Wednesday 1 October 2008

Nigeria: Our claims to responsible government at independence 48

Left, right, left, right

For almost a week we were selected and put through our paces, nothing particularly fancy, we were going to march in the name of the school.

Everyone was excited even my parents who were to ensure that I was at the venue to participate.

Our uniforms were well pressed, I was in white canvas shoes and my socks were gleaming white – literally all primary schools had been invited to the event.

When we finally did our bit, as we marched past Governor J. D. Gomwalk of Plateau State someone shouted out, “Eyes Right”, and like mannequins in remote control we were marching forward and facing sideways as spectators waved flags in jollity, we were celebrating the Nigerian Independence Day.

That was 34 years ago; I never had another opportunity to celebrate our independence day in that manner again.

Beyond self-government

I cannot remember any one time in my Nigerian educational experience where the issue of independence went beyond the fact that we had formally divorced ourselves from colonial rule and nothing more.

We have for 48 years today held the reins of power for ourselves as Nigerians, taken decisions trivial and critical as Nigerians, gone to war and survived as Nigerians, but I do wonder if we have counted 48 years as days with the impression that we still have the euphoria of liberation but have failed to grasp the mantle of responsibility.

The promise of Nigeria

In all, this should not be a day for Nigeria-bashing, it is not a day for great celebration either, because whilst there might be cakes and candles for birthday celebrations the national cake of Nigeria is still being gouged by the few gluttons who have lead the country well away from the ideals that were the beacons of hope on that day in 1960.

There is a promise in Nigeria; there is a hope for Nigeria but only when we begin to exercise ourselves in the responsibility of the independence that we gained over a generation ago.

Real independence

We need the independence of thought where the knowledge, expertise, intellect, passion, commitment and abilities of all Nigerians regardless of ethnicity, origin, allegiance or religious affiliation is brought to the service and development of the country in all spheres of life.

We need an independence in purpose where acknowledging that we have our destiny in our hands compels leadership to rule with probity, manage our resources with fairness, respect the rule of law, uplift the oppressed and address the critical issues of corruption in public life, healthcare for the majority, education for the masses, potable water supply and the crisis of power generation and supply.

Recapturing the spirit of independence

We need to capture the spirit of independence when on the night that ushered in the 1st of October 1960, Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa [1] said [2] – “At last our great day has arrived, and Nigeria is now indeed an independent sovereign nation”.

Quoting liberally from his speech, which I have obtained from, with my comments in parenthesis, we see a vision and a clear idea of the responsibility that our founding fathers recognised when they took on the mantle of leadership, the observations then are still true today.

Excerpts from the speech - in normal type

Nigeria now stands well built upon firm foundations.

(Indeed, Nigeria was built in firm foundations; the process leading to independence took a long 15 years of negotiations and agreements.)

We, the elected representatives of the people of Nigeria, concentrated on proving that we were fully capable of managing our own affairs both internally and as a nation. However, we were not to be allowed the selfish luxury of focusing our own interest on our own homes.

(The elections were as good as could be possible in the circumstances at that time, the duties and responsibilities were clear, we still have to prove we are capable of managing our own affairs and still be relevant in the context of Africa and the world at large.)

In these days of rapid communications we cannot live in isolation, apart from the rest of the world, even if we wished to do so. All too soon it has become evident that for us Independence implies a great deal more than self-government.

(The great man could not have been more perceptive, our independence was more than just self-governance, it remains the goal to prove that our independence has been worthwhile.)

Our claims to responsible government

This great country, which has now emerged without bitterness or bloodshed, finds that she must at once be ready to deal with grave international issues.

When this day in October 1960 was chosen for our independence it seemed that we were destined to move with quiet dignity to our place on the world stage. Recent events have changed the scene beyond recognition.

So that we find ourselves today being tested to the utmost, 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.

(After 48 years, are our claims to responsible government well founded?)

We are grateful to the British officers whom we have known, first as masters, and then as leaders, and finally as partners, but always as friends.

(Where does this idea of the effect of colonialism come from when at independence the colonialists had moved from masters to the role of partners and friends? One wonders if our leaders went for independence leaving their people behind in servile dependence.)

Nigeria today

Beyond the speeches we hear today and the issues that would be discussed by many on the independence of Nigeria, our claims to responsible government that governs for the safety, security, prosperity and emancipation of the Nigerian peoples are still claims that are probably left unproven.

Today, on the 48th Independence anniversary of Nigeria, the voice of Sir Abubukar Tafawa Balewa reiterates what he said with great joy and pride – we have a lot more to do with the responsibility of self-government.

We have a new opportunity to dedicate ourselves to proving our claims without dispute to responsible government – a tall order, but not beyond us.

Happy Birthday! Nigeria


[1] Abubakar Tafawa Balewa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa Independe day's speech - October 1, 1960

History of Nigeria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


I particularly want to thank that has archived such an important speech commemorating the day of independence of Nigeria – we no doubt need a globally accessible archive of important speeches of Nigerian leaders – Obasanjo’s library can assume a more altruistic service in this respect.

Read the whole speech on the link at [2]

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