NIGERIA AT 58; ILLUSORY FREEDOM IN BONDAGE.

I know a young woman who desperately wanted to be independent immediately she completed her secondary school education. Her foster parents would rather have her proceed to tertiary institution under their care and tutelage. But she was adamant. She wanted to find her path. Her friend in the same foster home with less potentials didn’t wait to complete secondary school when she forced her freedom through three years ago. If Joana could, she can. She would. Stories of similar agitations by young women in other foster homes strengthened her resolve.

One raining day in October, a short farewell speech was given and her foster parents bade her well to continue life on her own as a complete free moral agent.

Many years after she left home with all the enviable potentials, this young woman has become a laughing stock in the area. Her potentials expectedly brought money but her unserious nature squandered them as they come. She could get by so she wasn’t bothered about the future. She tried to raise a family but ended up having children for different men who only came into her life to loot her glory. She keeps getting milked by unworthy people she allows to be her crown. Her foster parents looks on in dersion and rise to her help once in a while as they deem convenient. In any case, the young woman has developed ways to always beg for money while convincing herself she’s doing trade by barter. Her story is a sad one. I only recounted it because every October 1st is the anniversary of her supposed freedom and she always celebrate it as if all is well whereas she ought to be in sober reflection. The name of the young woman is Nigeria.

One more year and Nigeria will be eying the enviable Diamond Jubilee as an independent country. Truly, being Fifty eight is significant. The Independence Day celebration of this year is even made more so because it is coming on the heels of another general election. Democratic Elections worldwide offer the people the opportunity to elect leaders that will represent their interest in a stipulated dispensation. The fact that at 58, the citizens of Nigeria can not be optimistic about the process says a lot about how far we haven’t come in fifty eight years. It also offers a glimpse of how we’ve lived our fifty eight years as an independent country.

In 1960 when the colonial masters handed down independence to us, the general feeling was that the freedom means we’d be able to move at our own pace and be free from the apron string of the British Government. But a trip down memory lane of our existence since that 1960 shows otherwise. Right from the military incursion into our administrative system few years after independence to the civil war in 1967 that lasted three years and threatened our unity as a country right to our present longest stretch at democracy, we seem to be shackeld in the illusory freedom we claim to be independence.

We celebrate independence yet the states that make us up as a nation depends on the central to provide something as basic as civil servants salaries for her inhabitants. We celebrate independence yet we depend on China for loans while we langusish in debt. We celebrate independence yet we can’t be self sustainable. Before the seventies, our major foreign export was cocoa yet we couldn’t produce enough for our own consumption. In the eighties, we began earning huge revenues from the export of petroleum oil but till date, we can’t refine this oil on our own. What manner of independence is ours? Independence when 200 million people survive on less than 4000 megawatts! If you have no idea how appalling that is, South Africa with about 60 million citizens live on 34,000 megawatts! Nigeria has to be one of the least conducive place to be productive on earth. Our exchange rate with the United States of America is 350 naira to a dollar. The implication is that what will take an American a day to earn, as a Nigerian you’d have to put same effort for a year!

It begs the question; what manner of independence is ours? Are we genuinely free? The Independence anniversary should be a time for sober reflection. The ruling class has failed us as a nation but now is not the time to sulk while pointing accusing finger. There’s a reason why the average Nigerian thrives whenever he or she leaves this shore. It is a testament to our rich human capital. It is time to exploit our human capital by getting involved in the process. Anthony Enahoro was 30 years old when he first raised the motion for independence in 1953. Chief Awolowo was 42 then while Sir Ahmadu Bello was 43. All of them had been involved at least 10 years earlier. How old are you now and how much are you involved in the process of governance in Nigeria?

 

By Ogbeni La

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