Today, Nigerians celebrate their 63 years of self-rule: 63 years of independence from Great Britain. At 63, any man would claim to have arrived. But it is not usually so with nations. It takes years upon years to build up a nation. Yet, it takes just a few days, maybe weeks, to destroy that same nation which took many years to build. But thank God for Nigeria.
Despite all the agony and pain inflicted on Nigerian citizens in recent years through the barrels of the guns of armed insurgencies which manifested in many states, from Boko Haram in the north to the nuisance of unknown gun men in the south-east; from kidnappers and armed robbers in both the south and the north, to cultists and political agitators of sorts in the south-west; despite the prophesies of many detractors of the country that it would break up in 2014, after 100 years of amalgamation of its various ethnic components by Lord Fredrick Luggard in 1914, Nigeria is still marching forward with some strength and assurance towards true democracy and respectable nationhood, 63 years after independence.
Nigerians are literarily ever ready to serve their fatherland with love, strength and faith, because the labour of their heroes past shall never be in vain. They have served their one nation, Nigeria, with heart and might to be bound in freedom, peace and unity to the best of their ability so far. Yet, as Nigerians celebrate their 63 years of independence, they need to look inwardly, individually and collectively as a people whose destiny is in their own hands. They need to ask themselves certain pertinent questions: are we happy together as a nation? Can we trust our leaders to make whatever self-sacrifices would be necessary to sink their differences in order to bring the various ethnic components of the country together as one voice which can be presented to the outside world as such? Can Nigerians ever come out of the woods and become the envy of other countries, given their much touted oil and other mineral wealth, and now trusted leadership? Can ordinary Nigerians go to bed and sleep with their windows open for fresh air and their eyes closed for sleep and get up in the morning without worries to go about their daily businesses?
I am sure that many people still remember Dr James Watson, the American scientist who co-founded the structure of the DNA in 1953. I am also sure they will remember that some years ago, Dr Watson came out with a theory which tried to convince the Western world that he had discovered that, contrary to globally held opinions, the mentality of black people was inferior to that of their white counterparts.
Many people accused Dr Watson, at the time, of trying to usher a dangerous conception of race superiority into human relationships which politicians and even society itself would find difficult to handle. Among those who seriously criticized Dr Watson at that time were the then Chairman of Britain’s Home Office Select Committee, Keith Vaz, MP and the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Today, the eminent scholar has been proved wrong because recent statistics in the UK show that Nigerian and Chinese children are the best performing students in England.
The fact that many black people abroad feel somewhat inferior in the presence of their white counterparts has for a long while been attributed to the effects of the slave trade. That may be true to an extent. But the truth, bitter pill that we must all inevitably swallow, is the fact that white people do not regard blacks generally because of the type of leaderships our people have at home, especially in African countries. They find it difficult to understand why a graduate from a country like Nigeria, with a Masters or Doctorate degree would prefer to relocate to the UK or USA as a security guard or a cleaner? Why must they respect such people?
Nigeria is a typical example. It has practically everything it needs, from coal, bitumen, manganese, ore, silver, gold and priceless jewellery to crude oil and gas. It has over 50 rivers and huge forests that are home to the most exotic animals on earth. It has well educated men and women, some of them educated in the best universities in the world. But many Nigerians, especially the educated ones, daily escape from the land of their birth in search of greener pasture abroad. Why?
With all the wealth the country has, why would any citizen of Nigeria want to leave the land of his birth to go abroad only to wash dishes, wash dead bodies or become a cleaner or a security officer, even as a university graduate. If the leaders of the country had used the country’s enormous wealth judiciously to cater for the welfare of their citizens, even the rich white people will be sending their children to school in Nigeria. White people will be looking for jobs in Nigeria. They will respect Nigeria and Nigerians, whether such Nigerians are at home or abroad. But the whites are not doing that. They have no respect for Africans in Diaspora because they don’t see why with all our enormous wealth African citizens would come to Europe and America or Canada to do menial jobs and expect to be respected for that. Why would they respect us? Seriously, do we Africans really deserve their respect? Perhaps the level of respect the average Nigerian commands abroad is one of the more fundamental challenges the APC government would want to consider seriously as Nigeria turns 63.
Obviously, the country has come a long way. It has come from the flamboyant days of the First Republic through several military interventions to the Second Republic, a short Third Republic, and now Fourth Republic. But thank God for the country – in all its travails, the nationals have always found it necessary to stick together. It is obvious that they all feel they have more to gain, both from among themselves as Nigerians and from their global credential as the most populous and oil rich country on the African continent – the gateway to the African economy.
At the home front, the current APC government must have by now taken inventory of what mostly went wrong during Buhari’s administration. Nigerians expect that President Tinubu will take time to study where Buhari went wrong, learn from his mistakes and deliver from that knowledge.
As Nigerians celebrate their 63 years of self rule, let every Nigerian look forward to a brighter, more disciplined and self accounting future. Certainly, all of the nation’s problems cannot be resolved in one tenure of public office, or by one government. It takes time to build up a nation. But there is no mistaking it. Nigeria as a nation is on the march. That is as it should be. President Tinubu is also on the march. We have no doubt about that. Nigerians will obviously get there, someday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NIGERIA.