The Blues of October 1 (1)
On this sedate Friday, it may well be necessary to apologise for a heady stuff whose focus is on our continued pre-occupation with Nigeria’s independence anniversary. As I write and continue to reflect on our lot, what vividly comes to mind is the cynical and realistic manipulation of words as these relate to the grim reality of our flag independence. On this note, the reader may wish to appreciate that our own colleagues in Political Science have their own way of depicting the retrogression and blues which have accompanied our independence. Thus, rather than write about independence, they are likely to write (in) dependence.
In other words, and according to them, what we obtained in 1960 was not so much independence – as the searing reality called in (dependence). Thus, as our friends in political science will easily and quickly point out, what we have, is in reality-dependence. If you are an optimist and unlikely to agree with what we have said so far, you only have to consider some of the nuanced and hidden aspects of Nigerian history.
Despite the euphoria and enthusiasm which hall-marked our independence in 1960, there were clear signs that, all was not well with our country’s future. But who cares? Let the drums roll was the general acclaim.
Our first witness to this dismal future was none other than that activist writer –Wole Soyinka. In one of his books, he spoke to what can be called an epiphany of sorts in which he was forced to have a rethink about how he should position himself at the barricades.
Poor Soyinka, initially he was of the view that the next phase of the struggle would be against apartheid South Africa. Very soon, he had to change his mind. This was in view of the fact that his encounter with our then Nationalists at the various pre-independence constitutional conferences, turned out to be something of an eye opener.
He found that the new leaders in the prospective Nigerian nation were bereft of ideas and vision. And as such, he was convinced that there was a lot of work to be done in Nigeria and not Southern Africa as he originally thought.
The immediate foregoing could well explain why the commissioned play for Nigeria’s independence as written by him was titled: Dance of the Forest. It was a play which spoke to the undesirable outcomes which were likely to come with independence. And if you think that his creativity can be located on the platform of the mad artist syndrome, then think again. This is because even some non-artists had their own premonition of what independence would mean for the ordinary Nigerian.
At this point in time, we have to invite into this narrative, a certain character, that is often ignored or largely forgotten in Nigeria’s history, Adunni Oluwole. As the records show, Adunni was an activist. She went as far as to establish a political party in those days. She was something of a maverick. But like all mavericks, she was able to see far into the future. What she was able to see was a Nigeria in which, in the post-colonial order, Nigerians would suffer, even much more than what obtained under colonial rule. One dramatic way in which she demonstrated this was in her behaviour and action. As revealed by the historian, Gabriel Olusanya, Adunni Oluwole, had the habit of going around Lagos, dressed in a prisoner’s uniform, made from a heavy and uncomfortable material like, baft. And to complete the grotesque profile, she put around her neck, a big stone.
It was in this unusual garb, that Adunni Oluwole went around the streets of Lagos. When accosted as to why was decked in this sartorial garb, she retorted that she was showing Nigerians the kind of suffering which awaited them after the exit of the white colonialists.
I do not know whether anyone will want to disagree with the fact that, after all, Adunni Oluwole turned out to be right. This is because, this much is clear, there is a lot to be said for her prescience in the light of the evolving realities and tragedy in contemporary Nigeria.
However, before you consign Soyinka and Adunni to the platform of extremism, you
also need to be in the know as regards another narrative. As independence approached, an unusual political party was formed. The sole aim of this party was its unusual crusading zeal. In the specific sense, this zeal focused on an unusual aim which the party called: The Retention of Colonial Rule. No doubt, this was unusual at that point in time.
However, and at this juncture, it is necessary to do some recapitulation. Here we are in the year 2021, nosing towards 2022. What can we candidly say about how we have fared since 1960. The relevant question to ask here is: as a nation, have we in any way justified the worst fears of individuals like Adunni Oluwole, Wole Soyinka and those ultra-realistic pessimists who perhaps in their foresight and wisdom, established a party which called for the retention of colonial rule.
Every day, what stares us in the face is that, these prophets in their respective ways, may have turned out to be right.
To Be Continued On Monday