For me our Independence Day in Nigeria is not a day for celebration but reflection. Some will argue its for both celebration and reflection. 54 years after our Independence, there are more lamentations than celebrations. We have succeeded in taking many steps backward and just few forward.
At our founding in 1960, we were blessed with leaders who wanted to build a great nation. How come have we degenerated from a country with leaders who built one of the biggest university in Africa,the first television station in Africa, undertook ambitious programmes like free education and health care and steered a fully employed economy to leaders that patch roads,paint already existing buildings in the name of renovation, refuse to pay salaries and loot our common wealth?
54 years after independence,we have 112million citizens living below poverty line, 35 million illiterates, 10.5 million out of school children and 54% of our 64 million youth population are unemployed. More than 40 years after the Federal Government successfully executed a civil war without borrowing a kobo, the present government is borrowing $1 billion to fight insurgency. All these as our country is growing richer and older.
Here in Nigeria we talk about the good old days. My father always tell me the story how he collected his NYSC call-off letter with N10 transport fare in ABU, Zaria and then it was just N2 from Zaria to Lagos. Many years later his children will need to pay N4000 to receive call-off letter from NYSC. If things continue this way,what will my Children pay many years to come? Please nobody should tell me this N4000 for NYSC is optional as it is boldly written on their official website that all prospective youth corp members from 2015 will print their call off letter only online. This should be a discussion for another day.
I still remember growing up in Makurdi, there was Taraku mills, Pepsi and Coca Cola plant just to mention a few but now its difficult to believe that all these things were in Benue State. We have continue to shamelessly move backward. How come is our past far better than the present?
In early 2000s,my elder brother went to Yobe state for NYSC and came back with stories how northerners respect youth Corp members but come 2007 they were hunted and killed like animals. The government can no longer garranty the security of her citizens in that part of the country. Government has spent many years squandering public funds and now they are losing control. Only God knows the next territory government will lose and to whom.
I don’t know how we have reached this level of insanity whereby we make evil so attractive by rewarding evil men with all the good things life has to offer. So we give national merit awards to mostly those who looted our common wealth and ignore those really making a difference. That is why they forgot to include the name of the late Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh and her dead colleagues on the National merit award list and try cover up the shame with an excuse that the law doesn’t allow the award to be given posthumously but on the other hand we have another law that allowed the draconian dictator,Sani Abacha to be honoured even in death on our centenary celebration. We award contracts worth millions of dollars to Niger Delta militants and on the other hand extort and kill law abiding unemployed youths hunting for jobs like it happened in the NIS recruitment. The latest is that we have decided to rehabilitate all captured boko haram militants but on the other hand sentenced our own soldiers to death who committed a lesser offence. Is this not the highest level of madness?
The President now celebrate independence inside the Presidential villa for fear of the unknown. His Independence day address was all about his perceived achievement and saying absolutely nothing about the abducted Chibok girls. He has forgotten about them but didn’t forget about his uncle when he was abducted in Bayelsa. Now I hear people call President Jonathan the worst President in our history. Same has been said about almost all those who led this Nation before him. That means we are getting worst as a country. Off course,followers too will share the blame in our unfortunate Journey which is a topic for another day. But in a country where citizens are just unconcerned as their leaders steal public funds in arrears and advance, then we are heading a not so good destination. A country that the past is better than the present is heading for destruction.
We have never deliberately sat and decided to build a nation. We only sit to reach an agreement on how to share the national loot. The suffering masses are thinking they might also get lucky and one day find themselves where they can also get their share of the loot or hope a day will come when things will change for the better just like that. No great nation has ever been a product of a mistake. Great nations are a result of deliberate effort by dedicated people. That is why we need ask ourselves some hard questions. How come have we continue to get it wrong? In the preface of his book “From Third World to First” Lee Kuan Yew wrote that “… public order,personal security,economic and social progress, and prosperity are not the natural order of things,that they depend on ceaseless effort and the attention from an honest and effective government that the people must elect.” Where is our effort?
I can’t tell how we can overcome the many challenges that have made many to give up on this country. Over and over again, many friends have told me how this struggle for a better Nigeria is a waste of time but how can I give up when many people tell me it is because of people like me they refuse to give up. The world has defeated other evils like slave trade,segregation, Adolph Hitlar, colonialism, apartheid South African and Nigerians will defeat this cleptocracy.
54 years after the Union Jack was replaced with our famous green,white and green flag, we are yet to start building a nation. We must begin before it is too late. May we not be a generation that will explain to our children why we failed but how we succeeded. The struggle for the Nigeria of our dream is not one day, one month,one year or one tenure. It is a continious struggle. We may be 54 years old but nothing to celebrate, nothing to suggest we have become wiser and decided to head the right path. Let us not celebrate mediocre, let’s ask how we got ourselves to this unenviable situation and suggest a way forward. May the efforts of our heroes past never be in vain.
Bemdoo Hulugh is a believer in Nigeria, protest writer and guest blogger who has been published on many online platforms and National Newspapers. He is graduate of B.agric from the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi and a Fisheries Consultant.
He writes from Makurdi and you can interact with him on twitter @bumy04