Friday, 1 October 2010

Nigeria at 50: Looking to the Future

First published on NigeriansTalk.org for the Nigeria@50 Series

Giving Nigeria a new looking at

The anticipation for this day has been presaged with a lot of debate and discussion as to how we would want to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Nigeria’s independence from the United Kingdom.

In my view, the failings and failures of Nigeria over the last 50 years have been documented relentlessly by activists, polemists, detractors, traitors and patriots, there is probably not much else we can add to that catalogue than to rehash the old mantras with more sophistry about leadership, corruption, religion, poverty and whatever else we can deftly use sarcasm to portray with every increasing excellence.

Today, I want to try a new perspective, there was a great euphoria and burst joy with the realisation of opportunity and responsibility that greeted the 1st of October 1960 when the Union Jack came down and the flag and standard of Nigeria was raised heralding the birth of an independent, sovereign country ready to grow and do its part as a member of the global community.

Our claims to responsible government

The speech given by Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa [1], the Prime Minister on that day contained a number of declarations the chief amongst which I read as “We are called upon immediately to show that our claims to responsible government are well-founded, and having been accepted as an independent state we must at once play an active part in maintaining the peace of the world and in preserving civilisation. I promise you, we shall not fail for want of determination.

This I believe is the continual challenge we have faced since independence and it remains a goal to aspire to without contest for the future. This is the theme of my write-up “Nigeria at 50: Looking to the future” as if I was living the circumstances that inspired the speech that heralded the birth of Nigeria’s sovereignty 50 years before.

We can paint a brighter and hopeful future for the next 50 years or regress to the scepticism and cynicism that is the easy default to what we could readily call the intractable issues with Nigeria – but this day should hopefully give us a sense of optimism and maybe a new foundation defining that great harvest of Nigeria our founding fathers and leading women saw in 1960.

A representation representative of the people

The first claim to responsible government is the onerous task before us in the election of a new executive and legislative branch of government at the federal and state levels. What we need are people representative of the interests of the people who are committed to the development of the country in its people, its resources, its outlook and its status.

The Independent National Electoral Commission needs all the leeway to ensure that elections are conducted freely and fairly, that the will of the people is duly and correctly expressed and with that the people who have lost should gracefully retreat and find other ways of contributing to their communities without the need of political office.

The people as citizens and stakeholders

The second claim to responsible government evolves from the people, stakeholders of this great nation who should be able to pursue worthy goals of better livelihoods and the pursuit of happiness whilst being able to hold their leaders accountable for their views, actions, practices and sense of duty.

The people should be able to enjoy the protection of its government in security, in the economy and in the maintenance of peace and order in our communities. They should be able to seek redress without being priced out of the system, their rights should be championed by every representative without pandering to populist or divisive rhetoric – we need to relearn the fact that Nigeria is bigger than any one group, any one tribe, any one religion, any one faction and any Nigerian who calls the country motherland or fatherland.

Applying reason to faith

This great nation of people of different faiths needs to temper their faith with reason, the application of intellect, the deployment of our individual and unique talents adapting the things that define us in our culture, our language, our customs and our traditions which are not necessarily so divergent as to make it impossible for us to co-exist.

We cannot afford religious fundamentalism just as the followership of supposed men of God cannot be dumb, without examination or inquiry. We each need to have a personal comprehension of the truth by reason of our study, reasoning, debate and discussion. We should ask difficult questions and not be fobbed off with easy or unreasonable answers.

Let us look for logic in the place of idle superstition and old-wives tales, allow imagination to take us beyond our comfort zones but be grounded in reality. For every quest for gain there must be the exercise of labour, the religion of wishful thinking and the fixation on mammon is the wrong foundation for moral rectitude or the development of faith.

Nigerian above all else

We belong to that entity called Nigeria and have the identity of Nigerians that should be first and foremost in our hearts and minds; we seek the best Nigerians to help Nigeria not our close kith and kin for the deceptive safety of mediocrity.

How wonderful it would be if state-lines and tribal lines dissolved and what binds us together is the geographical fencing that demarcates the country of Nigeria, this would enhance the view of being accepted as an independent state preparing us for national greatness and the ability to project that moniker of the Giant of Africa that we really should assume without derision.

There is a future of an industrial and industrious Nigeria, the exploitation of our natural resources for creating a contented middle-class not consumed with hedonism and unnecessary ostentation which is usually more expressive of a poverty of spirit.

Our youth being able to recite the National Pledge with a sense of patriotic fervour and optimistic future mentored by grown-ups who remembering the day of independence would recast their vision to better ideals living out the National Pledge as examples and role models, unimpeachable and above reproach.

We are unwitting ambassadors

Each of us at home and abroad are unwittingly ambassadors of Nigeria either by designation or by affiliation no matter how remote, we all have within us a sense of passion about our dear country but all that has to be harnessed to positive ends.

Excelling in all we do, honest in all our dealings, exemplary in all our conduct, accommodating of all our differences, tolerant of opinions at variance with ours and meticulous in quest for improvement of ourselves and our communities both far and near.

Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress

Let us take the respect for our flag; the words of all our anthems that plead for brotherhood, an adoration of motherland and fatherland, the land of birth, land of our ancestors or any other affinity; the pledge which we should hand on heart with all integrity and purpose strive to live out to ourselves, our communities and the world at large and give it all prime importance.

The coat of arms with all its symbolism and the motto that should mean everything to Nigerians as Nigerians first and anything else second, the quest for unity, the use of faith with reason, the pursuit of peace for all ends laying the foundation for progress, we should stop having potential and start exceeding potential with excellence.

This is what our independence is about, the ability within ourselves to secure our identity in one entity Nigeria, having sound moral grounding from whatever religious affiliations we may have whilst being tolerant of others; compromise for confrontation, control for chaos, and harnessing every talent and good knowledge to make the best of what Nigeria should aspire to be and rightly occupy – a well-founded claim to responsible government.

That day, this day and a day in the future

This day, the 1st of October 2010 can be that day when a new resolution can be made to build Nigeria up and condemn every action inimical to the process of our dear nation.

There probably was a time Nigeria was worth dying for, but this is not a call to war but one to a cause greater than each of us, one that ignites us with a resolve to see Nigeria praised, glorified and honoured for who we are, what we do and what we represent as individuals and collectively and for this cause we shall not fail for want of determination.

Happy 50th Independence Anniversary, our great people of Nigeria and the greater nation of Nigeria, I see a future that can be different but it would take each and every Nigerian the will, the determination, the resolve and the desire to see change, engage change and become that change.

God bless Nigeria and help us see a brighter future that is of greater promise and achievable goals beyond that which augured October 1st 1960.

Thank you.

Sources

[1] Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa's address to the nation on Independence day


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