• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

A country like no other deserves garlands

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The celebration mood started in January, when the authorities decided that Abuja should have a ball, to celebrate the centenary of our journey as a country.  The amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates that brought the two sides of the Nigerian divide together, in spite of its imperialist stamp, in the wisdom of Aso Rock Villa, was a milestone that no nation keen about unity and development should ignore. And with a multi-billion naira showpiece that was largely funded from private purse, reportedly, Abuja and the rest of the country won’t forget in a hurry that there was a grand ceremony.

It is unlikely that the recording of that grand-ball, well edited and informative enough to serve as a resource tool for researchers, tourists or anybody with a faint interest in Nigeria, is available for sale anywhere, 10 months after that costly celebration. But we should remember the centenary celebration in a positive light anyway, when the typical ebullient Nigerian spirit defied the marauding onslaught of the terrorists that have struck several times in the nation’s capital and have kept the October 1 Independence Day celebration off the Eagles square for the fourth consecutive year.

Like the World Economic Forum hat held in Abuja without a security hitch, the centenary ball affirmed that Nigeria could secure a choice venue against the marauders. If the approach to further tackle the insecurity menace looks a bit timid, it is not because we are not aware of the open secret that the real enemies could be those within the fold, who leak information, identify targets and even provide finance to the pawns that strike when we least expect. It is simply the style that Aso Rock has adopted in fighting the enemy. Let those who disagree with that style remember that the dreaded Abubakar Shekau is at least dead and it took barely two months to contain the Ebola scourge.

The nation is in an apparent celebratory mood and in spite of President Goodluck Jonathan’s yearly call for sobriety in celebrating our independence as a sovereign nation,  a harsh self-appraisal is not ideal for a time like this. If we could fete unhindered in January, why should we fret in October, in a month where at least three public holidays are guaranteed?

It is bemusing that the tendency to judge ourselves harshly has become something of a national pastime.  Even when we acknowledge the need for dialogue, we shout across the table rather than reason together. When we talk at all, it is often to talk down on each other.  We have become accustomed to abusive language, temperamental conduct and cynical outlook. But we must learn to overlook once in a while the numerous foibles in conducting the affairs of a complex nation like Nigeria and acknowledge little efforts towards progress.  We should at least count our blessings first, one by one, before debating how to equitably apply them for the benefit of all.

And so we should recognize that the point about somber anniversary is a cliché that distorts the President’s message every year. It has become the odious introduction to his October 1 address since last year as if all we do is mourn. That somber word is alien to the happiest people on earth.

These happiest people, by the way, happen to enjoy the status of having the largest economy in Africa now, and sitting on the 26th position in the world by virtue of rebasing the economy. With a Gross Domestic product of $510bn and an increase from 10 per cent to 60 per cent of indigenous participation in the provision of goods and services in the upstream sector in the last four years, no one should fail to see the correlation between a growing economy and the new kids on the block owning private jets and drawing the largest traffic of champagne and choice liquor to Nigeria.

Do we not deserve to celebrate after four months of National Conference where each participant, with the exception of one or two, earned in a month the equivalent of the monthly take-home pay of the Deputy Prime Minister of Great Britain? They disagreed to agree, returned knotty issues of resource control and power devolution to the President to find his own answers and succeeded in adding another important document to the growing list of recommendations on the President’s table.

Yet, the Confab report came in good time, just before a new set of national honours awardees was announced. It won’t matter if your specialty is to steal a state blind, run your businesses aground, service the powers that be with your endowments or know how to cook good delicacies; you deserve to join in the perpetual celebration.

And like the clergy who also celebrate milestone years with fanfare, award honorees also know how to spread the joy, with congratulatory adverts coming as bumper harvests. Vainglory sure looks nice in agbada, babanriga and woko with a Niger Delta bowler hat in tow.

We celebrate because we are all, directly or indirectly, partakers in the devouring of this proverbial buffalo of Africa called Nigeria. Hopefully, we would recover from the stupor and remember that by far the biggest problem plaguing the nation remains corruption. Every other malaise, be it impunity and the slow pace in winning the battle against terror and insecurity, derive from that monster we are either afraid of, insincere in talking it or just plain clueless in confronting it headlong.

But it is well with my country. Happy 54th independence anniversary!

Steve Ayorinde