Nigeria @57: How Independent a Country Are We By Inyali Peter

Inyali Peter 
Since I took solace in shaping my world through writing, I have done so many articles on why Nigeria’s independence should be marked not celebrated. But the joy of gaining ironic independence has continued to pull us down from fighting for a true sovereign nation.

Contrary to what most Nigerians do every first of October, I see the day as an opportunity for us to take a sober reflection on the gains and pains of a geographical construct called Nigeria. A country which was given birth to 57 years ago should not be in this deplorable and pitiable condition.

Like Cross River State governor, Senator Ben Ayade said in his 2015 independence day speech, “Any political independence without economic independence is independence in paralysis”. This is just the reality and mindset that we should all have on the first of every October.

When President Buhari assumed office, he took some tough decisions aimed at building an independent economy for Nigeria. For instance, the ban on the importation of a number of goods was not to bring untold hardship on people, like we are all experiencing now, but to gradually move us as a people away from over-dependence on foreign commodities.

But unfortunately, instead of Nigerians to celebrate the courage demonstrated by this economic decision, the president has come under serious attacks from some quarters for this. In fact, anybody who is against this policy is not worth celebrating Nigeria’s independence. We must support the strong political will of this government to emancipate us from the indirect control of colonial masters.

For me, on a day like this, critical analysis to determine whether we are really free as we claim and celebrate is more important than what has been happening. We need to objectively x-ray if our independence has so far been a classical departure from the concept of the people that fought for it.

We need to sincerely ask ourselves whether we have an independent nation or are a surrogate of the conservative colonial masters. Can we proudly say that we have developed in the pace we are supposed to at 57? Has the independence reflected positively on our economy?

Are we not ashamed that China, a third world country like ours only a while ago is now leading the world economy today while we are still moulding, struggling to win the confidence of foreign investors to invest in our economy? These and many other questions should give us reason(s) to engage ourselves in debates towards proffering solutions to our problems rather than ridiculing ourselves in stadia nationwide in the name of celebrating independence.

If we continue to pride ourselves as an independent nation, our conscience would never be clear to the reality that we still have a long way to go in our quest to becoming truly independent.

However, it is an established fact that no country can survive in isolation. This is because every nation, at one point or the other, needs a shoulder to lean on. But this is not to say that a country should be completely dependent on another. Doing so would amount to economic slavery; a description that perfectly fits Nigeria.

As one of the oil producing giants of the world, it is expected that Nigeria, which prides itself as the giant of Africa, would have functional refineries to process its oil product. A country which is the ninth most populated nation in the world is blessed with abundant natural resources which are spread across the lengths and breadths of the six geo-political zones of the country. Surprisingly, her people are living in abject poverty, and the youth roaming the streets with great skills and degrees in search of unavailable jobs.

We should be ashamed as a nation that at 57 we are still celebrating the importation of cloths, drugs, matches, weapons, tooth picks, singlets, socks and in fact almost every basic human need. As a matter of fact, we must stop deceiving ourselves that we are independent and start fashioning out ways that can rightly give us that status.

As far as our elites still seek medical attention abroad, send their children and wards to highbrow schools abroad using the tax payers’ money, we are still wallowing in acute dependence. In fact, we are slaves to our inertia and mentality.
Most of our graduates are today drivers to foreigners whose academic qualifications are in doubt. They are citizens of the country we are celebrating its 57 years anniversary; a country we believed have been freed from the shackles of colonialism.

Painfully, I see our independence more as an irony than a reality. We are blessed with natural resources but bereft of quality leadership. If Nigerians can re-direct their efforts invested in fighting each other on the bases of religion, party affiliation, ethnic background and region into judiciously exploring our bountiful natural resources, only then we can have a country that is truly independent.

It is however pertinent to note that the only remarkable achievement recorded 57 years after independence is being able to stay as one corporate entity, despite all sorts of secessionist threats. Another notable achievement worthy of mentioning is the 2015 smooth transition from a reckless democratic government to a more purposeful administration.

Although Jonathan’s government, as professed by the Finance Minister under his administration, led us into the present economic disaster that we find ourselves, the peaceful transition process orchestrated by him even in the face of defeat is a great achievement in the history of our dear country, which will forever have a remarkable place in the annals of history.

Now that President Muhammadu Buhari is in the saddle, Nigerians must know that the change he represents can only come to limelight through the collective efforts of everyone. Our mentality must change from thinking of what our country can do for us to what we can do for her. We must accept him as a president that “belongs to nobody but belong to everybody”. Change must begin with us!

We must begin to look inward for solutions to our problems. Unity of purpose should be our watchword. Personal, regional and religious interest should give way for national interest.

The president must be seen as a Nigerian president, even as we must see ourselves first as Nigerians. All our actions should be guided by our conscience like the president said in his 2015 independence day speech; “Like I said in my inaugural speech, I bear no ill will against anyone on past events. Nobody should fear anything from me. We are not after anyone. People should only fear the consequences of their actions”.

This piece on Nigeria's anniversary was done two years ago!

Inyali Peter is a freelance journalist and Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Calabar,Calabar. Inyalipeter@gmail.com
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