By Ochereome Nnanna
During the celebration of Nigeria’s 53rd independence anniversary, Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, remarked about what he called “distortion” of Nigeria’s history, which I found interesting.
He said he did not see the point in celebrating Nigeria’s centenary. Here are his words according to media reports:
“For me, Nigeria was born as an independent sovereign nation on the first of October, 1960. Perhaps, she was conceived in 1914, but as we race towards (the first 100 years) it is important not to distort history.
I would seek better understanding, better explanation by those who are behind the centenary celebration because if we rolled out the drums three years ago to celebrate 50 years of Nigeria’s nationhood, Independence we fought for, people went to jail for, what then is this centenary suddenly about?
“I don’t remember as a child ever coming out at amalgamation day and suddenly, how did we get to 100?”
I can make out two points of disputation here by the learned Senior Advocate. Number one: As Nigeria never celebrated Amalgamation Day, Fashola does not see the point in celebrating 100 years of the Amalgamation. Number two: He does not seem to agree that the years before our independence can count as part of our nationhood, since Nigeria was still under colonial domination.
I will start by observing that His Excellency, BR Fashola, is merely engaging in undue rhetoric on this matter. I am not too surprised, though, that he has bones to pick with the centenary celebration idea, which is basically a brainchild of the Federal Government. This is not the first time that Fashola’s political group, which is now the main body of the All Progressives Congress, APC, will be distancing itself from such Federal Government initiative.
We will recall how that school of political thought disagreed with May 29 as the Democracy Day. That day has absolutely no bearing on our struggle to regain civilian rule from the military.
Instead, it was on June 12 (1993) that Nigerians, for the first time in history, overcame their primordial divides and voted for Chief Moshood Abiola, in spite of his Muslim/Muslim ticket. Fashola’s party, which is an offshoot of the June 12 struggle, settled for that date as the genuine Democracy Day, while the Federal Government forced the rest of the nation to mark it on May 29.
There should be no need to question whether Nigeria will be 100 years by January 2014. Nigeria was conceived and born on January 1, 1914. It was from that day that its inhabitants started being known as “Nigerians”. Yes, it was under the imperial rule of the British Crown, the parent nation.
Everything that happened from that day till date is part and parcel of the history of Nigeria. That we did not celebrate Amalgamation Day under the British did not take anything from the fact that Nigeria started existing as a political entity from the day it was amalgamated.
I believe that Nigerians should celebrate the centenary of her history. We should mark that day, but without much pomp and colour. Rather, we should mark it with sobriety and determination to turn a new leaf in the second century.
We should see the centenary as a milestone upon which to fashion out a new, better, happier, more equitable, workable and progressive nation to bequeath to ourselves and future generations. We of today must seize the moment and package a better Nigeria to hand over to our children.
Luckily, we now have the opportunity of a national conference. Let us not fluff it. Let us spend more time, energy and resources to ensure that this conference spawns a second century Nigeria we can all be proud of than wallowing in uncalled-for celebration of failure, tears and woe. Let us also not treat the moment as if it never existed.
Nigeria’s first100 years of bitter history can never be wished away, but we can fashion a second 100 years of surge, accomplishments and victory.
Umuahia market moves after 75 years
Umuahia is one of the least developed state capitals in the country, even though the town itself was one of the earliest created by the British colonial masters, being a major railway town. It is exactly 22 years old as a state capital. But things are changing rapidly there now.
Chief Theodore Orji, the Governor of Abia State, being from Ibeku, the main landlords of the town, knows he has less than two years to raise the town to befitting status or go back home a villain among the locals and inhabitants of the capital alike. And he is rapidly doing away with the makeshift arrangements of the past. Roads are being constructed within and outside the metropolis. The state High Court complex has been completed, along with the state secretariat and international conference centre. During the 53rd independence celebration, he promised guests at the banquet that by next year, they would be welcomed at the new government house nearing completion at the New Umuahia area.
But by far the most momentous development in the city is the relocation of the 75-year-old Main Market at Isi Gate. This market, as well as the cattle market, sprang up due to the railway facility and helped to define commerce in the city. This writer’s mother once traded in foodstuff there when he was a pre-school tot before the civil war.
The cattle market has since moved on to Ubakala, and from there to Lokpanta on the Enugu – Aba Expressway. All efforts to move the Main Market has been stubbornly resisted.
Governor Orji demonstrated his decision to move this market by embarking on the construction of three modern markets to move the artisans, timber sellers and general merchandise sellers away from the city centre. Within the next two weeks, the Main Market will cease to exist. It will be brought down to give way to a “green project” that will raise the beauty of the city to a new height.
The allocation of stalls in the 10,000-shed market at Ubani-Umuahia and the 10,000-shed timber market near the GovernmentCollege, is ongoing. Each of these facilities is serviced by motor parks, schools, housing estates and everything that would encourage the growth of new towns outside the city centre. Government has also provided shuttle buses to enable people seamlessly go and come from the new markets.
Crime has already gone down in Umuahia and the traffic snarls are waiting to go. I am glad that the capital of my state of origin, the city in which I was born, is on the move, at last!