Tuesday, October 9, 2007

On Independence

Nigeria at 47
By Sun News Publishing
Monday, October 1, 2007

Erapi G.E

Today, the symbolism of Nigeria’s political independence which it gained from Britain 47 years ago is being reenacted. Over time, it has become an annual ritual which reminds Nigerians of the significance of the lowering of the Union Jack, the British colonial insignia, and its replacement with our national flag.

In real, concrete terms, October 1 of every year is a day which Nigerians ought to set aside for reflection and re-appraisal. Having liberated themselves from the clutches of colonialism, and having attained independent statehood, Nigerians owe themselves an obligation to tell themselves the truth about the state of affairs in their fatherland. As an independent country, Nigerians need to ask whether they have piloted the ship of state towards progressive attainment.

Nigerians, no doubt, have never failed to tread this familiar trajectory. But the sad fact is that they have never felt flattered about the state of affairs in their country. Every passing year, they return a verdict of lack of progress or at best a wobbly movement towards progressive statehood. Certainly, the mood in the seats of power in the country today would reflect this state of affairs and more. The government at the centre and the component units that make up the Federation will, through one ceremony or another, remind us that we have attained the age of 47 as an independent nation.

But 47 years after independence, how has Nigeria fared? Can the people thump their chests and declare with confidence that Nigeria is on the road to progressive nationhood? This is the issue before us today as we remind ourselves of the gains and joys of independence.

We can hardly deny the fact that things have not been what they should be in Nigeria. The country has lost a number of opportunities and chances of becoming great. The situation is one that can make a people lose confidence in themselves and approach the future with trepidation and a feeling of despondency.

However, it is gratifying to note that Nigerians do not think of despair. Instead, they are full of hope and vitality. Regardless of our many slips and somersaults, the people have continued to trudge on with Spartan courage. With their resilient spirit, Nigerians are keeping hope alive. They are looking forward to the day their country would rise from its deep slumber and strut into the world community with the boldness to achieve and excel.

This is certainly not an impossible height to attain. What is required for Nigeria to be where it ought to be is for the country to be governed by patriots. Nigeria is in dire need of men and women who should put the nation above selves. Rather, it has, over the years, been held hostage by a self-seeking, visionless and opportunistic cabal who do not care a hoot about how the country and its peoples can grow and develop.

To get it right therefore, Nigeria has to have the right people in positions of authority. Indeed, the real problem Nigeria faces is that of inept leadership. If we reflect, as we must do on a day like this, on the quality of leadership we have been having, we cannot but admit the cold fact that leadership in this country has been on the decline.

What we have been saddled with since the return of civil rule in the country some eight years ago is a leadership that did not and could not envision where Nigeria should be in the years ahead. In the absence of a sense of direction, the country groped in the dark to no end.

The monumental malpractices and irregularities that attended the 2007 general elections and the on-going crisis in the leadership of the lower chamber of the National Assembly do not offer hope for positive change. Rather, they are indicative of a porous and permissive system where no meaningful progress can take place. There does not, as yet, appear to be any end in sight to this barren and vacuous leadership.

Thus, as we mark yet another independence day, those at the helm of affairs and the people themselves need to spare a thought for this slumbering giant whose much touted greatness has remained in a state of potency. We need to reflect on what can be done for Nigeria to make real progress as recognized by global indices of development. We should ask ourselves when we should have a leadership that will be concerned about the decay in social infrastructure, education, healthcare delivery and other necessities that a modern state must have. It is not enough for us to roll out the drums and make merry. It is also not enough for us to take stock annually as we are doing today. What matters is for us to take action on some of the observed and acknowledged areas of failure with a view to addressing them. Lamentations alone cannot do.

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