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Surely 47 is a landmark in the history of a nation, even individual. We need to put

behind us whatever that might have brutalized our minds during the year and celebrate.

There’s cause for jubilation; when there’s life there’s hope.



Nigeria @ 47: Laughing Off the Grief

By Hakeem Babalola


Another day of October 1st has arrived and just like the years before, Nigerians all over the world would use the occasion to remember their country. We would dance and sing. We would party irrespective of sufferings in our land. Our leaders would rejoice in their usual rhetoric, luring us into believing there’s reason for festivity. It is another opportunity to award phony contract. Remember EtteHouse? Both leaders and followers will have forgotten that Alaru ti o nje buredi, awo ori re ni o nje ti ko mo [the occasion needs thoughtfulness instead of usual festivity]. 

I have this silent believe that every citizen does love his country in a certain way even though critics are always branded unpatriotic, because they expose all what is wrong in the land. But how can I keep quiet when the government that is responsible for the growth of its citizen is ironically the one that stands in the way of such growth? The highest form of criminality is when a government deliberately uses the instrument of state to crush its citizens—from development.

There are many ways the Nigerian government—either present or past—annihilate its citizens’ thought. Nigerians are being killed every now and then by policy of inconsiderate. I would cite two typical examples of such callous implementation. Elections in Nigeria, for example. We have had no free and fair elections in our land, except the one believed to have been won by MKO Abiola and which was annulled in 1993 June 12 by the power of that moment.

When you deprive a people from choosing their leader, then you murder them without spilling blood. I am not talking about physical killings like unresolved political assassinations. I am not even talking about road accidents that have sent thousands to their early grave due to bad roads which of course should be the duty of a serious government. I am actually talking about mental killing that follows the victims to their grave.

The second way a government can crush its citizens’ thought is by refusing to adopt free and qualitative education to a certain level. When a citizen is deprived of such education, she is unfairly treated as a citizen. She is dispossessed of knowledge that would liberate her. She is made to suffer throughout her life. She is forced to be a slave and treated like a servant in her own house. She is condemned to the street to become area boys to be used to rig elections. She is permanently restricted to a class of nonentity. She would never know but she would be happy to celebrate October 1st simply because they have managed to conquer her thought.  

The experts recent reports about high level of illiteracy in Nigeria serve as illustration here. They have rated Nigeria as having the highest number of illiterates in the world, according to The Guardian newspaper. They have therefore warned that the country might neither meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving illiteracy by the year 2015 nor its dream of joining the 20 world largest economies by the year 2020.

What exactly are those factors keeping my people from progress? I don’t need to highlight more of these factors, for even a ten-year-old Nigerian understands our profound problems and the solution. This is of course frightening. I mean if one knows the solution but refuse to implement it accordingly. When are we going to be serious about seriousness? Isn’t the future started from yesterday? Why is it the same song every year? “E go better...e go better”. Millions of Nigerians have carried such hopeless hope to their grave without tasting the “e go better”.

But as usual, Nigerians would put on their best clothes on October 1st and celebrate 47th anniversary of self-rule. Those in the Diaspora would use the occasion to organize cultural activities to showcase our heritage, which is not bad in its form. But instead of doing it with reflection, we would do it with festivity. We would do it with such fanfare that suggests things are well in the land of our birth. On this day we will have forgotten what drove us away from our land of birth. The thing we enjoy in our new land and which is virtually missing at home has undernourished our perspective. After all, we have made it out to be "God’s Own Country".

So let Nigerians in the street of Amsterdam or Berlin or Stockholm or Vienna or Sydney or Budapest or London or New York blow their trumpet and rejoice for escaping poverty in their own land. Let them celebrate by poking fun at those who could not escape the hardships at home. Let them celebrate the glee of freedom they enjoy in white woman’s land but lacking in their own. Let them fly Sunny Ade to thrill the occasion in their adopted countries.

What exactly are we celebrating? That the queen gave us her language? That we are better off since the so-called independence? That the factors which led to the civil war that killed millions have been rectified? That the civil servants are still civil servants? That the wars on corruption have been won? That the living standard is standard? That the Nigerian Police Force has stopped killing or maiming or harassing the citizens indiscriminately? That armed robbers are still walking our street with pride of locust? What is it that has forced us to the street in celebration instead of reflection? What is it? Yet God knows I want to feel jubilation rather than sadness. I want to celebrate a nation, a nation greater than the so-called America. That is why the success of the Nigeria’s Under-17 World Cup in South Korea is still written on my chest. We rule the world is exaggeratedly displayed on my forehead for the world to see.

Oh, the school children would not be left out of such burlesque show in the country. They would trick them as they had tricked us. They would ask them to wash and starch and iron their uniforms for October 1st patriotic carnival.  Most of these children would march and sing the national anthem, and pledge to Nigeria their country without or with little food in their stomachs. They would play on their innocence as they had played on ours. They would tell them they are the future leaders of tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes. Does it? If only we had known.

Surely 47 is a landmark in the history of a nation, even individual. We need to put behind us whatever that might have brutalized our minds during the year and celebrate. There’s cause for jubilation; when there’s life there’s hope. That was the reason given by the immediate past president for celebrating October 1st. And the new one, a Caretaker President as far as I am concerned, shall echo his predecessor’s patriotic sentiment. May God save Nigerians.

Copyright 2007              

posted 30 September 2007

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Ancient African Nations

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