48 YEARS AFTER: THE NIGERIA THAT I SEE!
Growing up as a Nigerian child, I knew two things about my country; that it is the giant of Africa, and it is a land flowing with milk and honey. In my child’s eyes, I used to have an imagination of a place in Nigeria flowing with and honey and that every child in Nigeria would never lack this sweetness. This was a long time ago, now, I know many things about my country – of the least, it is a country that cannot be aptly defined. The world Nigeria reminds me of a country formed out of force and inconsideration, the confusion beclouding this dear country didn’t just start now, it started as a passion, then, it became a fashion, and now, it is a tradition that might never be curbed… we wanted freedom and we saw a reason to have it, we got it but it came back hanging on our necks. This freedom became too heavy for us and it is causing us to stagger, and we are still staggering. It is 48 years, since we received this freedom and the denouement of history is still unfolding – the pangs of poverty, economic and social imbalance, political disorder, ethnic skirmishes, and religious intolerance. The atmosphere of my dear country is one of resounding pain, confusion and conflict; simmering with violence and bitter resignation.
… WHEN THINGS FELL APART
In my words: “I do not see freedom as being free, I see freedom as having peace, professing freedom as a pledge of brotherhood and unity. For this is the kind of freedom that could hide our cultural diversities, religious differences, ethnic favouritism… the peace of this freedom could heal the pain of a force union.” This was the kind of freedom we had in 1960 (although it was like patching pieces together – fragments held in one piece) or, so it seems. Putting pieces together became difficult; it seemed like daring the inevitable. Nigeria at this time was tensed from the heat of confusion savaging her. After 1960, the hope that Nigeria was on the verge of transition was lost, the only recurring nightmare obstructing leadership was, and is still the walls between religious, cultural and ethnic differences – poor educational system, abandoned refineries, and epileptic power supply.
After the 1965 elections, there were claims of widespread electoral fraud. The different opposition parties at that time refused to accept the results; this led to the first coup d’ etat in January 15, 1966which was led by junior officers at that time. The coup placed Gen. Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi as the first military head of state in Nigeria, the first coup was believed to be “igbo- made” and this instigated a counter--coup on july29,1966 because the Northerners were afraid of displacement; and because the igbos in the army were being promoted more than other ethnic groups. The second coup was led by Lt. Col. Murtala Mohammed and placed Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon as head of state. In September 1966, the Igbos were massacred in the North as a result of coup and counter- coup. This fuelled more tension because the igbos were not willing to let go. In May 30, 1967, Col. Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu through the southern parliament proclaimed the secession of the south- eastern region from Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra. Nigeria has faced the problem of indecision post-independence elections of 1965 (apart from the 1992 election) up to 2007. It has always been the problem of ‘our man’ not the ‘right man’ and the citizens are at the receiving end of war, ethnic skirmishes, poverty, and endless pains.
… A WAR OF SHAME (BIAFRA/ NIGERIA CIVIL WAR)
It is the name I choose to call it, it has nothing to do with being a Northerner, Southerner, Easterner, or a Westerner – it has something to do with being a Nigerian … embittered, depraved, and tired. I call it shame because we faced a moral crisis as a country; I call it shame because it has to do with a fellow brother; a Nigerian, and when this happened, it was not who the victims were or where they came from; there was a gaping wound, a hole – hollow and hurt. For almost three years Nigeria-Biafrans suffered starvation, depression, and humiliation. It was a sorry state to think that what we struggled for we could not hold. And for what essence is what I ask? That we could hold onto this freedom; we displayed incompetence, ignorance, selfishness—even failure. We displayed cowardice not strength, we held a very wrong ideology as a guiding principle and we are still holding it. The Nigerian civil war defined a country that has been weighed down and plagued by incompetence, inconsistency, and disparity between ethnicity. The war did not curb the problem, it left us wounded that by the end of the war, Nigeria was desolate and empty; with an estimation of over one million deaths recorded. Nigeria is still shaking from this ‘cold’ war, we pose a semblance of peace, but, it is pieces because we are a scattered whole!
TRADITION: WHAT MIGHT NEVER BE CURBED!
After the civil war, we took cognizance of what has happened and strong efforts were made to avoid a reoccurrence but the story never changed, it became a belief of the country… a strong tradition. By 1979, Nigeria was still witnessing more economic, social, and political instability. This period was marked by more electoral violence ethnic tensions, and leadership tussle, however, the election of June 12, 1992. The best election that caused the death of over 100 Nigerians, I remember it was called oso Abiola (Abiola race) because many people ran to their villages. June 12 proved that development is strange to Nigeria, more like an abomination to us.
… AND THE FOURTH REPUBLIC
The Fourth Republic seemed promising, no doubt; like transition into a promise land 39 years of enslavement was enough to make a change and when we made entry it dawned on us that more years is needed to recover what was lost. The fourth Republic brought out the climax of Nigeria’s history (Baba remembered that he needed more time and now Yar’ Adua says it is due process) it is failing but has not failed yet…
THE NIGERIA THAT I SEE!
Still, I see a Nigeria that will triumph against all odds, a Nigeria that will be a hope of glory. I have hope that our pains will hurt us enough to bring change, change that will transform the lives of Nigerians, and Nigerians that will build a stronger Nigeria; rivet the pieces in a bond. Like martin Luther King jnr. I have a hope that though “we have difficult days ahead in the struggle for justice and peace, but I will not yield to a politic of despair. I am going to maintain hope … if the cruelties of slavery couldn’t stop us, the opposition that we now face will surely fail… with this faith, we shall be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.’ – transcending and marked by a blend of peace and harmony with flavoured colours of love. I hope that this Nigeria will come and the storm will be over.