Law & Human Rights

June 12, 2009

Nigeria: Ten years of unbroken civil rule

By Awa Kalu

In the week after the 1st of October, 2008, a flurry of activities signaled the celebration of forty-eight years of independence from our colonial masters. Nigerians, old and young, did not seem quite enthusiastic about beating our drums nor did anyone climb the roof top to sound the trumpet of freedom.

Similarly, in the course of the week leading to May 29, and thereafter, Nigerians were reminded that in a little over forty eight years after the grant of political independence, the country managed a feat-the fortuitous ability to have civilians on the reins of political power for ten years without hearing marshall music. Yes, it was the ominous sign of a military coup d’etat if you tuned your Radio and heard the unmistakable tunes of military intrusion into politics.

Seeing that Nigerians are remarkably unimpressed by our collective failure to advance the frontiers of political and economic freedom despite the latitude given to us by the tenets of democracy to do so, l will publish hereunder, a rehash of my comments under the title, Nigeria; 48 years of what?

You will draw the necessary parallels. The text was as follows: Within the week, Nigeria as a country had a low key celebration to mark the 48th Anniversary of its political independence from our colonial masters. Perhaps the anniversary was celebrated without fanfare or pomp and pageantry in acknowledgment of the global and widespread economic crisis that is top on the agenda of most developed, developing and least developed nations.

It is also possible that the avoidance of any form of gloating in our celebrations is a clear acceptance of the argument of the majority that we are far to arrive at our destination forty-eight years after the journey began. Does any nation ever arrive at its destination or is the life of a nation a continuous one punctuated by events whether remarkable or not? Yet again, one may ask, when did the life of this country begin?

Some would say it began in 1914 when the amalgamation of the Northern group of province with its counterparts, the southern group of province was achieved. However, in the light of the fact that what called for celebration was the 48th anniversary of our independence from Great Britain, it would seem incontestable that Nigeria was born on the 1st of October, 1960 as nation is akin to a human being, born naked and unable to do things for itself, assisted for many years, weaned and let down to cater for himself or herself.

For the human, it is those who bring the child into the world that are responsible for its upbringing including providing instruction as to how to survive in a competitive environment. For a nation, the burden is often cast on the proverbial ‘founding fathers’ whose dreams, wisdom and foresight propel the nation to greatness. According to that belief, it was the founding fathers of the United States who dreamt of a strong nation propelled by the ideals of equality of all human beings, that government itself is instituted for the welfare of the governed and that every person is entitled to the pursuit of happiness.

In our own case, it appears that the dreams of our founding fathers were encapsulated in that first National Anthem which many generations recited effortlessly. We hailed Nigeria, our own dear native land, and we pledged that though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. We then agreed that we were proud to serve our sovereign motherland. For reason that here not been completely satisfactory, that National Anthem which acknowledged our diversity and affirmed our unity was hastily jettisoned. In its place, we are beckoned on, as compatriots to assist and to obey Nigerian call.

That nall is to serve our fatherland with love, strength and faith. We then resonate in the belief that the labour of our heroes past should never be in vain. In unison, we confirm our preparedness to serve our father land with all our might and to produce only one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.

Whichever of the two anthems you choose or prefer, there is no iota lf doubt that the ingredients of a national ideoloty are inherent in both. The question at this time, at our 48th is whether we have struck the word inherent in both anthems in the task of building a great Nigeria.

We may borrow a few words from a book (Foundations of a New Nigeria) edited by two great and celebrated character Sam Oyoubaire and Tunji Olagunju. In their introduction, they argued that history is a succession of events in the life of nations, of people or of communities. Historical events are social cumulations. Fundamentally, one set of identifiable events in time and space is as much rooted in a preceding set as it is the root of succeeding events.

Similarly’, they contend, ‘historical events in one place could become the genesis of events in other places depending, of course, on the critical nature of the former. In this manner of conceptualizing events, history could be said to be unrestricted by space and time. The author further argued that history and historical events are not amorphous of shapeless occurrences. On the contrary, historical events and processes possess uniqueness which marks them as much the product of the past and of particular places, as they are sufficiently differentiated from their antecedents.

Such uniqueness of history provides both the basis from a break from either the past or from events of other places, as well as the basis of a completely new future history. The decisiveness of the unique nature and character of historical events and processes provides the basis for the differentiation in history.

They then affirm a truism, on which basis our country may be judged, that a set of events and provision could be quite profound and large drown-out with the withdrawal confidence that existing structures and values of a nation become completely broken or overture, giving rise to new structures, institutions values and patterns of social conduct. With the history of Nigeria as a plank on which to analyze her problems, Chief Arthur Nwakwu, a foremost Nationalist and public affairs analyst, lambasts this in his book Nigeria: The Political Transitions and the Future of Democracy as a nation in search of identity and consciousness.

He argued that the dilemma of contemporary Nigeria is mind-boggling. Nigeria is bedeviled by a myriad of problems which require radical therapies. In very strong words, he compares the enormous problems of the polity with the reality of a tragic dance of death; a ritual with no purpose and a rite in celebration of decay and putrefaction! Arthur Nirankurre further contends that ‘in examining the Nigerian condition’, he is ‘reminded of that parabolic signification of communal ethos in a society caught in the web of organized intrigue. The belief that a disease which is ravaging a land needs the blood of an animal matching its potency for exoneration, exercise and amelioration holds absolutely true for the Nigerian state’.

In a time brimming with resignation and surrender, he intones that the only qualification to that time-honored liberationist paradigm is that not ever the blond of a mortal , and a clansman that, many here the efficacy of purification, or the potency of regeneration: as fatalist as his words indicate, he however thread the path of a statesman and asks: ‘which are the basic tentative measures likely to arrest the calm strive towards chaos and the fatalistic fount into the molten abyss and morass of the unknown?’ he concludes that Nigeria drift into chaos is both attitudinal and institutional and his belief is that arresting the drift demands the re-orientation of individual and collective awakening to realities.

I have listened to radio and television discussions aimed at appraising Nigeria at 48. It appears that there is a consensus that very close to its Golden Jubilee anniversary, our country is afflicted with pre-pubescent and adolescent problems. Touted as the most populous black nation on earth, recognized as a country with vast and extensive human and natural resources with the potential to be what it can be, we still suffer the unfornute of a burden of who will bell the cat of liberation from self-imposed stagnation and an unwillingness to march into unrestrained prosperity. We are often in search of the ideas that will give flip to our destiny.

Thus, at independence, we were given a constitution which tied us somehow to the Monarchy of Great Britain. By 1963 when we parted ways with that constitution, we fere unte into ourselves a Republican constitution. Then, anchored on allegations of corruption and mis- rule, a coup d’etat overthrew that constitution and for several years we laboured under military leadership and fought a bitter civil war which deepened the schisms in the polity. In 1979, the military retreated to the Barracks in the belief that politicians had learnt their lessons. In late 1983, there was yet another coup d’etat. Historians are familiar with the flip-flop in the formulation of policies that followed including the failure of a well designed transition to civil programme. Recognizing that it is the right of the people to choose who should regulate their affaires, the military again retreated to their barracks in 1999 and have not given any overt indication of an intention to return despite the predilectories of our politicians so
me of which may sound as an invitation of some sort.

Truly, it is a wonder that despite our wobbling and fumbling, we have lived under the umbrella of one Nigeria an umbrella which is bigger than PDP’s and of other rainmaker’s, an umbrella that is bigger than those of professional politicians, of certain fraudulent professors and other professionals, of era those who do not lime Nigeria . It is my belief that we will continue to hail Nigeria, our own dear nation land. Indeed, the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.