By CHIOMA GABRIEL
Okonta still remembers that morning when a neighbour rushed to the colonial residence of Dr. Harrison at Ikoyi, Lagos, where he worked to announce to him that his wife Mariana had been delivered of a bouncing baby boy. Okonta was dressed in his well- starched khaki uniform in the colonial house when the cheery news got to him.
He made merry and entertained his friends to celebrate the birth of his son and named him Harrison after the whiteman in whose household he served as a servant.
The birth of his only son coincided with the celebration of Nigeria’s independence on October 1, 1960.
Today, Harrison is 52 years and lives in Lagos. He has no regular job after graduating from the university several years ago.
He had tried to sustain himself as a self-employed businessman but his business at Tincan Island suffered from excess custom duties and multiple taxations. Harrison couldn’t cope with the blows that fate had severally dealt on him. At 52, he has no house he could call his own.
He has no regular means of livelihood despite his B.SC in Business Administration and Masters Degrees in two other Disciplines. He has no home and has transversed severally between being an okada rider and a tricycle driver. On many occasions , he has served as a bus conductor and the finesse he acquired through education has given way to a crude, frustrated, middle-aged man.
But Harrison Ogbonna is not the only Nigerian whom fate has dealt with badly. Across the 36 States of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory, there are many Harrisons who have been battered by fate but only few were able to make a success story from the school of hard-knocks.
The above story sounds like the typical Nigerian story. From what they taught us in history, the pathway to Nigeria’s 52 years of independence was littered with broken promises.
Nigerians are people suffering from battered egos and damaged psyche. Ab initio, our leaders had envisaged prosperity for the country, given the country’s enormous resources but that had been mere dreams. As a nation very rich in oil resources, we have receded from oil boom to oil doom. Nigeria has become a giant with mosquito legs.
The elders of the country left good legacies. But their successors could not match the strength of the sages.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, former Premier of Northern Nigeria at our independence in 1960 said that the freedom of Nigeria from British rule is not the freedom of the jungle, where might is right.
“We are not free to molest others less strong than ourselves or to trample on their rights simply because we are in a position of authority over them. Independence brings with it heavier and new responsibilities.
The eyes of the world are on Nigeria now and there are many friends who hope that we shall be the leading nation in Africa. Let us say with all emphasis at my command that we shall never attain this goal if there is suspicion and mistrust among the peoples of Nigeria.
Such an attitude cannot benefit anyone and can easily lead to strife as has been the painful experience of other independent nations in Africa and elsewhere.”
It is obvious that Nigerians of today never heeded the wisdom of the sages . In today’s Nigeria, deceit holds sway ! Almost every year, we lament our situation , wondering if achieving nationhood is such an unrealistic and unworkable project.
From all indications, many have come to accept the reality that ours is a society where the morons are the barons; a society where thieves are kings; a society where the monkey works and the baboon chops; a society where might is right and injustice the order of the day.
Today, ours is a kingdom against itself. Things are falling apart and the centre can barely hold. Anarchy appears to have let loose upon the nation. Insecurity, corruption in high places and other vices are building strongholds. These are felt in every facet of our daily life.
For years, we keep questioning ourselves about what went wrong with our country but each year, the questions increase but there are less answers. We are forever preoccupied with how to redesign the Nigerian project after 52 years of self-governance because of the folly and greed of those who took over the affairs of modern Nigeria.
Beginning from 1966, the country recorded eight military regimes. The final military regime left power on May 29, 1999 in between interjections of civilian regimes.
The military government came to power in pretence of restoring sanity in government but today, Nigerians know better.
Celebrating Nigeria at 52 is only to fulfill all righteousness. At least, the country has been able to sustain civilian government without interruption of the military government since 1999. With her avalanche of social economic cum political challenges, the country is still rated as a major key player in the global economy.
The present Nigerian leaders should see this independence celebration as time to reflect on our past so as focus on the political emancipation of the country; restore security and the confidence of the populace.