Today in history, Nigeria’s flag of independence was officially hosted 62 years ago, precisely on the 1st, of October 1960. Nigeria, officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa. It is situated between the Sahel to the north and the Gulf of Guinea to the south in the Atlantic Ocean. It covers an area of 923,769 square kilometres (356,669 sq mi), and with a population of over 218 million, it is the most populous country in Africa and the world’s sixth-most populous country. Nigeria borders Niger in the north, Chad in the northeast, Cameroon in the east, and Benin in the west. Nigeria is a federal republic comprising 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, where the capital, Abuja, is located. The largest city in Nigeria is Lagos, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and the second-largest in Africa.
As Nigeria clock 62 today, at this stage in our nationhood it is important that we reflect on how we got here to enable us to work together to get to where we aspire to be as a nation destined for greatness, a strong indivisible nation, united in hope and equal in opportunity. Therefore, as we celebrate the 62nd anniversary, let us be encouraged by the golden words of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States. He once said; “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. Nigeria at 62, we are at the crossroads of our political history – issues ranging from kidnappings, insurgency, killings, banditry, religious intolerance and other challenges of a developing country confronting us on daily basis.
As such, it has become absolutely necessary for us as a nation destined for greatness to kickstart the process of building consensus for national rebirth while thinking through Nigeria’s problems and proffering solutions; I can rightfully conclude that our strength lies in our diversity. But exploring and exploiting that diversity as a huge potential has remained a hard nut to crack, not necessarily because we have not made efforts, but for such reason as building a consensus on any national issue often has to go through the incinerator of those diverse ethnic configurations. Being free doesn’t mean that you will have your freedom forever. You have to defend it till your last breath, so everyone knows that they shouldn’t mess with you and your independence.
Instructively, the recent events and surge in the clamour for a reconfiguration of Nigeria’s extant political arrangement have, once again, drawn critical attention to the national question bearing in mind the national question that cannot be suppressed, neither can it be ignored. Fundamentally, it is a prickling issue at the very heart of the Nigerian project. It queries the propriety of our current centripetal federalism and challenges us to make apposite paradigmatic changes. It draws attention to the fact that there is something fundamentally wrong. Although, remembering our past is extremely important, but we also have to think about building our future. Let’s do everything to keep our freedom and carry it through the years; let us come together in the spirit of celebration to rebuild our beloved country Nigeria. It is thus, imperative for collective responsibility and reunion.
Let’s make a strong decision, to value our nation and never forget the sacrifices of those who gave us freedom. Let me be clear, we as a people bond in unity, our thoughts symbolize the catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles. What we think directly influences how we feel and how we behave. So if we think we’re failures, we’ll feel like a failure – then continue to act like a failure, which reinforces the belief that we must be failures. It thus suggests that in Nigeria we often overestimate our position in the reality of things and underestimate our potential and in so doing we make avoidable errors. For me, there’s great value in recognizing different perspectives in conversations because these enable us to hear and react to things very differently. “Though tongue and tribe may differ in unity we stand” therefore, we need to be mindful of the verdict of history and posterity so that the generations coming behind will not be ashamed of us.
Flowing from the foregoing, as we rejoice and celebrate our independence anniversary, although with the consciousness of the perilous times, and mindful of the task ahead. I like to salute our compatriots at home and abroad. Let me not forget Are, Afe Babalola, SAN, a distinguished legal icon and elder statesman, who was recently in the eye of the storm for advocating the postponement of next year’s 2023, general elections and the establishment of an interim government to restructure Nigeria and create a new Constitution. Although, the views expressed by one of our finest legal minds, may not be acceptable to some of us, because it has the capacity to truncate the ongoing process. However, amid the high decibels of critical voices, none can accuse the legal luminary Are Afe Babalola of flippancy.
Additionally, whilst the imperatives for national rebirth in Nigeria cannot be faulted, I make bold to say that the unity of our dear nation Nigeria is not negotiable and on no account should we begin to trivialize and toy with the democracy that symbolizes the supreme price paid by our heroes, in particular the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO). In the circumstances, there is the need to fully exhaust the options of a successful implementation of the much talked about handshake across the bridge, efforts towards rapprochement and ultimately the much talked about “Mandela option” it may just be the first major step in the right direction and an option that is likely to address the misgivings, particularly the issues of equity, fair play and Justice – such will naturally take care of the tensed atmosphere and reassured our compatriots, particularly of the eastern extraction.
Furthermore, there is the issue of growing concerns about the crisis in public trust that is contributing to among other things, support for extreme political views, increasing public discontent, protests and in some cases violent conflict – a very clear illustration of such is evidently noticed in our troubled nation Nigeria presently. There’s a movement galvanized by the oratory prowess of one of the leading opposition candidates, they are mostly identified with different motives and street names (OBIdients, Obizombies, Obidiots). Although the said movements seeking for change may not be able to achieve the set goals and translate their desires to reality. Nevertheless, it will be unwise to dismiss their capacity for bigger mischievous tendencies, such as restiveness, exuberance and ultimately resulting in a major threat to our fragile peaceful coexistence which could also attract reprisals from other parts of the country leading to another war.
Similarly, our political space is saturated and suffocated with statements such as: “Please, church wake up, take back your country and GOD bless you”-Peter Obi. This is completely unacceptable, pure arrogance, divisiveness, pride, and lack of proper thinking by a desperate politician jumping from one church to another in the bid to cash on the gullibility of the people. Yet, the intention is to get a sufficient number of the people’s votes to the throne without building bridges.
I am lost to the viability of such incongruence and fruitless endeavour; I equally don’t know why the children of anger and perdition think it is better to set the nation ablaze – rather, what some of us expect is leadership that understands the true meaning of “Unity and faith’ and what it takes to galvanize and unite the people with unweary tenacity, capacity, sagacity for the stability of this great country Nigeria.
Sadly, such unguarded statements coming from a man who claims to be different from other leaders is unfortunate, to say the least, and are similar to the recklessness, divisiveness and propagandist statements that eventually culminated in an unfortunate but avoidable civil war that claimed more than three million precious souls in the sixties. Therefore, we need to reintroduce the values of trust in each other, in our public institutions and in our leaders.
It is the bedrock and foundation that are all important and essential ingredients for social and economic progress, thereby allowing people to cooperate with and express solidarity for one another. Therefore, in my view, there seems to be a striking resemblance between the past and present situations, particularly the pre-war in the mid-sixties. Hence the need to address the misgivings, particularly the issue of trust deficit. Therefore, as we celebrate and dedicate this article to our independence celebration @62, which seeks to encourage Nigerians to do away with the past and develop a new model for us to set in motion the process of deliberate engagement toward a fruitful and fulfilling dialogue with our spiritual, temporary and political leaders.
Conclusively, permit me to use the words of; Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, an American political figure, diplomat, and activist. Eleanor served as the first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office, making her the longest-serving first lady of the United States. She equally served as United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952. Eleanor had famously said: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” Finally, I like to submit that Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. Yes! We have wronged each other; we have offended one another and cheated our neighbours. However, in the spirit of celebration can we find a middle course, and embrace the peace that will signpost a new beginning embedded with the capacity to prevent the situation that led to the Nigerian/Biafran civil war? Yes! I am fully persuaded that we can do it – the spirit of “CAN-DO” to the rescue. ARISE ‘O COMPATRIOTS.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATION NIGERIANS.
Odusanya is a Social Reform Crusader and the convener of AFRICA COVENANT RESCUE INITIATIVE ACRI.