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Monday, October 4, 2010

Nigeria - Nothing to Celebrate 50 Years Since Birth

Blast in one of Nigeria’s most important celebrations shows just how much the nation has failed to provide security and safety to her citizens.

Fifty years ago, an independent nation called Nigeria was born. 50 years ago, the baton of leading Africa’s populous nation was duly passed from James Robertson, the last British Governor-General of Nigeria to Tafawa Balewa, the first Prime Minister of Nigeria. 50 years ago, the British packed their bags and left Nigeria, perhaps never to return, and if they did, they needed a whole different game plan.

A brand new phoenix flag of green and white stripes was hoisted and the Union Jack, emblem of British suzerainty over Nigeria lowered for the umpteenth time amidst loud ululations, oomph, circumstance and unprecedented joy that so evidently painted the faces of an optimistic people.

Hopes of the new state, its leaders and people were sky high and many were hopeful that the newborn baby, Nigeria, which was ushered in a befitting morning breeze, would grow first enough and catapult herself into new levels of economic prosperity and tranquil living. After all, Nigeria was, and still is, the most populous nation in Africa with massive oil reserves.

But 50 years on, has any success worth celebrating been achieved? Has the massive oil production second to none in Africa been helpful to the over 150 million people?

Ask any Nigerian who was born pre or post the independence and you are likely to get a resounding and bold NO.

50 years after independence from the British colonial rule on October 1 1960, most Nigerians are actually asking themselves whether there is beauty in turning fifty and if achieving this milestone is worth popping up a champagne for. They are asking themselves whether the green-white-green flag has brought even a small level of success that was envisaged when the Union Jack was lowered for the last time. And what became of the vast oil reserves that were just beginning to be tapped after independence? How about that reassuring sense of optimism and pride that coursed gently through every nook and cranny of the West Africa nation and which knew no borders, either between tribes or religion?

Nigeria was once viewed as a Giant of Africa. But through the years, it has been working very hard to lose this colossal tagging, thanks mainly to military rules, corruption, violence in its oil-producing region in Niger Delta and inter-faith violence among other vices that have become synonymous with the West African superpower.
Some say that Nigeria needed to celebrate the 50 years of independence, not because of any tangible success but by the fact that it has managed to survive as a single state in the midst of deep splits along ethnic and religious lines. I tend to agree and so does the nation’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo who once said, “If in 50 years, we have remained one nation, it is a fair starting point of our celebration.”

It defies any form of logic and governance per se to even imagine how a functioning government can allow itself to be attacked by rebels on such an important day. Is it a case of failed systems of administration or is the Nigerian government’s security unit too naïve to deal with the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) rebel group which claimed responsibility for the attacks, that saw 12 lives lost and 8 others injured?

The bottom line is that the Nigerian government hit a new low after failing to protect her citizens who thronged the Eagle Square in Abuja to celebrate the country’s Golden Jubilee.

 Citizens are finding it ever more difficult to remain optimistic that things will change enough to earn Nigeria back its ‘Giant of Africa’ tag.  Nigeria’s golden goose, oil, has become more of a curse than anything. Like a bright petal on a withering flower that gradually dies leaving behind memories of potential but with no fruition in the end, the oil has just remained an economic-boom prospect, but which has brought more harm than good.

While the sitting President Goodluck Jonathan blamed the Friday bombings on “a small terrorist group that resides outside Nigeria that was paid by some people within to perpetrate the dastardly act,” one never fails to wonder just how many times Nigerian leaders will continue to blame some foreigners on its internal failures.  

But we all know that Nigeria is not about just gloom and doom. Some of the best literary writers in Africa are from Nigeria. Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka are just but two of Nigeria’s illustrious writers who have soared the art of literature in Africa to a whole new level. How about the film industry? Nigeria’s Nollywood is inarguably Africa’s premier film destination. Mention Nollywood to any African and names like Actress Genevieve Nnaji and actory, Ramsey Noah, who won the 2010 African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor, spring in the mind ‘pap’. Many other Nigerians are eking out a living out of the country’s film industry, thanks to what is perhaps missing in the political sphere – workable administrative systems devoid of corruption and self interests.

Just to conclude, Nigeria has absolutely nothing to celebrate at 50. Nothing.
And That's thesteifmastertake!!