By TONY MOMOH
Less than 48 hours ago, on October 1, 2010, we had an opportunity to step out of the past, a past that we must regard as a school from which we must learn the lessons history teaches, a past we can celebrate because our eyes have been opened to recognize  those 50 years as years of waste.

We stand at the beginning of a future that must forcefully remind us of those years of the locusts — of 50 years during which, most of the time, we pounced on our national farms and ate up the plants and left the fields bare and desolate; years when those who asked why we consumed more than we were able or willing to produce were ignored or marginalized or even killed; years when we believed that every Nigerian had a price and proved it by luring them to just look but not see or complain seriously about the inordinate wealth our leaders accumulated.

We can only be stepping out of that past if we accept that those things we did were wrong, that the years in front of us are years when we must make amends.  Why, because what we call the future always has a beginning.

The 50 years that ended on Oct 1, 2010 was our future on October 1, 1960.  The 50 years that should end in the year 2060 is the future of our offspring, already born or yet to come.

Those already born must, at this threshold, decide what they want to leave for those who will come after them.  But it is what we bequeath to  them during the transition which is our remaining lifespan that will set the pace for what they are trained to build on.

This season sends me down the memory lane,  to the present which 1960 was when we were the young ones waving our national flag on that day that the ones we saw as old men took over from the British on our behalf

— Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister, Nnamdi Azikiwe that had been premier of Eastern Nigeria and would be governor-general of Nigeria; Obafemi Awolowo that had been premier of Western Nigeria and would be leader of opposition in parliament; Ahmadu Bello that was premier of Northern Nigeria and would remain in the North but call the shots that Abubakar must implement; Michael Okpara that had taken over premiership of Eastern Nigeria from Zik; and  Ladoke Akintola that had replaced Chief Awolowo as premier of Western Nigeria…

Since those years, as we grew from three regions into four, then 12, 19, 21, 30 and now 36, and watched the disgraceful replication of every office in the old regions that helped only in depleting our resources that would have grown us, our bright hopes dimmed, until the flames died and we were left in the dark.

Nostalgia replaced mourning when I saw myself in the young people I watched on AIT on the night of September 29.

The station had been running the Miss Nigeria 2010 competition, and the final five were being interviewed  when I chanced on the programme.  You picked a piece of paper from the tray and you were asked to answer the question written on it.  One of the contestants was asked to name the greatest leader on earth.

I let Obama slip through my lips, but felt shame by the answer the young girl gave.  There was no hesitation at all.  She said, “The world’s greatest leader is my president, President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan!”  Have pity on me.

I belong in the past, born into the years of struggle but brought up in the years of waste, without branding with hot metal into my young mind the unquenchable longing that  charity must begin at home, come rain come shine.   Here was a young girl, obviously less than 23, who was teaching me the lessons those who came before me would have taught me.

The example they gave me, they infused into me, has come out to be the wrong dose for the cure of an ailment which only service and giving of yourself could have attended to.

I wish this attitude, this mindset, for the future, for those who have crossed the Rubicon,  from the years of waste into a time that the past can only be a lesson to. In this time we should regard as a new time, a time for drastic spiritual and material orientation, things we harboured in the past must give way to things that must grow us in the future.

In the past, a few told us what was wrong, but did we change, did we listen?  Take, for an example, the January 8, 2007 story Tell Magazine told about our roads. It cried about the state of  Owerri Road, Aba; the East-West Road, Port Harcourt; Garden Avenue, Enugu; Onitsha-Owerri Road;  Iweka Road, Onitsha; Oguta Road, Onitsha; Ibadan-Oyo-Ilorin Road;  Aba-Ikot Ekpene Road; Lagos-Benin Express Road, and the road linking Orlu and Oko towns where it was cut completely in two by a gully erosion.

That was the shame of a nation in respect of a few of the hundreds of kilometers of roads that had collapsed in spite of the billions that are voted every year to build new roads and repair old ones.

I doubt that we have done anything different at the end of the 50th year of our independence.  The future beginning Oct 2 cannot work if we bring the past along.
Take as another example, the economy.

The future will recognize the great mistake we made when we paid good money running into billions of dollars in settlement of debts of doubtful origin.

I was not an economist when I drew attention to the opportunity cost of paying that loan, the money we would have used to grow our people and our industries so that we can earn income to service and repay loans whose veracity we would have established.

If I am not an economist, Chu Okongwu, one of the  brightest finance ministers this country has had, is. He warned us when we were packaging the billions of dollars we were going to hand over to the Paris Club that we had problems at home which no serious government should underestimate or ignore.

He identified them as  “the appalling state of decay of the broad national equipment – the complex of failed infrastructure, failed public organizations and failed institutions; the unprecedented desolation of the polity, and the structural unconcern of government.”

He was ignored.  Today we pay the price through kidnappings which is more organized proof of government failure than any other protest we have had in peace time.

Are we bringing this ugly past into the present to let it grow to continue to bear fruit for the reaping?The young girl loves her country so much she does not see the rot we emerging from the past were brought up to swim in, and the dirty people represented at all levels by corrupt and undisciplined national wealth rapists.

She was not the only one who gave me hope that the next 50 years must be years of restoration of discipline which must manifest in service. The Hand of God at work to restore order to His Creation, more than any other thing, gives me more hope. But may that young girl’s perception of her president being the greatest world leader stay in the observance than in the breach.  Happy Anniversary.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.