas our education system has virtually collapsed, it is said that Nigerians in the US, for example, have picked up all the degrees available, literally. They are among the best educated immigrant population. Whereas our hospitals lack doctors, Nigerian health professions are making waves overseas.
Soon, it will be time to elect leaders again. From what we have seen so far it is obvious nothing has changed. Rigging, vote buying and intimidation are still active. The criminal-politicians are still having their way. So what are we really celebrating at 58 years?
We are celebrating resilience, faith in God and the hope that things can, in fact, change. We are celebrating the fact that although the challenges are many, they can be overcome with our collective will. If Nigerian leaders can put public interest above personal gain, ethnic, religious and political ambition, we can, in fact, break the chain for a real change.