Feature- Nigeria at 60- Are We truly Independent?

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by: Favour A. Adéwoyin

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Is today our independence day or the day we all agreed to as our independence day?

Remember, the Southwest and Southeast have got independence earlier in 1957 before the October 1st, 1960 when the Union Jack was lowered down and the Green White Green flag was hoisted.

Now, let us admit that October 1st, 1960 was our independence day because the problem is not with the date. It’s a date and it could be adopted and acceptable to all.

But, the question is, are we really independent as a people. Are we free? Are we determining our destinies as a people?

The answer to the above questions is No. The revelation of Maitama Sule about his friend who was also Shagari’s friend has clearly shown us that Nigeria is still battling with international controls and manipulations in addition to the internal disunity among the different races that make up the country.

Can an average Southwestern, Southeastern, Southsouthern, middlebeltians person and all the minority races live out their destinies in Nigeria the way they desire?

And, as is always the case with oppression where both the oppressor and the oppressed are always in bondage, can the Fulanis who want to keep all the races under also live their destinies in the Nigeria of our time?

My answer to all these questions is still No because many Nigerian can’t live out his or her destiny the way he or she desires! Due to the toxic environment being created, many Nigerians cannot discover their purposes and pursue them, they cannot discover, release and maximise their potentials and they cannot capture dreams or visions for their lives and live it to experience satisfaction, fulfillment and make impact.

The best life an average Nigerian is living is an average life of mediocrity with commonplace result. Nigerians are willing to pursue excellence that will.lead to success, but the environment is choky and discouraging.

Nigeria is blessed, but Nigerians are still in pains for sixty years of purported independence. Many Nigerians are living in poverty below the breadline standard in the last sixty years. The same questions around ethnicity and religion have not changed and we are still battling with disunity that have brought many issues thereby disorganising Nigeria and destabilising Nigerians.

Today, corruption has gained ground and has permeated our collective ethos. Insecurity has come to stay in our midst and life and living have become so difficult for Nigerians. The class structure is still between the bourgeois and the proletariat, the rich and the poor, the elite and the downtrodden masses and their access to the different opportunities in the land largely depends on which side of the divides each person belongs.

Infrastructural decay is all over the country, but one region is suffering the decay as well as total absence than the other. Things are not working and many have concluded that we are running a ‘failed state’. Are we not in a failed state truly? Is our generation not wasted according to Professor Wole Soyinka?

Leadership has been identified as a major problem facing the country and nothing can be as true as this Many others have also added followership as part of the problem and they are also right to some extent because the minds of the Nigerian followers have not not yet been developed or mature in to bring any change to the society. Confusion, disillusionment, frustration and failures are all over the country and the drums of restructuring and secession have been sounding higher than ever before in recent time.

This is the state of the nation by now and the same question is, are we independent, still lingers on.

To me, Nigeria is not yet independent because all the indices of Independence are not in place.

In October 1st, 1960, what Nigeria had was deliverance. Deliverance is an instant experience that can happen within some few hours. The moment the flag of the colonial masters was lowered down and the flag of Nigeria was hoisted up deliverance has started. Nigeria became delivered from the control of the colonial oppressors, but she was not free. She gained deliverance, but did not gain independence because, unlike deliverance which is instant and can take place within few hours, independence is not instant and cannot happen within few hours in a day.

When we talk about independence we are talking about a phenomenon that will take process. When we talk about independence we are talking about what will last for a lifetime. America is independent, but it is still working out her independence year in year out. Many countries of the world that are independent and developed are still struggling hard to improve on their independence.

Nigeria did not get independence, it got deliverance in 1960. And, since that time for sixty years, no serious efforts have been made toward following the process that can lead to true and genuine independence which will bring about effective nation-building because, as it is now, Nigeria is neither a country nor a nation, it is just a contraption or what Chief Obafemi Awolowo called ‘geographical expression’.

To experience a true and genuine independence, Nigeria and Nigerians must be ready to pay the price because true freedom is not free. If we want independence, we must be ready to pass through the process, we must be ready to go through the wilderness, we must be ready to be responsible people who are willing to build ‘great people and great nation’ following the image laundering slogan of late Professor Dora Akinyuli.

Irresponsible is the bane of Nigeria! We don’t want to go to the backside of the desert like other nations of the world who have gained independence did. Israel was in bondage for 430 years in Egypt before she got deliverance. When she got deliverance, she had to go through a compulsory wilderness experience to remove all the slavery mentalities before she got to her promise land.

Israel left Egypt as a slave but, before she emerged in the promise like, all the slave generations that left Egypt with slavery mentalities had been wiped out remaining only two of them, Joshua and Caleb who, according to their stories, had ‘another spirit’.

Talking about ‘another spirit’, it means they became spiritually developed to lose their babyish appetite. They became spiritually responsible people, but not religious slaves who only knew how to pray for ‘manna’ and quails in the wilderness.

The slaves throughout the wilderness journey remained slaves. They were crying for Egypt when God promised them Canaan. They were crying for Egyptian menu of garlic, cucumber, onions, cheese, etc instead of reaching out for a land flowing with milk and honey that God promised them.

They left Egypt physically, but didn’t leave mentally. Their oppression became ‘mental condition’ that physical freedom cannot heal. It is always the same thing with all colonised people, they will leave physically, but not mentally. The reason why many slaves don’t always want to leave slavery is because they are already attached to the little enjoyment the slaves will always enjoy.

A slave is an irresponsible person. The word irresponsible in this context is not an abuse, rather it is a word that places some demands on an individual.

For instance, the slave will not provide food, drinks, clothing and all the basic needs for himself. The condition may be worse, but the slave has some measure of freedom.

But, to be truly free requires a price. To be free or independent is a life of responsibility.

For instance, a free or independent person must take the responsibility of providing food, shelter and housing for himself. Unlike a slave that the master has the responsibility to wake him up in the morning, it is the responsibility of the free andu independent person to wake himself up. If he doesn’t want to wake up, hunger will wake him up, bills to pay will wake him up. No wonder Dr. Myles Munroe said, ‘there is burden in freedom’.

I remember a quotation I read on a calendar produced by SEAP Microfinance at the Police Station, Okeho yesterday when I went to settle a matter for some people. The quotation from Bryant McGill, a success coach, touched me that I had to copy it down and it goes like this: “Real Transformation requires real honesty. If you want to move forward, get real with yourself”.

Can you see something? The reason why we are still crawling after sixty years is because we have not been honest with ourselves. We have not been real with ourselves to tell ourselves the truth that what we got on October 1st, 1960 was not really independence, but deliverance. Until we go back to redefine our beginning, we won’t be able to engage ourselves effectively. And, when we don’t get the right definition, we cannot head toward the right destination.

Now, let me close by saying that it is this burden that is attached to every freedom or independence that we are not ready to experience. Or, may be, I should say that we are living in ignorance of the price to pay for real independence to happen.

And, the worst is that, our leaders are enjoying keeping us as slaves because it pays them. That is why they keep us with the same philosophy of education for sixty years that is preparing mentally undeveloped people who cannot fight for their reply rights.

The kind of education they keep recycling will never allow the masses to call for true independence. Who will even call for independence? Is it the civil servants who are still battling with unpaid salaries? Is it the parents who are battling with bills and tuition fees of their children and wards? Is it the artisans who is seeking for daily meals? Is it the students who have been forced out of school for many months? Is it unemployed who is battling for survival that made him to keep roaming the streets after he has been told severally times that there are no jobs? Is it the university dons who has compromised their standard and have started to faint at interviews to defend their stwardships? Is it the labour organisations, the freedom fighters and the civil societies who have sold their consciences because of filthy lucres? Is it the journalists who can no longer speak the truth because of brown envelopes? Is it the professional bodies who are confused and can speak together with one voice?

Is it…?

As you can see, we are in a deep mess as a people. We have entered a ‘one-chance’ vehicle heading to nowhere and we cannot muster the unity to fight our collective oppressors because they have fragmented us into enemy blocks to fight against and among ourselves.

My last word is from Machiavelli who said: “if you want to keep a people in perpetual bondage, don’t educate them”. Isn’t it true of our experience?

It is clear that our leaders are enjoying the pains we are suffering and they know that we don’t have all it takes to fight them. But, I know this oppression won’t continue like this forever. I know things are going to change one day very soon when people will be pushed to the wall to ask for their right.

‘Wèrè sún, wèrè sún, ojó tí wèrè bá sún kàn ‘giri… The day a mad man can no longer take the insult is the day he will revolt. I pray that many of us will still be alive to witness the real change that such day will bring to us.

Thank you.

Favour A. Adéwoyin is a social commentator and community development specialist

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