As Nigeria’s 54th independence draws closer, I am forced to go down memory lane to what it is that is worth celebrating in the last 54 years barring the other 46 years before she became an independent state!
When the trio of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa and Obafemi Awolowo; irrespective of their personal feelings, set about the rigorous task of making Nigeria independent of its British Lords, I would love to think their dream was of a unified country, bound by a common goal to survive and succeed, despite its different ethnic make up, despite it’s religious differences.
But they made one crucial mistake, as they were unable to separate nationalistic and ethnic ideals which led to them founding the early political parties along ethnic lines.
The first test of their resolve and indeed that of the country they had given up much for was the Kaduna Nzeogwu coup of 1966 which either by intention or omission claimed many non-Igbo lives, leading many to belief that the coup was an Igbo coup.
To ameliorate the damage of the failed or successful coup depending on how you see it, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi sort to compensate the North and West for their heavy losses with political appointments and patronage, but his failure to punish the coup plotters and the abrogation of the federal system and the promulgation of the Decree No 34 further strengthened the ‘Igbo conspiracy’ that had being sown in the minds of the other ethnic groups.
On July 29 1966, Aguiyi Ironsi was killed in a counter coup.
Fast forward 27 later and Nigeria was locked in a landmark election that would have changed; probably, the way the country thought, the way the world saw Nigeria! It was NRC vs SDP, Tafa Bashir Vs Moshood Abiola in what is till date the most free and fair election in the country. It a Northern muslim vs a Western muslim, but Nigeria didn’t care, because back then our hearts and minds had not being infected by the insidious poison called ethnicity or religion, all we cared about was a good leader and a better Nigeria.
Nigeria chose MKO as it’s next President, Gen. Babangida thought otherwise and annulled the election. MKO would later rot and die in prison.
It would be another six years before another civilian election but instead of adopting the party system that had served so well in ’93, the country opted for a multi-party system and thus in my opinion expanding the divide that already separated its more than 250 ethnic groups. One would think that the dream of our founding fathers would be carried on by the current leaders, instead the Igbos founded their own party, the Hausas theirs and same with the Yorubas all vying for the Presidential position and every other position they could lay their hands on.
PDP would win the election that year but it would be the beginning of the widening of the monstrous gap and differences between the ethnic make up the most populous nation in Africa.
In Kaduna on February 2000 more than a 1000 people lost their lives in what we thought then was the worst religious riot of its time! All of a sudden the country wasn’t thinking only along the lines of ethnicity but religion too! And the fact that politics had begun to be run along these lines didn’t help. All of a sudden citizens started identifying subconsciously as first Igbo/Hausa /Yoruba, then Christian/Muslim before being Nigerian.
Since 2000 there has being many more religious crisis and with each live lost the distrust between the different ethnic and religious group grows! And what have our leaders done to curb this damage, to sew this growing rift? Nothing!!!
There have being murmuring in the corridors of the Igbo communities of a voluntary secession this year which is the hundredth year of amalgamation and according to an ‘agreement’ reached by the three bodies that made up the entity Nigeria in 1914, one or all of them could decide to discontinue the union if it felt it wasn’t beneficial to it anymore.
So the Igbos who felt they had being subject to the brunt of too many religious and ethnic crisis in the North, felt reprieved by that thought. But it wasn’t meant to be as fortunately, Nigeria is still one. But the idea of secession which not only Igbos harbor, shows how grossly the government has failed to heal old wounds and set a new path for success.
The most shocking finding of the failed (in my opinion) CONFAB, is its recommendation for extra states! For what purpose? I ask.
Our motto reads ‘Peace and Unity’ yet we have none! Boko Haram has made sure we know no peace and the cleavage between the different ethnic and religious groups continues to grow ever wider. One would be forgiven for thinking that all the current crop of Nigerian leaders care about is lining their pockets than ensuring the future of this great country.
Government need to organize a healing process for this nation, for it has being through a lot. If Nigeria would put as much effort as they have into blocking out the true facts of Biafra to a nationwide healing process, I believe we would beginning truly to heal. If the true facts, not the watered down version of what happened in the civil war and the various religious crisis were included school curriculum and studied, maybe we would have a better understanding of ourselves as Nigerians.
Nigeria needs to apologize and compensate the families of the Igbos who lost their lives prior to the dreadful civil war. Same goes for every other family who have lost lives or property to the various crisis in this country.
We need to embrace our differences, instead of letting them separate us.
The Nigerian government is not in my opinion doing enough to unify us and therein lies the root of all our problems today, for unlike in America, no one would stand up for or give up their lives for a country whose government are only concerned about enriching itself and looting the coffers of the country.
No one would have thought that America would one day have a black President and today he is in his second term.
Despite our seeming bleak future, I believe there is still hope for the most populous black nation in the world, we are fighters, we are survivors and despite these trying times, we shall overcome! America didn’t get to where it is today without trials and tribulations, neither did China or Germany. They all had to go through rough times to be the world power they are today.
With initiative like ‘Believe in Nigeria’, Nigerians have shown that they still believe in the dreams of our forefathers and the attaining of world power by our beloved country.
As we celebrate our 54th independence day, let’s us not relent on the dream that ‘one e go better.’