Happy Independence, Nigeria

WE are 62 years, and here are some of my thoughts. I see all the movements, the flag bearing, the excitement, the hope and the pain, making for some potpourri but as Winston Churchill captures it, “a truth told with bad intentions beats all the lies you can invent”. The easiest and most attractive national pastime remains buck passing, especially with the bunch of leaders that we have who can hardly peel a banana nor wash an already white handkerchief. Not many of us want to take responsibility for anything, from personal to family or national life. The blame is on the system. We do not need to create demons out of our leaders because they are already specimen of demons, so we hang our sins on them appropriately and inappropriately too. And unfortunately, their behaviour has made it easy for the critic to descend on them.

We talk, write and discuss the Nigerian myth with a sense of fatalism. If everyone thought as much as I did about justice and fairness, life would be better. I am a critic, but I am also the critics’ critic, the unrepentant believer that the best way to keep government on its toes is to keep harping on their flaws so they can improve. Often, I say I believe the things I write on are important for our nation as they are for other nations, but when it appears to me Nigerians especially those in authority do not react to these issues as people in other lands do, I repeat them in new essays to remind old readers and recruit new ones to participate in the continuing dialogue. Sadly, this is Nigeria where nothing works and no one cares. When it works, it is because someone’s interest is about to be served or being served not the people’s interest. We talk about our institutions despairingly. Our leaders do not watch network news except when their faces will be there on occasion of their sons/daughters’ wedding or such. They do not need the newspapers anymore because it is full of their lies, or paid adverts exchanging banters together.

Government bashing remains a national pastime and every drinking joint, and suya spot has a sitting parliament with an expert on every and any issue but we forget that no matter the input, if the politicians and actors in our national scene have questionable lives both on personal and domestic level, nothing will change, the best government policy cannot change the individual. It is because the policies are formulated on a bad foundation and by people with warped thinking. When a witch proclaims her presence and an invalid does not make away; he must have money for sacrifices at home. Let me extensively refer to this beautiful essay by Thomas L. Friedman, ‘Pass The Books. Hold The Oil’. Friedman says: “Every so often someone asks me: “What’s your favorite country, other than your own?” I’ve always had the same answer: Taiwan. “Taiwan? Why Taiwan?” people ask. Very simple: Because Taiwan is a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea with no natural resources to live off of — it even has to import sand and gravel from China for construction— yet it has the fourth-largest financial reserves in the world. Because rather than digging in the ground and mining whatever comes up, Taiwan has mined its 23 million people, their talent, energy and intelligence — men and women. I always tell my friends in Taiwan: “You’re the luckiest people in the world. How did you get so lucky? You have no oil, no iron ore, no forests, no diamonds, no gold, just a few small deposits of coal and natural gas…

Sixty-two years and still counting it has been either cocoa wealth, iron ore, or groundnut wealth, oil wealth and corrupt wealth derived through political office or access to leadership and the public tilt, not the people’s’ wealth. As I tore through Friedman’s argument, a cursory look at Nigeria saddens one. The irrevocable fact remains that we are a land ravaged on the North by extremism, terrorism, and other …isms, bordered by her Southern neighbours with dwindling economic fortunes, a lack of leadership and followership ethos, plenty oil in one axis, a thieving leadership massaging their gluttonous lives with its proceeds. On all divides a populace largely under-changed and poorly educated as to what the nation really stands for? However, what do the ordinary masses say or even know, than perpetual poverty irrespective of region, religion and creed. The nation remains plagued by daily conversations by an impoverished populace both economically, socially and educationally; where the only thing on the up, is all sorts of misfortune, from all corners. The truth is, over 200 million Nigerians, Christians and Muslims, Southern and Northern people, we continue to suffer as a result of the lack of focus of a few. Nigerians are being sold same lies by the musketeers from both South and North. As, the campaigns towards 2023 show, we are still engaged in all the noise and re-opening of old unhealed wounds around prebendalism, nepotism, ethnic chauvinism and narcissistic parapoism around faith centred emotions at the expense of development laced growth.

We are left as commentators to bite our teeth, the real thieves are out there, sharing the money from Swiss to Russian accounts, buying houses from New York to Dubai, golf courses in far stretched out places like New Zealand. A politician pays for a property in the FCT for several millions in forex… …“knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print. Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs…”. However, for Nigeria, our beloved it is not about the current macabre dance but interrogating the characters, bottom to top, accountability, social justice and reconciliation…We should face our fears, there is remedy. Nigeria is growing, no doubt. No matter the debate, the negatives, we are growing, but it is very sad that our growth has not been matched by appropriate or near equivalent development, until we get near a point where e dey sweet all of us again, many messages of our 62nd Independence anniversary celebration will still be largely one wey dey pain us, for how long—Only time will tell…

  • Dickson, PhD, is Team Lead, The Tattaaunawa Roundtable Initiative (TRICentre)

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