The Hub

September 30, 2010

This toddler @ 50

By Josef Omorotionmwan
CERTAIN situations just baffle the mind. Ordinarily,  pregnancy is a source of happiness and joy to the family but society is fond of classifying it perilously with other phenomena that suggest infirmity of the mind or body.

Each political party manifesto that wants to talk of free health for the citizens invariably thinks of free treatment to children below the age of six, old people above 65 years and pregnant women.

Right now, health authorities in most states are beginning to supply treated mosquito nets free to children below six years of age, the aged above 65 and then pregnant women.

As we reflect on the Constituent Assembly days, we remember that it was this type of consideration that led Dr. Ademola Adebo to ask if pregnancy is a disease. Of course, it is not.

In October 1960, we were not thinking of whether or not to celebrate. Independence came and we were all basking in the euphoria of our new status. Schools were closed for upwards of one week and we celebrated.

But 50 years down the alley, we are enveloped in the debate of the desirability or otherwise of celebrating our freedom day, October 1, to the extent that celebration is being made to look like an imposition on the people.

Certainly, something has gone wrong somewhere.  Workers who should be excited are not even excited at the prospect of declaring the day a public holiday, talk less of celebrating it. Rather, they see the day as a burden, a heavy burden for that matter.

This burden is now being used as a pressure point. The other day, Federal workers warned the authorities to pay their entitlements before October 1 or, “count us out of your celebration”. The irony of it all is that in 1960, it was everybody’s celebration and everybody celebrated.

To celebrate or not to celebrate, that has now become the question. The debates on both sides of this issue certainly provide a lucid assessment of Nigeria’s journey thus far:
On the debit side, the celebration is simply seen as a furtherance of our corruption culture. The budgetary outlay for the celebration is meant for the leaders to “chop”; it doesn’t matter now whether you are arm-twisting the multinationals in Nigeria to obtain the money from them or you are lifting it direct from the public purse.

The salient question is, how much of the billions will get to the workers or to the impoverished citizens? If we were to invest the money in building one kilometre of road, that road would be used by both the poor and the rich, the method of use, notwithstanding: the rich would use the tyres of their cars while the poor would use their ten toes. So runs the argument.

In a recent outing, Prof. Ben Egede of the Department of English, Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, summarised the views on this side most succinctly, when he quipped rather angrily: “What is there to celebrate? Fifty years of looting from our national treasury by organised criminals masquerading as leaders of their people?

Fifty years of armed robbery, fiscal mismanagement, unemployment, hypocrisy, injustice, unmitigated corruption, indiscipline, ethnic bigotry, political irredentism, killing fields in the name of bad roads, misgovernance, religious intolerance, feigned piousness, even from the altar of God and a near morbid inclination by a privileged few towards squandermania…?”

(Point-Counterpoint, The Nigerian Observer, Friday, September 3, 2010, back page)  And, if we may add, are we also talking of 50 years of trade in human anguish, the kidnap business?

On the credit side, though, the people agree that there are problems but things are not as gloomy as they have been painted. After all, celebrations define peace and wellness. Who would have been talking of celebrating if we were at war? Who would have been celebrating if we were in war-torn Lebanon or in flood-devastated Pakistan or in the Russian Republic, with its consuming fires that have no end in sight; or if we were engulfed in some hurricanes and tsunamis that bear the names of beautiful women or brave men of the past?

Are we not blessed? In all conscience, wouldn’t failure to celebrate our golden jubilee amount to gross ingratitude to God?

Yes, we fought a bitter civil war for 30 months. The truth is that we survived that war and came out of it stronger and more united than ever before. Some nations of the world who were engaged in such a war ended up in unrecognisable pieces. Again, why must we seek to continue to advertise our poverty?

We got our independence at the same time with several African countries, which are poorer than Nigeria by every method of assessment.

Our leaders have been attending their celebrations. Why shouldn’t we now celebrate?
Has Nigeria really remained stagnant all these years? Of course, not! It takes leaving these coasts and returning after some time to appreciate the fact that Nigeria is making monumental strides on a daily basis in the area of development.

On balance, some nations of the world celebrate success, some celebrate failure; some celebrate victory, some celebrate defeat; some celebrate peace, yet others celebrate war.

Nigeria has seen it all, these past 50 years. There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria therefore qualifies for multiple celebrations on a continuing basis, in thanksgiving to God. After all, does the Holy Book not enjoin us to give thanks to God in every situation we find ourselves?

Apparently, Nigeria is a toddler at 50 but in Nigeria, we see a bright future and we see hope, in spite of the social, economic and political equations now around us. Let’s celebrate!