Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nigeria At Fifty: Our Independence Day

Written by Azubuike Madu
The independence of a nation as it should apply to us is holistic and marks a steady and progressive growth in all indexes of civil development the nation must experience. October 1, 2010 should mark fifty years of this independence and we should celebrate not just because of the name and the chance that we may have grown a little from what we used to be before the ‘independence day’, but because we have broken up from colonialism and the tendencies of colonialism that have kept our true identity, strength, effort, ideals, character, principles and unique style from leading our fortune, destiny and life as a nation.
Every year, the series of events that mark our Independence Day celebration must include some tribute to the freedom fighters of our country. Only people of the era of Zik, Awo, Bello, Eyo-Ita and Macaulay are mentioned as freedom fighters. They fought against the strong hold of the colonial masters, the Britons. They had their motivation. Today every celebration of our Independence Day is more like celebrating Easter (of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) without knowing why the day was or who was on the day, let alone believing the story of the day. So long as the day turns out to be a public holiday and there are monetary allocations to mark the celebration, so be it; HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!
I was at the British Council in Abuja a couple of days ago when someone in a group of five walked up to me for an interview. They wanted to find out, for research, the average opinion about development in Nigeria with 2015 as a year mark. I was asked, ‘What is working well in Nigeria?’ And I answered, ‘Nothing!’ Unfortunately that answer ended the interview prematurely because they needed ‘something to build on for further questions’. Only one interviewee out of ten got more questions than I got there because he said politics was working well. I wonder where he came from. To a question of where Nigeria will be in 2015, I answered ‘in West Africa, and we shall be far better than we are now.’ I believe this is the kind of sentiment many Nigerians carry. Every one is strongly hopeful that things will definitely turn around for our good and perpetual prosperity as a nation. The common man like me may not be able to explain how, but can say even at worst situations: Nigeria go better!
The generic concept of fighting for independence entails that the people are:

* Fighting for the sovereignty of their nation;
* Fighting against repressive policies and selfish leadership decisions that are unpopular and neither in the interest of the people nor for the good of the people, the land and posterity;
* Fighting to protect basic identity and principles of the people against foreign erosion and bastardisation.
It becomes a fight because the people under colonial rule become determined and earnestly seek the general good of their people in line with the generic concepts, without undue individualism. It is a fight because as much as they spend all their time, effort, spirit and material, they still maintain a strong hope for success. The story is history; most times they lose their lives in the struggle even when they know of the possibility. They pre-dedicate their struggle to posterity.
It is a fight because the colonial masters will not just leave. They must have spent a long time of their inhabitation to establish political, social and economic strongholds, and a system to perpetuate them in their colony. There must be a lot for them to lose if they just left. More than the habit of oppressing and lording over their subjects, they will lose politically, economically and socially as far as the colony is concerned. They will find it boring to account for their actions and decisions even in the service of the people. And their access to the resources of the people is unquestionable. I cannot agree less. It is fearful for a habitual bully to have a reason to negotiate at par with or be in the position to ask for help from his former subjects. This bully will therefore do everything within his reach to restrain and restrict his subjects from having or knowing anything about himself that might engender their independence. This is the fight!
Before 1960, there was concerted effort for the independence of our country. The independence fighters had their motivations. Their motivations were not far from the fact that they wanted a more people-oriented leadership that was indigenous with the full identity and character of the people.  They wanted a more sensitive and responsive system that will account for the people’s resources and efforts. They wanted a system that will totally guarantee the protection of the rights, aspirations and interests of the people while promoting the collective fortune of the people and the land. Even though they inherited a political arrangement from their masters, the basic things they applied for, they got. They got our sovereignty, social, economic and political independence from the Britons. Thanks to them.
Over fifty years after the freedom fighters applied for our independence, we brashly consider ourselves as very unfortunate. We still have the attributes of colonial subjects. Some say our misfortune is that we skewed off from the dreams and aspirations of the freedom fighters; others say we benefited more from our colonial masters and would have had more development if they stayed on. Still there are ugly voices that suggest that we are incapable and immature to conduct a suitable leadership for our collective good, to sustain or even build on the dreams, ideals and aspirations of our freedom fighters. The truth is that just as our fore-fathers mismanaged leadership in their hands by giving in to slave trade, leadership after 1960 was mismanaged. Our country has been in the hands of local colonial masters, for long!
Fifty years is golden. Yet our fifty years has with it a lot of mixed reactions. The ordinary man has not seen a substantial reason to celebrate. The common suggestion even as government has budgeted for celebration is that we should mark it by debating or creative conferencing. After all, in the past three years our president always led us into anniversaries of purposeless sober-reflection. Who are the celebrants and how many Nigerians are happy? What has changed? What have we become independent of? What really is better and positively different from the ‘bad past’?
 Just like our fore fathers, our colonial masters are not accountable to us. Their activities and decisions are to serve them alone even to the detriment of the people and the image of the entity they are identified with whose protection are entrusted to them.  Our rulers in the past years have grossly abused us. They have done to us evil beyond what foreigners would do to us.
How can one explain, even in the name of corruption, regular heartless trade off of our rights and development, and constant exploitation and abuse of our resources and collective identity? It is bone-drilling to imagine the kind of oppression and stagnation forced on us by colonial masters we have lately preferred to call cabal. People who loot vital resources from their homeland only to build estates and business empires all over the world – in Dubai, UK, America, Jamaica, the Caribbean, South Africa, the Gambia, Kenya, Sao Tome, everywhere! They have consistently driven our economy and national social status to that of third world while promoting other economies. The incidence of their activities gives credit to foreign health care service and foreign education among other things at the expense of ours. They deliberately take out our economy and jobs to other countries while we remain unemployed or underemployed. Wherever you have the best of services anywhere in the world, they are widely acclaimed chief patrons. Yet beyond four hundred metres radius of their country homes lays poverty in stark nakedness. From north to south, east to west of Nigeria, the signs are the same.
They say our education system was better than what we have now. What happened? They better fund foreign universities and send their wards abroad. Even when schools are set up for them in Nigeria, they are out of reach. They better run abroad for catarrh treatment than put our health sector in order. Our refineries cannot work because they have chains of inter-related business in the energy sector. The cabal! ‘What is working well in Nigeria?’ Nothing! Nothing works in Nigeria because we have been held down by the cabal.
Our immediate past president came into office screaming, ‘the cabal!’ He left office creating a fresh breed of cabal members. A close inspection of our history would reveal that this cabal emanated from the barracks. Our leaders thus far have been indisciplined military coupists and their associates. The Babangida era was the period of rigorous recruitment and implantation of cabal members in our bureaucracy. Our richest men today were made in the alliance. Our mediocre bureaucrats and administrators were constituted then and they keep the trend alive by keeping the objectives of the cabal alive. How else can we come out of this? This describes the difficulty we have in making progress. You cannot talk of fighting corruption without dealing with the cabal. You fight the cabal by ensuring a free and fair election, stopping senseless importations, achieving self sufficiency in petroleum products and power supply, providing basic infrastructure, uplifting agriculture and education, reviving our industries and creating jobs, boosting our health system, and strengthening our security and judicial system. They do not want these!
2011 has come and it is obvious we want our independence and the cabal has come with its assertion that ‘we lack leadership’, ‘no zoning equals unity crisis’, no one else is ‘mature’ save for him to lead this country to the ‘promise land’….. I cannot stand those ugly voices.
One scary thing for the cabal, which is the main fight in the issue of the propaganda of zoning et al, is the fact of our impending independence. If we get our independence, we can determine our development. The threat this administration has posed is not throwing up President Jonathan as a presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections, rather it is its determination for a free and fair election. With all their money and connection, they are so badly out-numbered that a common man like Ribadu will beat the old war horses squarely. In all the debate, Ribadu does not come from a zone. (Not a campaign for Ribadu, he is just different. Jonathan might be better than him. I have my reservations).
Now they must have a plan to spoil our peace if they cannot have their way. Someone is weighing the Kenya or Zimbabwe option because of PDP ‘family’. The music on zoning et al has changed because there is the likelihood that if President Jonathan does not represent PDP in a free and fair election, Buhari or Ribadu will take the day. Our concern is our independence. We strongly look forward to our real Independence Day after which we will always have cause to celebrate.
When they say that the founding fathers (cabal grand masters) agreed on zoning to give every zone a fair chance, they fail to state their resolution to keep us bound for the next ‘sixty years’ through perennial rigging and rape of our dignity as a people. Their argument of zoning and fair chance has emboldened the common man to ask: ‘Are there no new names and faces that can lead us purposely apart from tested expired men who have been on stage for decades?’ Until a new addition, 2011 presidential election is between Jonathan, Buhari and Ribadu. Their biographies seem cleaner and more appealing to their recruiters, the Nigerian masses. We are taking employment rights from the cabal. We will stand against rigging and we must be determined to attain our long-awaited independence. The time has come for us to declare our Independence Day.
In UNITY WE STAND! We have always believed that our heterogeneous country will work and be the best if we uphold other ideologies of our alliance above our different socio-cultural backgrounds.
Azubuike Madu's email contact is