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Nigeria: Children of Independence

Nigeria: Children of Independence

 

By Femi AKINTUNDE-JOHNSON, Lagos

A fairly good barometer to gauge the movement and advancement of a society is the timbre and graduating tone of the citizen’s disquiet. Do their complaints increase in complexities and variety over the years? Do they drone on about the same mantra of simple shortcomings concretizing to monumental stagnation?

School children at the first Independence Day celebration on October 1, 1960. Early 1950s, Nigeria had only 150 lawyers, 160 doctors, 786 clergymen, & a population of 40 million, according to historian Basil Davidson. When Nigeria became independent, it had an army of 8,000 men - Photo courtesy of Prof. Phillip Emeagwali

How have their leaders responded to the citizens’ complaints? What remedies and palliatives are laid out, and how have the people responded? What is the quality of their satisfaction and/or defiance? Getting answers to these questions and more, promises to be a traumatic and soul-destroying exercise around our shores. And that is not being uncharitable.

 

A Chinua Achebe complained about certain Nigerian structural and political inadequacies in a book published the same year Nigeria got her independence (No Longer At Ease); and more than five decades down the drain (I sincerely would like to write ‘’down the lane’’), there seems to be no improvement in our conduct or status…and in many areas, we have got worse…it is paralyzing, both emotionally and physically.

 

When Nigeria marked her epochal 50th independence anniversary, I poured out my frustration in the piece recalled below… Surely, a couple of years cannot scratch the surface of Nigeria’s thick-headed clumsiness. Of course, nothing has changed… except the ‘’worsening’’ has become even more alarming… Join me as we swipe away at the receding smoke of Nigeria’s 52nd independence anniversary ‘’celebrations’’….

 

‘’I was born at the end of the same month as Nigeria. Almost the same year. So, like Dele Momodu, Busola Saraki and Nuru Ribadu, I can claim a right to govern Nigeria. I can claim complete innocence from the atrocities and pilferage of the tribe that has bled Nigeria, even as far as from the colonial days. I can shout from the rooftops, without being burdened by any trace of guilt whatsoever, that I have not benefited officially or unofficially from any government that could have rubbished my ambition to govern Nigeria. While at it, I can also claim affinity with the youth of Nigeria; and proclaim to be a credible voice, and march with them to seize our country from the geriatric grip of perverts who label themselves as patriots. I can say all that and truly believe it myself, because I was born after the Independence Day!

 

Now, whether that is enough is another matter for discussion. If the fact that I have created and run successful magazine businesses makes me a genuine aspirant for the highest duty is up for debate. I also don’t know if the fact that I have created and nurtured entertaining, self-sustaining and wildly popular award properties all over the place can translate to managing the complexities and absurdities inherent in the largest black nation on earth... that is also debatable. If all these and more are open to debate and could in fact expose my naiveté or vaulting ambition, no one can stand against my right to contest or engage in political activity of my desire. That is constitutionally guaranteed.

 

But that is where dreams stop. To most of us born after the nation's independence, all we know how to do very well, either for good or evil, is to make laws. In primary school, with the independence still fresh in the air, most of what is civic education was “constitutional conferences” - Richardson, Anderson, Wilberforce… and on and on. Today, all sorts of laws have been enacted, promulgated, decreed at all levels of governments, such that we are now working overtime to fashion some kind of law to outlaw multiple taxation, multiple penal codes, multiple this and that.  Yet, as crazy as this may initially appear, we generally make laws to feel cool with ourselves, with absolutely no intention to obey them.

 

For instance, we have legislators, scattered across the country, whose unflagging penchant for lawlessness has not ceased to amaze their people. They seek means and opportunity to flout rules, even their own house rules meant to moderate their conduct and protocol. They flout them flagrantly without any iota of shame. After all, according to their spineless mantra, “our democracy is still developing”. Excuse me; most of these legislators are youth born after independence! Born into a so-called organized society where certain culture and traditions ought to be implanted from childhood.

 

Sometimes, without thinking, our leaders quote great “one-liners” of great leaders of great nations - nations that we cannot bring our candle near their exotic lamp stands in another 50 years. They quote J. F. Kennedy: Do not think of what your country can do for you… blah, blah, blah… that is what it becomes in their mouths… hollow bleating of a shallow mind.

 

A nation that destroys its best minds; a nation that wipes ambitious youth out of the equation so they can filch and pinch the treasury dry...  Such a nation is unfeeling and ignorant of what to do with its army of young minds who are expected to “think what they can do for their country.” This country misjudges their intentions and willingness to participate, contribute and recreate… This “country” attacks her children… destroying, oppressing, blackmailing, disgracing, scattering her children for fear they may “get it right” and change Nigeria for good.

 

Do not fool yourself that Nigeria is one indivisible entity. It is a lie. We all live a huge big black lie of a so-called nationhood. There is one Nigeria that exists only in the heads of those who have never stopped growing fat from stealing the country dry. As far as they are concerned, Nigeria is an ongoing construction work, undergoing relentless re-engineering and restructuring… Read their language… They are always reforming, retooling, revisiting, rebranding, revising, remolding, reinvesting, reclaiming and all such reactionary measures.

 

That is the language “mindset” of a contractor-caretaker leadership. All they do, is reacting to global and continental initiatives. Everything around their lives and thinking is to respond to an urgent need. If you expect them to create, motivate or act in a manner similar to what you see in other climate, you will be sorely devastated. It is alien to them. They have no capacity to lift themselves beyond where they currently operate. They are fatally flawed by the shape and color of their ambition and passion.

 

It does not matter if they are pre- or post-independence; they just are unable to deliver at a certain level, up to a certain expectation. And do not blame education, exposure and cultural values. Most of our top-flying rogues and nitwits are well educated; they attended great schools; some bear surnames that should evoke respect and endearment. The matter is deeper, and personal. I doubt if anyone has a clue to the problem.

 

However, for starters, the seeds of our retrogression and stagnation are in the countless laws and regulations and statutes, and such nonsense which affect the future and happiness of our children as they grow… By the time they grow into leadership, if we do not change and respond wisely, they will continue the current dross, and elevate it to the loudly empty rhythm of our hip-hop music. All noise! Mostly nonsense! Happy celebration?

 

TO BE CONCLUDED

 

Femi Akintunde-Johnson is Writer, Journalist and Author.  He can be reached by email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.