Today 1st October, Nigeria clocked sixty years of nationhood. That is, sixty years after colonialists handed off control to aborigines, who has since managed the affairs of the country. It signifies how long Nigeria has been an independent nation, free from colonial rule that stretches several decades.
It should be a moment of celebration and presents an opportunity to gauge the progress of the country. Sixty years is a whole lot of time to access how we’ve faired under self-rule and make an informed judgement on whether the independence we got in 1960 is serving its purpose.
When Nigeria’s founding fathers fought and secured independence, they were so assured that it would better serve the people and fast track development. They were persuaded by the abundant potentials, both human and natural endowments, possessed by the country and believed it would drive inclusive growth and bring about a formidable nation.
But here we are, sixty years after, and nothing is really playing out as envisaged. Those dreams that heralded independence have largely been eroded, and worse, Nigerians are left with a sordid experience that raises a silent question– was independence actually worth it?
Reminiscent of the biblical Israelites and how they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, Nigeria shares a similar story, except that her time in the wilderness has surpassed that of the Israelites and still counting. This is well written in every aspect of the country, whether it is the economy, security, welfare, or infrastructure. Everything is plain and there is a lack of anything to cheer about.
Independence anniversary should be the most important date in any country calendar. But what October 1st do to many Nigerians is to remind them of how long they have been in the wilderness. Though the Bible gave some perspectives on the tortuous journey of wilderness in the book of Numbers 13: 1-13, but seeing it play out in reality, is an unpalatable experience.
At the actualization of independence in 1960, Nigerians poured into the streets in jubilation and were full of optimism that it will usher unrestrained developments and endless opportunities for citizens. The general perception then was that having locals administer the country would encourage transparency, human dignity, and equitable application of resources available to Nigeria.
But things turned out entirely different from anticipations as Nigerians are not having it any better in the hands of the locals that took charge of the country since 1960. Fear and flight, death and despair, oppression, and impunity of the ruling class have become a pattern and yet, there is no end in sight to the gross leadership failures that are stalling any meaningful progress in the country.
It is difficult to take pride in being a Nigerian, to celebrate “Independence Day”, when there is hardly anything to show that we’re truly independent considering the deteriorating state of the country and citizens. As the country marks 60 years, many Nigerians will either be taking to the streets or the internet to decry the unbearable hardship in the country and the insensitivity of government to their plights.
A few weeks ago, the Nigerian government hiked the pump price of fuel and electricity tariffs. Aside from that, it came at the wrong time. It is unimaginable that Nigeria, an oil-rich country, is lacking a functional refinery after 60 years. Epileptic power supply remains a challenge, a tariff hike was slammed on citizens. That is pathetic!
In addition to these is the deplorable state of Nigeria’s road infrastructure network, putting many users through excruciating pains and the not so lucky lose their lives on it. What of education? It is one sector that has suffered greatly in standard and worth, leaving a multitude of citizens with no alternative but to move abroad for their studies. It is that bad and no remedy is in sight.
Extreme poverty and unabating strife among ethnic groups is another blight on the independence of Nigeria. That is the unfortunate faith poor leadership has wrought on many Nigerians, and as the country marks 60 years on Thursday, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens who will be hiding in neighbouring countries as insecurity must have forced them to flee.
So, the expectations of freedom, that comes with independence are largely unseen or felt, and Nigerians are daily wandering in their country searching for a direction to better living and improved standards. This is not really what independence should be about, or it must be that Nigeria got a wrong version, and explains the invisible shackle tied around Nigeria’s progress as a nation. This is wilderness and we should start talking on how to escape it as Israelites did centuries ago.
Written by Oke Umurhohwo, a Political Analyst and Strategist. He tweets via @OkeStalyf and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org