It is hilarious to congratulate ourselves for attaining the age of 63 as a country. What a feat that we are still one nation, one people, bound in freedom, love and purity!
But honestly, that is where it ends. Can we really say so? Can we talk about peace, freedom, unity, love and development amongst ourselves as compatriots? Can we hold our heads high amongst the comity of nations? Can we at 63? Are we not dangerously approaching the precipice, the cliff edge? You wonder!
What have we to show for the country’s Independence? At age 63, you are already retired as a career civil servant. You may still be physically and mentally active, but that is the age you are sent home by the government. Even our Armed Forces men and women, upon whom we have invested lavishly, training and equipping them at home and abroad, are not exempted. Can it then be summarized as motion without movement or in ordinary parlance, as fire without heat?
Now, the politics of it is that Nigeria has been unlucky with the type of leadership it’s been getting, right from the military intervention of January 15, 1966, till date.
What could be worse? From then on, we have been fumbling and wobbling till date: No focus, no vision, no commitment, no direction!
Or how else do we explain an economy that showed tremendous promise with large fertile arable land for agriculture, the discovery of crude oil and other subsequent solid minerals became the albatross till this day.
With its attendant misplaced priorities, mismanagement and corruption, most unfortunately, we now import, wholesale, the finished products of crude oil. How do you explain the collapse of our petroleum refineries, our foreign exchange rates, which was still good, less than 40 years ago? It’s now as low as over N1,000 (one thousand naira) being exchanged for one US dollar. What a paradox, a giant with clay feet!!
In sum, all the gains made around the attainment of Independence in 1960 have been frittered away on the altar of greed, nepotism, avarice, ethnicity, tribalism, corruption and internecine wars. Oh, what a pity!
The question arises: Is there anything to truly celebrate? Let’s not deceive ourselves, there’s nothing to celebrate. Particularly when we compare Nigeria with other countries that started around the same time. With patriotism and commitment to common causes, these countries have left us behind. This is heartbreaking.
The matter has turned full circle and the chicken has come home to roost. Our Pastors and Imams tell us we need more prayers. Even though this is debatable, but a situation where all factory floors have been turned into churches and several hectares of land that ought to be used for commercial farming, are now spiritual camps need thorough re-examination and re-consideration.
At 63, Nigeria, I insist, has nothing to celebrate. Our leaders of today should bury their heads in shame. We have bequeathed nothing to our unborn generations. Instead, we have sown bigger seeds of discord, evil, disharmony, hate, jealousy and mutual suspicion within the polity and even with our neighbours.
Now, most homes cannot afford a mudu of garri, millet, rice or maize. Hunger and extreme poverty pervade the entire national landscape. Where did we go wrong such that the centre no longer holds?
Evangelist Sonny Okosuns, a respected musician and visioner, sang in the mid/late 1980s: “Which way Nigeria?” Today, the same question is still apt. He had further asked which way are we headed?
Honestly, the future looks bleak and most uncertain. Most Nigerians can hardly afford one square meal, life has become more brutish, hellish and short: Apologies to Frantz Fanon!
Government propaganda cannot help any further. Our people have had their hopes dashed several times and have now resigned to fate. They are becoming more despondent and inconsolable. What future awaits a crawling 63-year-old? They continue to ask.
Government will do well to take stock and ask itself, where do we go from here? Mr. President and his aides should sit down to find lasting solutions, otherwise, we should be allowed to go our separate ways. To your tents, O Israel! So says the Big Book.
If we go our separate ways, our component units will find enough space to express themselves, instead of being held back by those who never wanted development. Each unit can grow then and develop at its own pace. Those that want to run will be able to do so and those that want to sit and continue to be spoon-fed can, in their very eyes, see the consequences.
The sad commentary is that while a group keeps struggling to keep the flag aloft, others are constantly devising ways and means to pull it down. A Yoruba proverb says they are children who should sleep on the bare floor, if you raise and put them on the bed, they will still fall down, because that’s their usual abode. Those ones deserve no honout or respect.
Only through this narrow path can there be light at the end of the tunnel. Only then can we find lasting solutions to our hydra-headed challenges. Make no mistake about it, the road will be rough and difficult, but at the end of the tunnel, we shall see peace, sanity, growth and all-round development.
God bless Nigeria.
COKER ONITA, A VETERAN JOURNALIST, WAS PUBLISHER/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF TODAY’S CHOICE MAGAZINE, AND CONSULTANT/COLUMNIST WITH INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS LIMITED.