Today marks 59 years since Nigeria was granted independence by Great Britain on October 1st, 1960. The question on the lips of every Nigerian is:
59 years after, are we truly independent? Are our living standards better today than they were 59 years ago? Are Nigerians truly free and independent? Do we have reasons to celebrate?
Personally, I don’t think Nigeria has anything to celebrate. Instead of wasting millions in the name of Independence Day celebration, Nigerian leaders should lock themselves in a badly lit room with no electronic gadget and no distractions whatsoever. There and then, they should ask themselves one very important question which is:
What exactly are we celebrating??
Is it the fact that 59 years after independence, we still rely on Generators with its attendant health hazard to power our homes and businesses?? At this age and time, we cannot generate something as basic and elementary as electricity, is this what we are celebrating?
Are we celebrating the fact that Nigerians still die of common diseases because our hospitals are barren of drugs, equipment and staff, a situation that has forced our President to continue spending billions of taxpayers money in gifting himself with quality medical attention abroad despite the same President budgeting outrageous sum for the Asorock clinic every year. Is this what we are celebrating?
Or are we rolling out the drum in celebration of the fact that 59 years after we were told we are now free, we still cannot refine our oil, something a section of this country, the Biafrans did 50 years ago even under blockade from land, air and sea and heavy bombardment from international allied forces?
Are we celebrating the fact that terrorists, bandits and Fulani herdsmen with well known faces, addresses and other means of identification yet kill and maim Nigerians with impunity clearly sponsored by no one but our own government who continue to engage in an unholy intercourse in the name of negotiation with these agents of death simply because they share the same region and religion as our President and Commander-In-Chief?? Is this worth celebrating?
Today, some parts of the North are effectively in the hands of Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen and bandits. According to Ahmadu Jaha, a member of the federal House of Representatives, Boko Haram controls 8 out of 9 local government areas in Northern Borno State. In the Sunday Sun of yesterday, it was reported that Katsina bandits, the same bandits Governor Aminu Masari, acting with permission from the President, recently held a so-called peace meeting with and promised to release their members detained for banditry, yes, the same bandits who claimed they took to banditry because farmers blocked their cattle routes. (Please check ThisDay of Sept. 5), they just sold 20 Katsina kidnap victims to Burkina Faso slave merchants.
As I type, my chances of dying by the hands of agents of my own government or those being aided and abetted by my government are far higher than my chances of dying of natural causes. You might wake up tomorrow to hear that Charles Ogbu has been killed by members of that Special pro-robbery uniformed group we naively refer to as “Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) – a special police unit evidently dedicated to robbing and killing Nigerians with impunity. If I am lucky to escape the bullet from SARS, regular police and soldiers on the high way might be lying in wait. My refusal to part with N50 bribe might be all they need to do what they do best. And If I get lucky again, what of the untouchable Fulani herdsmen on the high way? Bandits no?
Being a Nigerian today makes one an endangered species. It becomes worse when you are a Nigerian living in Nigeria.
So I ask again, what exactly are we celebrating??
Is it water, is it electricity, is it medical treatment, is it quality education or is it security??
What am I supposed to celebrate today?
Can someone help me out by naming just one thing we gain by being a citizen of an independent Nigeria??
We provide our water ourselves by digging boreholes and wells and still pay levies for the boreholes. We organize our security in our neighbourhood and pay them. In the villages, we use local vigilante who is paid and equipped by the community. In my town, we contributed money to buy our transformer which has remained without light since then.
Do pray tell, if a so-called independent country cannot provide job for her citizens and still cannot provide the enabling environment such as security, electricity, a tax regime that is not anti-business and of course, a credit scheme that encourages entrepreneurship and still cannot build good road networks, cannot revive Ports in different parts of the country, cannot even build well equipped hospitals and schools, OF WHAT USE IS SUCH A COUNTRY TO HER CITIZENS??
Why do we still continue to deceive ourselves that we are independent?? Independent of what and from what??
The fact is, Nigeria is not working. Our country is in a coma. The level of poverty here is multidimensional, according to a U.N report. We have no electricity. We have no security. We have nothing to be proud of. We need to stop comforting ourselves with lies and start hurting ourselves with the truth. We are not the giant of any Africa. That is one hell of a lie. Successive clueless leaderships have since turned us to the dwarf of Africa.
Today, we are more divided than any other time since 1960. How can we not be when we have a President who went to the international scene to divide the country into 97% and 5% based on which section voted for him and which section didn’t? How can there be unity when we have a President that negotiates and doles out huge sums of money to terrorist groups who share his region and religion only to turn around and roll out Armoured Tank, a dancing Python and a smiling Crocodile against other peaceful groups from other section of the country? What sort of unity can there be in a country ruled by a dyed-in-the-wool ethnoreligious irredentist??
Fact is, Nigeria is collapsing under the weight of her internal contradictions.
The bigger tragedy is,
There is no sign of redemption insight for us. At least, not with this government. All we’ve seen from the Muhammadu Buhari government points to a future that can only get darker and darker with no sign of light in sight. This is one truth we must be courageous enough to admit, for it is only by admitting this truth that we can begin to look for redemption.
By Charles Ogbu (twitter @RealCharlesOgbu)