NIGERIANS would witness the most formal event of the centenary today when President Goodluck Jonathan hands out 100 awards to 100 individuals – more than 50 post-humously – who made their marks in Nigeria’s first 100 years.
The award list is not the only controversy over the centenary, debates over what Nigeria was celebrating preceded it.
The list celebrates old Nigeria. It celebrates a Nigeria that is stuffed with the challenges many of those being honoured invented. The list does not look at Nigeria of the future, its composition is extremely low on people below 50 years, only one, as if to confirm that Nigeria stopped functioning a little after its independence in 1960, yet a large number of the centenary awardees made their names in post-independent Nigeria.
The failure of the centenary awards to build a bridge between the faded generations and their successors is a major emptiness of the celebrations. Where are the youth? Are their achievements not worth recognising in a year that we should be examining the future of Nigeria? Is it only the past that is of significant importance?
Political correctness played a part in the compilations. Everyone who has led Nigeria is a national hero, the list says. Does it mean that once someone leads Nigeria he assumes sainthood and appears on national honours lists? The choices must have been tough; farming out only 100 awards to more than 160 million people who believe they all deserve awards can be challenging.
Three families had the distinction of producing two members on the list – the Lugards, Frederick, Nigeria’s first Governor-General and his wife Flora, the Ransome-Kutis, women political leader Funmilayo and his musician son Fela and the Yar’Adua brothers, Shehu Musa, army general and politician and his younger brother Umaru, the only Nigerian civilian president to die in office. Jonathan succeeded him.
As the celebrations continue, Nigerians are still concerned with every day struggles, which blur any significance of the 1914 British amalgamation of two administrative entities the Northern Protectorate and South Protectorate for their administrative convenience. The journey has witnessed many landmarks among them the Civil War of 1967-1970.
Nigerians sharply criticised the merger. They blame it for most of the country’s woes. Debates about Nigeria are a catalogue of lamentations without dedication to sustainable solutions.
The centenary celebration would be a complete waste if it fails to provide platforms to address ways of making Nigeria work better to assure justice and assuage restiveness.
Leadership should depart from a conceited style that ignores Nigerians. Politicians think everything is about them. If they are able to gain political power, Nigeria is making progress.
We should be concerned about the next 100 years of Nigeria.