Written by the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper
The Independence Day of a country, as the qualifier suggests, is a triumphant expression of liberation. As always, it is a day of soulful national reflection and commemoration of the gallant attempts to lead the people away from the stranglehold of oppression and subjugation and to orientate them towards the best possible attainment of their destiny. However, as Nigeria marks 56 years of Independence tomorrow, any celebration, pomp and merry-making on Independence Day may be hollow, if proper stock-taking of the people’s national life is glossed over.
Despite the increasing hopelessness, confusion and lethargy occasioned by the present economic recession and seeming rudderless leadership that is unveiled in the perception of the common Nigerian, Independence Day enables all to reflect on the enormous challenges facing the country. Yet, it does more than that. It also points towards the future; it extricates us from lamentation and points us to genuine liberation.
Truly, Nigerians are justified to be angry and confused. In the last one year, the challenges have been overwhelming. Widespread insecurity has threatened national cohesion and promoted mistrust; the absence of sound economic policies and projections has put the nation in dire financial straits; nearly all states of the federation are unable to pay salaries. The lack of foresight, financial recklessness, imprudence, and the lack of will to consummate projects have been the bane of our nation. Nigerians have a right not to celebrate.
Notwithstanding these enormous challenges, this year’s Independence Day, the second for the Muhammadu Buhari administration, should also make us remember that countries pass through difficulties in order to become stronger and more prosperous. Nations get stronger, more viable and more respected only after they have genuinely withstood the throes of historical shortcomings thrust upon them by social needs. Given this truth about development dynamics, the commemoration of Nigeria’s Independence speaks to all Nigerians to review the present precarious existence with some hope.
One of the threatened values which Independence Day brings to mind concerns the unity of the country. Inherited structures of British colonisation that consolidated a forced unity as a people, and yet enabled us to carry on for the good of all Nigerians, are crumbling before our eyes. These structures, which include the armed forces, the civil service, among others, are being destroyed to our national peril. Independence Day, therefore, draws attention to a glorious past that gave Nigeria its greatness through these structures.
Besides this significance of unity, there is also the gargantuan image which Nigeria projects for the African and Black people in general. The success of Nigeria is a symbolic proposal of accomplishment for Africa and the Black race. Nigeria’s global exploits signal hope and promise for the Black people. As we mark this year’s Independence anniversary, Nigerian leaders and all should be cognizant of the challenge and responsibility that come with this impression: Nigeria is at the forefront of leadership in Africa, and if Nigeria disintegrates or is splintered, it will weaken the prospect of the Black race.
However, fostering this unity and sustaining a prestigious global image amount to nought if they are not determined by performance of the people. The well-being of Nigerians, their self-image, how Nigerian authorities govern their people, how Nigerians situate themselves in the scheme of global affairs, must reflect the powerful, united country and Africa’s iconic Big Brother which Nigeria connotes.
Although Nigerians expected too much from this administration given the excesses of the last regime and the promises of this ruling party are far from fulfilled, it would be uncharitable to dismiss the modest achievements of this government. True, Nigeria faces economic recession, and hunger stalks everyone in the land; yet, the progress made in the fight against Boko Haram is a commendable signature of this administration. The gains from the fight against Boko Haram and insurgency should not be sacrificed on the altar of hunger pangs. That the government is making frantic efforts to address insecurity of that magnitude is something Nigerians can leverage upon.
October 1, Nigeria’s Independence Day, is also another opportune moment to improve on such gestures. The ‘Change’ mantra of this administration and its militaristic anti-corruption drive, is a principle that Nigerians can refine to move on to greatness. But to get this done would require the right people, with the right knowledge to do the right thing.
In short, it would require the requisite personnel and manpower to turn innumerable good policies into measurable and realistic frame-works for action towards the common good. This demands the harnessing of knowledgeable, talented, skillful, nationalistic and selfless Nigerians who would get things done by solving problems; those who have the wherewithal for home-grown solutions and who can stimulate the modalities for job-creation or wealth creation along those lines.
These sorts of people abound in Nigeria; they run the stable economies abroad. If Nigeria is to attain its destined goal, these are the people Nigeria needs in foreign affairs to mop up our battered image abroad. They are the ones Nigeria needs in agriculture, and not armchair theoreticians occupying positions just because they are party cronies. They are the ones who should manage our defence, and other areas of our national life in need of attention.
The message for tomorrow on Independence is this: That Nigeria is blessed with such manifold socio-economic transformers should give us hope. This, therefore, points to the fact that our present economic condition is not an indication of the end for Nigerians.