FG’s independence celebration

ON Wednesday September 16, shortly before the virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the logo and theme for Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary celebration. According to the president, the theme of this year’s anniversary celebration, “Together Shall We Be”, had been chosen to forge a more united and cohesive Nigeria. While commending the inter-ministerial committee on the anniversary for a work well done, the president declared: “As we celebrate this anniversary, this government will work towards greater inclusiveness and look forward to the participation of all Nigerians.”  At that event, he announced that Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary celebration would be observed for a whole year, ending on September 30, 2021. At the same time, he insisted that the anniversary celebration would be low-key. “Celebrating 60 years of independence really calls for pomp and pageantry, but the global Covid-19 Pandemic, which has forced all nations in the world to think and act differently, has also forced on us the imperative of a low-keyed celebration,” he said.

It is contradictory for the government to maintain that a celebration that would last for a whole year is low key. If the celebration was not low key, would it have lasted for five years? It is also bewildering that the government is proposing a yearlong celebration in the midst of widespread violence and the Covid-19 pandemic. The country has become notorious for violence and is not effectively governed to provide an environment for the citizenry to thrive. Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc in the north-eastern part of the country, with millions of people displaced. Only a week ago, a certain Colonel Dahiru Bako and a number of his men were killed by the terrorists. The traditional and social media space continues to be filled with gory details of killings in the North-Central zone and Southern Kaduna arising from herdsmen’s onslaught on farmers and inter-communal conflicts. In the North-West zone, banditry has defied solutions while kidnapping and other violent crimes remain a common occurrence in the South.

The president noted that “Everywhere you go, Nigerians are sparkling like diamonds in the pack, whether in academia, business, innovation, music, movie, entertainment and culture.” What he did not underscore is the fact that this “everywhere” does not include the territorial space of Nigeria, where the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike since March. The association of medical doctors are perpetually threatening strikes, and the labour movement decided on a nationwide strike as result of the sudden increase in the prices of fuel and electricity. With rising inflation, the devaluation of the naira, stagnant public sector wages and the establishment of Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, there is scarcely any plausible cause for celebrating with “pomp and pageantry”.

It is therefore not surprising that major socio-cultural organisations such as the Pan Niger Delta Forum, the Middle Belt Forum, Arewa, Aka Ikenga and Afenifere have condemned the yearlong celebration plan as “a joke.” These organisations and a number of prominent Nigerians have consistently drawn the attention of the president to the parochial character of his appointments, the blatant disregard of the federal character provisions and the exclusion of sections of the country from appointments into key positions in the Federal Government. It is laughable that the government now promises to “work towards greater inclusiveness and look forward to the participation of all Nigerians” in the celebrations.

The plan to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th anniversary over a 12-month period shows that the government has become detached from the pains, misery and toils of Nigerians. We call on the government to retrace its steps. The 60th anniversary calls for sober reflection on the challenges facing Nigeria as a nation. The government must be concerned about the deepening divisions within the country, the near paralysis of service delivery, the persisting labour crisis that manifests in high levels of unemployment and recurring strikes in the education and health sectors,  and the dangerous activities of terrorists, kidnappers and bandits that now characterise the nasty and brutish life of Nigerians. A nation that has moved from the status of being the flagship of the black race at independence to become the poverty capital of the world at 60 should reflect on how to put its house in order, rather than going on a spending spree in the name of a diamond anniversary. This government should ‘think and act differently’ like the rest of the world is doing under the Covid-19 environment.


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