HAPPY INDEPENDENCE NIGERIA!
Nigeria is 58!
Somehow, I am struggling to whip up the usual patriotic fervor to wish my beloved country a happy Independence Day celebration. In years past I was able to come up with something but this morning, all I feel is heaviness.
Heaviness at the number of basic things that are not working and the sense of hopelessness that envelops the land.
As a young child, Independence Day celebrations were a big deal. Food was exchanged between neighbours and friends; school children held parades, and old men drank in glee, when they remembered the nation was free.
But today I’m asking myself, ‘’what exactly is this freedom we speak of?’’
What is the real value of freedom when we lack the essentials of life?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating that we return to colonialism but how independent are we right now, fifty-eight years after independence?
Children are unable to afford books that cost less than a dollar at elementary school level. They struggle all through elementary school, sometimes studying in open air classrooms or under leaky roofs, sitting at broken down desks, taught by frustrated Teachers! A good number give up and drop out. An impressive number gets through and somehow make it to the end of secondary school. Then a bad dream becomes a nightmare. Gaining admission into the university is a struggle as difficult as David facing the lion and the bear, and very often this David does not make it out alive.
University life is fraught with the struggles of ancient books, broken down equipment and embittered lecturers. The list of woes is endless and becomes an undefeatable goliath when the child finally graduates and gets into the labour market!
There is a strong disconnect between the rulers and the ruled; government policies are beautiful on paper but have little relevance for the people. Democracy is nothing more than ‘’a shiny toy’’ that the people play with and whose value they have no understanding of.
In the past few weeks and months, I have had cause to travel extensively across Nigeria. Everywhere I have gone, the story is the same. The roads are terrible, the airports are shameful and infrastructure is in shambles. The usual ebullience associated with Nigerians is lacking and all I see is deep dissatisfaction with the status quo. Yet everyone seems helpless. I see the quiet desperation of people, struggling like they are in a pool of jelly, unable to get out though uncomfortable with where they find themselves.
So, again I ask, what is the value of this freedom we have?
Those who can send their kids abroad for better education. They go abroad for quality healthcare. We import food and drink, drugs and pharmaceuticals, etc. our best clothes are imported and our cars are imported. A foreign graduate is given consideration for jobs above his local colleague and yet we say we are free?
Happy Independence Nigeria, may your sun rise in the morning.