Today marks exactly 54 Years since Nigeria gained independence. If there’s anything I feel sorry in our 54 years of independence; it’s that I comprise being a loyal and patriotic Nigerian. Had I recognized, I should have carried rocket launchers and grenade propellers. Maybe, I would have gained reputation or perhaps invited to Aso rock. Yes, Nigeria has degenerated to that degree where only criminals, ‘kleptocrats’ and cabals who mortgage our bright future are celebrated.
So our independence is 54 at present and for once, all our Abuja-based politicians and Governors are in their respective state stadia to convey one speech of makeover that does not reflect the realities of a present day Nigeria. The screech of liberty filled the lips of our founding fathers but today, the crop of leaders do not act reminiscent of what they stood for.
Is there cause for us to celebrate today? Can we celebrate with the growing spate of mutual suspicion and mistrust that has enveloped our beloved nation? Can we celebrate when anybody can pose that Nigerians shall know no peace with impunity? Can we celebrate when our Malalas are not given the right education but married out to men who should be their grandfathers? Can we celebrate when innocent and defenseless Nigerians are abducted and killed in their scores on a daily basis? Can we celebrate when people loot our common patrimony without care? Can we celebrate when our youths are not gainfully employed? The questions can go on and on!
Perhaps, let us celebrate and wish many happy returns to thousands of our politicians, those in power, those who are momentarily out and those jostling for 2015 including their families, hangers-on and toadies, also those whom our oil blocs were given to and industrialists who were given the chance and economic powers to hog the economy; for these are the men and women whom independence has a sense. For the rest, the overwhelming bulk of Nigerians, a life of stateliness, pride and real independence is still a dream. Again, let us celebrate that a Deputy Governor was impeached for rearing chickens in his official residence while political criminals masquerades our political space without impediment. Need I recall all the ugly experiences?
Having commemorated our first centenary earlier this year, it beckons on us to reflect how our next century will be; and that can solely be determined through our collective actions. If Nigeria has failed, it implies that we have collectively failed as a people. 54 years after independence, the picture is mixed, not as negative as outside commentators concede, also not as encouraging as the talents and potentials of the people this country merit. Today we need to judge how far we have to travel to accomplish the aspirations of a serene and progressive nation.
Notwithstanding the myriads of challenges facing our dear nation, Nigeria remains an emerging vigor with promises for a better tomorrow. One thing is certain that no matter the misgivings, all Nigerians must come to the fact that we are one indivisible, united and indissoluble nation, however, it is then incumbent on us to do our utmost best to reposition Nigeria on the path of peace, progress and cohesion. We must never allow the challenges confronting us to affect our determination to foster peace, unity and reconciliation amongst ourselves.
More so, our leaders must begin to lay emphasis on executing the mandates given to them by Nigerians, by not heating up the polity through unnecessary politicking; our leaders must rise to uphold the ideals of national struggle which were fervently pursued by some heroes past, the likes of Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik of Africa) and Sir Ahmadu Bello who understood the critical importance of unity, democracy, the rule of law and honest and effective leadership.
Today calls for no celebration, it is rather a call for Nigerians to join the crusade to reinvent and transform Nigeria; it is a call for uncommon wish, firmness, unadulterated reconciliation and patriotic vehemence to put up the Nigeria of our dreams as NO one else would do that for us. We must remain sanguine that our prospect remains brilliant inspite of challenges of national development.
Let us not show despondency in the face of demoralizing challenges even though at 54, we ought to have surpassed definite minimum expectations; Nigeria remains ours to build and we must continue to maintain hope and optimism. Nigeria CAN achieve her destiny and realize the lofty dreams of our founding fathers if we keep an attitude of pliability and willpower to make it.
We must mark today’s independence with a strong message to the world that we can overcome political and security challenges facing us; that we SHALL defeat terrorism! Nigeria has a dream for all of us, and we should endeavour to build on the contributions of our founding fathers. Leaders and followers should be constrained by the love for our country in discharging our individual and collective responsibilities to the state. Until then, we cannot take our place of pride in the committee of nations. The fortitude must be kept animate and should continue to be nurtured as the vehicle of our state-run journey.
Fellow Compatriots, this is not the time to say who is right or who is not, but this is the time for us to join hands and come together to rescue our great nation. With single-minded commitment, hard work, and sincerity of purpose, we can make our country great. NOW is the time to rise up, but most importantly NOW is the time to ACT. We have our challenges; we have our difference, but together We SHALL Overcome!
AmanamHillary Umo-Udofia is a youth activist and Peace Ambassador