Yesterday, October 1, Nigeria celebrated her 63rd independence anniversary from British colonial rule. As it is with every person that secures their freedom after any given period of servitude, Nigerians were joyous on October 1, 1960.
It would seem at the time that not even the sky would be the limit to the aspirations of a vibrant, determined black nation. The shackles of colonial rule that were holding the country back from being prosperous were finally being taken off, many would have thought that year.
But the 63 intervening years between 1960 and today have been anything but inspiring for Nigeria as a country. The dreams of our country’s founding fathers, whatever they may be, are surely not what Nigerians experience today.
Surely, the country’s founding fathers did not dream of a country neck deep in debt, riddled with poverty, insecurity, and failing on virtually all indices of human development that can be thought of.
The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain, reads a portion of Nigeria’s national anthem, but at the current trajectory, this sadly appears to be the reality, and only a drastic change in course can reverse it. Those who fought for Nigeria’s independence believed they were fighting not really for their own futures but those of their children and generations to come. At the time, they most likely did not intend to bequeath a Nigeria rife with ethnic and religious divisions to the future generation.
One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity, reads the concluding part of the first stanza of the national anthem. And it epitomises the aspirations of Nigeria at the early years of independence. But today, freedom is a luxury for many Nigerians. Freedom of movement is curtailed largely by insecurity, peace of mind eludes many households where the next meal is uncertain, and for those under constant attacks from bandits, sleeping is a risk. Unity is hardly more than an ordinary word that does not carry much weight when it comes to how Nigerians from different parts of the country perceive and relate with one another.
The elections this year in fact, widened the disunity among Nigerians, further polarising people along ethnic and religious lines. The contentions that have followed the elections have also put the spotlight on another decaying part of Nigeria’s existence; the judiciary. The law has more often than not failed the ordinary Nigerian from being trampled upon by the wicked and powerful.
The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain, reads a portion of Nigeria’s national anthem, but at the current trajectory, this sadly appears to be the reality, and only a drastic change in course can reverse it.
Thousands of people languish in jail awaiting trial, including those on charges that could easily be dismissed if they had their day in court, and those whose incarcerations can be linked to abuse of power and malicious prosecution. Getting justice is a luxury many Nigerians do not even believe exists.
In healthcare, the doctor to patient ratio is one of the lowest in the world, and continues to get worse with the quickening pace of exodus by medical workers. In other fields, the best and brightest minds are fleeing the country at the first chance they get and many are not looking back.
‘Nigeria, the evil you have done is enough’, is a popular statement many make (and share especially on social media) when they are finally leaving the country. For many, they do not want ‘Nigeria to happen to them’. A way of saying they do not want to fall victims to the myriads of bad things that could happen to someone simply because they are on Nigerian soil. From being abducted and killed both by criminals and those who should be law enforcement officers, to being brazenly extorted by security agents (just as kidnappers would), to dying needlessly because of incompetence or negligence at a hospital, most Nigerians are tired of what 63 years ago appeared to be a promising nation.
Promises after promises by governments in Nigeria; both military and especially civilian have done infinitesimally little to improve the lot of Nigerians. Governments have failed woefully to make Nigerians proud of their country, and to live decent lives.
A crawling big baby, Nigeria is ironically called the giant of Africa. But the reality is that it is no more than a toothless dog that is all barks and no bite.
The respect for the country in international circles has waned and now at 63, Nigerians must finally take the destiny of their nation in their own hands, and say with conviction that ‘enough is enough’. Every Nigerian must make the conscious decision to be the change they want to see in the country if things are to change for good.