Another exclusive article from Ebube Nwosu
The streets have never been greener with independence day fever. The flashing spectrum of white and green comes into view in all directions. You see it on store banners next to their independence month slash prices, you see on lamp posts, cell masts, and anything that can be tied with lengthy yards of cloth. You see it on the clothes of the young children off in the direction of the nearest independence day party, pretentiously sponsored by state governments in an attempt to bolster camaraderie among the younger generation, their so-called “Future Leaders”. It’s all fun and cheers and horseback rides and bouncy castle joy until the gift sharing- I mean, hunger games start and the struggle for who gets a present begin(presents that seem to finish even before the fights commence). Unfortunately for me, the odds have never been in my favour.
“Nigeria @60!” The banners would read today. “Happy Independence Day,” said one outraged citizen there. Why is he angry? Indeed a diamond jubilee such as this is a sure reason for celebrations. I mean, 60 years of total freedom is a grand feat and all, but do you, Nigeria, have anything worth “celebrating”? asked the inquisitive blogger here. Were we too quick to want autonomy that we didn’t check ourselves to know if we could handle it? Sure we may have held down the fort for a while, but we have not fully recovered after the civil war. Tribalism still rears its horned head in various places, and corruption suffocates us more than the carbon monoxide poisoning from our generators. But the fuck-ups(please excuse my language) are vast and saddening, and we shall go into them right now. All for the sake of an independence day blog post, and where does one start? Probably at the beginning, I suppose.
NIGERIA – A NOT-SO BRIEF INTRODUCTION.
This geographical entity called Nigeria has been around way before the Brits christened her. And at the time, there existed a pure civilization of people striving within their given territories, revelling in the art of sculpting, nomadic travels, wars, and slavery(apparently the Portuguese were ahead on this), and it was peaceful(ish). Everyone was in their lane: the warriors in the north, the east’s artisans, and the royals from the west. Each with a governance system, religious practices, and trade that suited them, but that all changed when they came.
“The British are coming…The British are coming”(lol), and they did come(phrasing). Fast-forward to the 1800s, and our ‘saviours’ appear, bringing with them, besides our new name, the promises of change.
And they did change us, starting with our religion and collecting our decorated sculptors and masks, calling them evil and not the works of God’s children(though, when you think of it, you wonder who bestowed on us the talent in the first place). They shipped them off and hid them behind bulletproof glass shelves. They call it art now. We relinquished our forefathers’ names, titles that held great meanings, for whitewashed ones – Chimamanda for Mary, Adebola for Mathias. And those who held on tight to the old ways were shunned by their own family and people and stamped as unrepentant sinners and devil worshipers.
Next was the change in our way of governance. Wedding the northern and southern protectorates into one(m.1914 – date), giving us this permanent territorial shape we occupy and appointing chiefs to oversee their districts’ affairs but not without reporting back to Lord Lugard.
Next up, education and the teachings of their world, disregarding our rich cultural background. A thousand years of cultivated traditional dropped so we can learn the Queen’s English? Wondafuu! But some good came with this new language, and that word was independence. We grieved for it. We fought for it, and we finally got it cum 1960 when the white man suspended dominance and decided to let the people take the wheels of leadership. Were we ready, though?
Move up a few years, independence and all its vibe have waned, hostilities broke out on the surface of our newly freed country. It started with the Igbos’ first coup, which led to the deaths of Sir Bello, Balewa, and other notable leaders at the time. The Nigerian adage: na second one, na him dey pain pass must have gotten its notoriety from what happened next. The northerners were relentless in their persecution of my people(yes, I’m Igbo). The streets were painted red with the blood of innocent men, women, children, and fetuses (they(soldiers) would pierce the bellies of pregnant women and pull out the developing baby and kill it. But not before brutally raping the women before their battered husbands). The north was not safe. They had to leave. But that was even a greater struggle seeing as the north could not easily let go of its game(the travels back to the east were even more dangerous than staying back and hiding).
Then came a man, an Igbo man, the Igbo’s Superman. He brought a wind of change to the east, bordering off the rest of the country and making the east its own sovereign nation – The Republic of Biafra. Under his influence, Nigeria faced its first and only(debatable) civil war. Biafran children were conscripted to fight, lives were lost, limbs were dismembered on account of the local missiles and poorly fabricated hand grenades used. Soldiers entered, unwelcomed, into the inner chambers of women, and insolently claimed it was a ‘civic duty’ on the women’s part, shame. The children starved, the masses cried out for concession. The world watched and listened(the Brits chuckled mockingly, American and France aiding and abetting both sides of the war while claiming neutrality), and after 30 hard months, the war ended. Whether it was a defeat or victory for Ojukwu still begs the question.
Years went by, a military coup here and there, and a tyrant getting killed with an apple(sounds almost biblical), a sort of mock peace filled the air in our almost war-torn country; then add ‘democracy’ into our growing dictionary of words we still don’t understand, and the Nigeria we have now is made. Damn! A lot can happen in 60 years.
NIGERIA: THE HERE AND NOW.
Okay, Nigeria, we’ve learned your history. We understand the narratives of your conception, the trials, and struggles your people have gone through, so what now? Was there any lesson we were supposed to obtain from it all?
What do we take home from the events of the 1967 – 1970 year long war? Stop the tribalism, right? So why has it not left our country? Why are the positions of power and appointments still given to incompetent Nigerians in the name of “we hail from the same state” or “He’s not my brother.” In this era, the horns of Biafra are beginning to blow. It may sound like a blasting noise now, but sooner or later, the drums of war shall percuss, and another civil unrest would be upon us if we don’t act right.
The religious system has crumbled beyond repair. The Holy Spirit no longer resides in Holy places; instead, money is the new deity, and its members keep increasing every day. The punishments for your sins can now be easily absolved by the hefty donations made for church projects. In God’s house, the devil has easily infiltrated its walls, spreading lies, hatred, and immoralities. God has no home anymore.
The educational sector is in shambles. An average Nigerian undergraduate would have wasted most of his school years because of strikes, protests, and corrupt lecturers. The cost of education has never been higher as state schools compete with privates schools in their increment of fees per session. And you can’t blame them for it; the state and federal has completely neglected them.
The country has become so lawless, and the agents assigned to protect the local man from such anarchy are the ones committing the crimes in the first place; officers raping, assaulting, and entrapping their fellow man in abductions schemes. Officers tied to the fat waistlines of hungry politicians and those fellows working in the shadows.
The people are angry. The youths are weeping and asking: “where is my tomorrow?””where is my tomorrow when the leaders of yesterday don’t want to leave the places of power today?”
And who is to blame for these errors, this dwindling economy, and unfavourable conditions? Is it the lawmakers stuffing budgets with ambiguous contracts that never see fruition? Is it the foreign contractors who start projects but end them halfway, or when they do complete these projects, they make use of substandard materials and, in so doing, endanger the lives of Nigerians? Is it the youths who, frustrated with this failing government, become thugs for hire by the very government they resent? The smart ones take to the internet and commit fraudulent acts on unsuspecting foreigners and locals. So many questions, but no one to answer them.
So what can we do, Nigeria? What is the plan for your future? Do we, your children, simply sit back, arms folded, and watch as corruption spreads across the land, killing us faster than this virus ever could? IS ANYONE LISTENING? THE NATION IS DYING; THE CHURCH IS DROWNING IN SIN AS THE POLITICIANS DROWN IN BLOOD AND MONEY – the people’s blood and the tax payer’s money. When the day ends, and the president’s speech has been broadcast throughout every home in the country – matters of great concern sidelined, more hollow promises made – what do we do?
Don’t ask me, I’m just a writer. Just click on this link and reminisce on the lyrics of this song.