NIGERIA’S DOUBTFUL INDEPENDENCE AT 63
By: Augustine Omilo
The 1st day of October, 1960 remains one of the indelible dates in the hearts of informed Nigerians. The reason is simple and obvious. It was the day the union Jack flag was lowered down by Naval Rating Akano at the command of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s ADC, Commander O. C. Chiazor to usher in the independence of the country from the British Imperialists. This was followed by the lifting of the nation’s green-white-green flag as its replacement in the presence of princes Alexandra of Kent, who represented the Queen of England, late Elizabeth II at Race Course, Lagos.
The process that led to this began in 1953 when late Chief Anthony Enahoro, a 29-year-old Nigerian politician and journalist moved a motion to that effect at national assembly. It was however delayed till 1960 when the British were finally pressured to grant the request of the founding fathers of the nation. Since this day, 63 years ago, till date, different governments of the independent nation have continued to organize programs to commemorate the date as marking the beginning of freedom from ‘slavery’ and oppression in the hands of the ‘Whiteman’.
Unfortunately, the prevailing circumstances in the country today have led many educated and non-educated Nigerians into further re-examination of the meaning of independence – Freedom from being governed or ruled by another country. The argument of these folks is that if Nigeria is truly independent, she will not be relying on the opinion of foreign nations for the authentication of exercises in the country such as census enumeration, democratic elections, monetary policies, use of economic controls and so on.
However, Nigeria as a geographical expression (apologies to late Obafemi Awolowo) has not fared so badly. She metamorphosed from a land mass ‘without form and void’ until 1893 when Lady Flora Lugard (nee Flora Shaw), a British journalist coined a name – Nigeria for her. Before then, the country was run as a commercial venture called “the Royal Niger Company” which later became what is today known as the United African Company, UAC. Her location on the world map cannot be mistaken. She is presently the largest economy in the African continent and the most populous black nation globally aside from having the largest deposit of crude oil in Africa.
It could not have been possible for the country to take her pride of place among the comity of nations without the patriotic inputs from her citizens. Incidentally too, while most of the Diaspora citizens are recording tremendous feats in their countries of abode, those at home appear to have remained adamant to civilized changes. Corruption is still the order of the day.
The world powers have taken advantage of the 24 hours that make up one day to work round the clock and create robust economies and massive employment for their citizens. On the contrary, Nigeria engages only about eight hours of the day in her production and service endeavours. Even at this, the working hours are often times ignored by workers who rather chose to do other things different from those which make them earn money from government and other employers of labour. The minister of Works, Engineer Dave Umahi recently locked out workers who reported late to work. According to him, his employees were in the habit of reporting for duty as late as 1 pm. This means that this class of people only works for an average of 3 hours per day. Instead of feeling remorse about the rebuke by the minister, they began protests against the man. This cannot be an attitude of people desirous of making economic progress.
Since inception, the country has not been able to organize democratic elections that its outcome stood accepted by all contestants and organisers. The one of 2023 seems to be the most pathetically controversial. The cases against the outcome of the presidential election are presently at the supreme court of Nigeria. Tinubu, the president is still battling to prove his eligibility in the presidential election as Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP has successfully recorded a break-through in his bid to obtain the academic records of PBAT officially from Chicago State University, CSU. Atiku aims to use these to nail Tinubu to the wall of defeat at the Supreme Court. The two politicians are thus washing their dirty linens in foreign public at the detriment of the nation’s image as a sovereign nation.
Nigeria seldom recognise and encourage scientific exploits of science citizens. Whereas fiction writers, scholars and actors continue to receive awards and sponsorship from government, scientific intellectuals who hold the key to national development are relegated to the background. For example, the winner of the Big Brother Naija Reality TV show has just pocketed a whopping sum of N120M and other prizes while Dr. Nwizu Ugochi E. (Miss), the current best graduating medical student at the University of Nigeria, UNN is left in the social media for celebrations by bloggers.
Never the less, the country deserves accolades for achievements in telecommunications, global banking, intercontinental prowess in football championships, increased number of schools, victories over the war against malaria and deadly ailments amongst other accomplishments.
Meanwhile, the missing link between the nation’s recorded failures and successes lie in the poor quality of leadership offered the country by the political class. It remains the responsibility of all citizens and relevant orientation agencies to address this issue through the ballot box with the cooperation of the electoral umpire, INEC.