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An Anniversary Poser

My attitude is that life is not about just being born and living until death comes but about the impact made on society and the people that one may have encountered in the process life. This applies to the life of a country.

I woke up unusually early last week Thursday morning. That was October 1, the anniversary of our country’s independence. My Samsung phone had whistled, signifying that a new text message had entered. Text messages excite me a lot, especially when they come with the unexpected or even good news. If they’re are from the bank and are alerting me of some good money that had just entered my account, the more welcome they are.

So my eyes opened instantly and my hands began fumbling around the place I normally plugged my phone for overnight charging before I go to the bed. I was eager to know what important message was interrupting this sweet dawn segment of my sleep.

In the process, the phone fell off my hand twice but it didn’t matter, so long as the message was a good one. When finally I opened the message – what did I see – “Happy Independence Anniversary.”

I hissed, threw the phone to the far end of my bed as if this powerful instrument of communication had offended me in one very severe manner. I closed my eyes again to continue sleeping. But sleep had taken the flight. The timing of the message, the event being celebrated and the thought of whether it was all worth it, took over.

Let me state it categorically and before I am misunderstood and misjudged as under-estimating the significance of Nigeria’s national day. The independence of our country attained on October 1, 1960, the year I was enrolled in class one in one of the two primary schools that had just been opened then in Olowa, my village, in the then Igala Native Authority of Northern Nigeria is, no doubt, a landmark political event.

Independence is a defining political statement on the state of maturity of a country. It is to say that a country has come of age and now in a position to make critical decisions on all aspects of its existence for itself. That being so, there is hardly any other day in the life of a country that can compete with it for its significance.

But my own perception of life, whether of a country or even of an individual, as not just a footslog but a race that has prizes attached to it, sometimes questions the necessity for celebrating life that is not radiating in all the colours of success and achievements.

My attitude is that life is not about just being born and living until death comes but about the impact made on society and the people that one may have encountered in the process life. This applies to the life of a country.

Nigeria is 55 years old as an independent country. Hurrah! But the logical question is – what are we really celebrating? Are we celebrating achievements that are remarkable and outstanding? Any time this question is asked the tendency is to go back to the old and familiar answers which always begin with our survival of all the unfortunate political upheavals of the past which include all the military coups and counter coups and the 30-month civil war.

The list also includes the presidential election annulment of 1993 which denied M.K.O Abiola, the opportunity to become president of the country after securing a clean victory in one of the country’s best organised elections and the violent street protests which forced out President Ibrahim Babangida, the architect of the annulment.

And then the political patchwork which brought Chief Ernest Sonekan into the national political stage and later the man behind the dark glasses who died just before he succeeded in completing the process of relocating the Central Bank of Nigeria to his bedrooms in the Presidential Villa and in Kano.

There is, no doubt, that all of these and more are remarkable events that tell the stories of our survival as a nation. But life is not just about survival.

Where are the creative works of our hands, those things that tell the stories of our determination to make our country great and really worthy of our pride, things that make life and living more comfortable and sweet for its citizens? That was the question that took the sleep off my eyes that early morning on October 1, this year.

Do we have such landmark new achievements whose memory every year on October 1, will bring tears of happiness to our eyes. Can we confidently make a list of such achievements? Is it good network of urban and rural roads, state of the art hospitals that even the rich and powerful in our country can trust to serve their medical purposes well, functional rail system, universities and colleges that award globally respectable certificates, stable electricity or an economy that is growing and capable of throwing up job opportunities for the large number of our youths pounding the streets endlessly in our major towns and cities in search jobs?

Or is it our refineries which only tell the story of our penchant for biting the fingers that feeds us? What? When will all of these become part of our achievements and reason for rolling out the drums in celebration at the anniversary of our independence? When? That’s the question we should be asking ourselves on this 55th anniversary of our attainment of nationhood.

I’m not suggesting that we shed tears over the nation’s failure in critical departments of our national life on such an important national day but we must not forget to spare some quality time to reflect as I did that morning and lost sleep in the process. Yes, we must. Let’s ask ourselves where all the money we made since independence from our oil has gone.

In 55 years, we transited from an economy built on the groundnuts pyramids in Kano, the cocoa grains from the farms in Oyo and the oil palm plantations in Umudike to the mystery liquid that drives all the machines that man has invented to ease life and living for himself and yet we have little or nothing to show for it.

This is the sad story of our failure. It is important that we ask ourselves this question every year on the occasion of this important day in the life of our country. That’s all I’m saying. Happy 55th independence anniversary.



–  BALA DAN ABU             e-mail: bala.danabu@theunion.com.ng

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