By Ochereome Nnanna
YESTERDAY, we marked the 57th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence from colonialist Great Britain. We marked it; we did not celebrate. There is very little to celebrate. The typical “low-keyed” anniversaries we have become accustomed to over the past three decades say it all. Our Independence Day, which in our childhood in the 1960s and 1970s was a day of great outpouring of patriotic pomp and pageantry is, today, nothing more than a pauper’s funeral.
There is nothing rhapsodic to inspire the children of today, the leaders of tomorrow, about the country we will hand over to them a couple of decades from now. I am very sad and sorry for our children because of the type of country we will hand over to them. If our leaders gave us the little they did in our childhood and we still wound up in this mess, what about our children to whom our current leaders have nothing to offer except deprivation, hatred, state terror and fear?
At least, as a child, I had the privilege of getting quality education in public schools, sometimes paying next to nothing, sometimes paying nothing at all. Today, every one of us is a miniature government, providing our families with the very things that make government relevant to the people. Government has become an oppressive superstructure for the pursuit of ideals that are alien to our constitution and the values for which we fought for independence.
All Progressives Congress, APC chieftain, Bola Tinubu, put it aptly in his recent speech on the state of the nation when he said that we all belong to a Nigeria of which we have no idea what it means to us. That is so true. Nigeria does not mean the same thing to Nigerians. As an Igbo man, I have come to learn that my idea of Nigeria, especially “One Nigeria,” is far different from what some of my supposed fellow countrymen and women from the Arewa section have in mind.
Events of the past three months which pitched the Igbo people and their pro-Biafra elements against Arewa Northerners and their Jihadist-minded elements who are now in charge in Aso Villa, speaks volumes about what Nigeria means to Nigerians. We have three main outlooks: the internal colonialists, the patriots and the separatists.
The first group are those who believe what their evil-minded regional leaders way back in the 1950’s and 1960’s said, on record, that the new nation, Nigeria, would be treated as a conquered estate of their political ancestors. Some of them even boasted that they would continue their “interrupted conquest to the sea” until they “dip the koran in the Atlantic Ocean.” The first opportunity they had, they symbolically named the road on the fringe of the Atlantic at the Barbeach in Victoria Island, Lagos, after Ahmadu Bello.
These people seized power when the British colonialists granted us independence 57 years ago. They have dominated our politics, sometimes using the military, and at other times coming through the ballot box, capitalising on a thoroughly-rigged political system that gives them a false majority in population. Based on this fake population paradigm, they split the country into units ensuring that no matter what the rest of the country does, they would always be in charge. They also, through the military, imposed a constitution on the rest, ensuring that it can never be amended unless they give their blessing.
Now, if they had used their political advantages to build Nigeria into the showpieces that the United Arab Emirates, UAE, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan and other former Third World countries have turned into, people would only complain about inequality. Rather, they imposed their discredited medieval system that had long impoverished their lower classes while leaving the topmost elites in corrupt opulence on the rest of the country. They spread poverty nationwide. The operators of this system only know how to consume, not produce. Gradually, that unwholesome attitude to governance has become a fad among the nation’s governing elite.
Matters are made worse by the fact that an ultra-conservative wing of this group is now occupying the Presidential palace in Abuja. They are re-enacting some of the stories we have been reading and watching on television about the exploits of Gen. Omar Al Bashir of Sudan, who armed and funded Arab pastoral militias to attack and dispossess indigenous peoples of their lands and agricultural resources. There are undisguised efforts to force parts of the country that have not been Islamised to come into their bandwagon through armed militias masquerading as herdsmen. Our military are deployed to do jobs that the Police was created to do, attacking unarmed civilian separatist agitators who have been classified, to the bemusement of the civilised world, as “terrorists.”
These separatists were once an enthusiastic part and parcel of the fight for the independence we are marking. They are Nigerians who have lost faith in their country and are demanding for a referendum to enable them make a peaceful exit from Nigeria to be free from the colonialists and Jihadists. They are not yet armed, but the way they were building up under their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, frightened the Jihadists and patriots alike as to what next they were going to do if left unchecked.
Separatism is a sentiment that does not reside exclusively with the pro-Biafra agitators. It actually started with Isaac Adaka Boro and his handful of Ijaw fighters who formed the Niger-Delta Volunteer Force and carried out what he termed the Twelve-Day Revolution towards the establishment of the Niger-Delta Republic in 1966. A year later, the defunct Eastern Region declared the Republic of Biafra, which sparked off the Biafra-Nigeria war. There have been various forms of revolts and agitations against internal colonialists as evident in the Major Gideon Orkar coup seeking to expel Arewa from Nigeria in 1990, the NADECO struggle over Chief Moshood Abiola’s annulled presidential mandate in 1993, the Niger-Delta militancy which is in currently dormant mode and the resurgence of the struggle for Biafra independence.
It is obvious that without the unpatriotic antics of the internal colonialists sometimes backed up with Jihadist adventurism when ultra-conservative elements among their ranks stumble into power, there would be no separatist agitators. The sad thing is that some of the separatists have become so convinced of Nigeria’s unworkability that they have no plan B other than secession. That has imposed an additional strain on the effort to create a Nigeria of the dream of those of us who pride themselves as patriots.
I am a patriot. I stand for a united, democratic Federal Republic of Nigeria, where there is freedom, equity, justice and progress which can only come from an equalised federation instead of the current lopsided one. I know that people like me are found in all the six geopolitical divisions of this great nation. President Shehu Shagari, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and the late Umaru Musa Yar Adua come to mind, the late Maitama Sule who came from the Arewa section are evidence that genuine nationalism is not a preserve of any section.
We patriots have saddled ourselves with the task of bringing about genuine unity to Nigeria. That is why we call for restructuring and devolution of powers. We must continue the fight to snatch Nigeria from the claws of the internal colonialists/Jihadists and their separatist counterparts. If we leave Nigeria to them, soon there will be no Nigeria.
The restructuring campaign is the last-ditch effort to save Nigeria, and we cannot afford to lose the battle.
In spite of everything, I wish Nigeria happy 57th anniversary.