Due to the suspended animation holding the country to ransom, the 55th Independence Anniversary is perforce a very low-key celebration for which President Buhari has approved only N70 million.
The last presidential election was indeed a do-or-die affair. The internet tigers on cyberspace announced the death of Nigeria many times. The warriors on Facebook, Twitter and so on gave vent to the grave threat that the dear country was as good as dead and buried.
As the great American writer Mark Twain said after his own death was announced when he had not actually died, it turned out that the announcement of the death of Nigeria may have been highly exaggerated.
The then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan meekly conceded to his opponent General Muhammadu Buhari, and the lot who wanted war had to sheathe their swords and put aside their guns. Nigeria was thus saved from the brink.
The Americans have put out the gist that it is in this year of Our Lord 2015 Nigeria would break into pieces. The European colonial powers that set up shop in Berlin in 1884-85 to allocate the area now known as Nigeria to colonial Britain did not etch the commonality of purpose in bringing the diverse peoples together.
Sir Frederick Lugard amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 so that the South will serve as “the lady of means”, in the words of Lord Harcourt, to feed the arid North.
The mutual benefit of the constituent parts was not put into consideration. Some 16 years earlier, Lugard’s girlfriend, Flora Shaw, had suggested a name for the emergent country: Nigeria, a word formed from the River Niger, not minding that River Niger itself was named after the accursed racist word “Nigger”.
Thus, from the very beginning, Nigerian history is replete with obfuscating contradictions and controversies. Some smart military majors thought they could change history by staging a coup in January 1966. Majors Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna and Chukwuma Patrick Nzogwu, together with their colleagues, were actually very naive about the geopolitical banana peels on their path.
The coup was read to mean an Igbo coup aimed at the ethnic group dominating the entire country, a notion the British authorities raised to the stratosphere to cause chaos. Northern military officers became thus inspired to foment a bloodier revenge coup in July of the selfsame 1966.
After taking over power, Yakubu Gowon had prepared a speech to announce the dissolution of the Nigerian Federation on August 1, 1966 via the secession (araba) of the North, until he was prevailed upon to change his mind by the British High Commissioner in Lagos, Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce. Gowon’s initial speech stated quite explicitly that there was no basis for Nigerian unity.
The pogrom unleashed on the Igbo people in the North put a heavy question mark on the existence of Nigeria.The Aburi conference in Ghana had to be convened as a last ditch effort to save the country from war. The agreements at Aburi became subverted, and the Nigeria- Biafra war ensued. After the war, the Northern military domination of power came to a head with the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola.
The protests that followed the annulment nearly put paid to Nigeria as a nation. General Ibrahim Babangida who as military president had annulled the election was disgraced out of power. The wily General stepped aside by cobbling together the so-called Interim National Government headed by hapless Chief Ernest Shonekan. General Sani Abacha of course sent Shonekan packing and locked up Abiola.
The country teetered on the precipice until somehow Abiola and Abacha died after one another. It took the re-emergence of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo for the Northern military to anoint a southerner and a civilian fit enough to be trusted with power.
Nigeria’s misadventures with Obasanjo’s Third Term Project, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s deathknell presidency and ex-President Jonathan’s battle with the so-called zoning policy of returning power to the North do not need further elaborations here.
It suffices to stress that Jonathan saved the day by accepting defeat gracefully. Unfortunately Nigeria’s old woes are still all the rage. The Boko Haram insurgency is still raging not minding President Buhari’s preachments and the military high command’s assurances. The terrorists have of course turned into the proverbial rabid dog biting even its owner. Kidnapping is now a countrywide trade.
Recession is now lot of the Nigerian economy. Due to the suspended animation holding the country to ransom, the 55th Independence Anniversary is perforce a very low-key celebration for which President Buhari has approved only N70 million. Even amid all the anxieties and gloom over the fumbling fat fool at fifty-five, let me end on a note of hope.
It needs to be recalled that at the 54th anniversary last year which was equally a very low-key event, the then President Jonathan performed the magical “resurrection” of Mr. Flag Man Pa Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi, the designer of the Nigerian Flag, who was awarded the national honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) and placed on the salary of a Special Assistant to the President forever.
According to the words of the old National Anthem which was adopted by the National Confab, “Our flag shall be a symbol that truth and justice reign…” The neglect over the years of the designer of the flag stood as the symbol of the death of the nation. The miracle of Pa Akinkunmi’s “resurrection” can, if President Buhari follows through the course without prebendalism, translate to Nigeria having a new life of the promised change.
– UZOR MAXIM UZOATU e-mail: email@example.com