Independence: Nigeria at 59, What is freedom without responsibility?

When I was younger Nigerian Independence
Day was kind of a big deal .

What exactly we were celebrating was
somewhat abstract. None of us had lived in Nigeria or had a particularly detailed
knowledge of Nigerian history . It did not matter
though , we all felt a sense of pride . We
embraced the ideal of our founding
fathers kicking against ‘ the man , ’ throwing off
the shackles of the ill that was colonialism and marching confidently into a bright future.


This 59th Independence has a difference outlook, no one was really in
the mood to celebrate .
Celebrate what ?
I remember one of our people asking , How far we have not come since 1960 ?
It was difficult to argue with that .


Even more surprising are some of the
arguments we heard moving , seemingly in favour of the colonialists . Saying
that British left too early, and had they stayed longer things would be better as Nigeria was not
prepared for Independence.
I was shocked , but
it is a telling indicator of just how bad things have become . Independent Nigeria was supposed to rise. It was supposed to be the leading country on the continent. It was supposed to be great . I wonder how it must have felt to experience
October 1st 1960 . The excitement , the hope , the
belief that anything was possible and that the brightest days of the country lay ahead . Wandering what is on the minds of those who
experienced that first Independence Day, today .


The country that was once full of promise is in disarray on almost every front; sectarian violence ,banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen/farmers crisis, torturing and detaining pressmen or social critics, unemployment, disunity , poverty ,no independent judiciary , manipulations of elections, economic crisis, the
list goes on . We should ask ourselves, is there anything to celebrate ?
For some people , there is . One of the most endearing qualities about Nigerian people is
our capacity to believe , the capacity to hope that one day things will change for the better .


Those celebrating will be lauding the enduring resilience of Nigerian people , the country’ s potential for greatness, the belief that ‘ one day
we will get there. ’


This capacity for hope is as good as it is
terrible . This idealism keeps us stunted , prevents us from asking the right questions , and most importantly thinking critically . This
lofty idea that ‘ we will get there’ is not rooted in
reality. Get where ? What does ‘ there’ look like ? What steps (not speeches ) are being made to ensure this happens ? Is there a tangible or
clear plan that ensures in 50 years ’ time we are not still complaining about the same old thing ?


Hope is a good thing , a necessary thing , but without tangible action it is useless .
Development and progress are not borne from
wishes.


There is the argument that Nigeria is still
young and has yet to redefine its post – colonial identity . The name ‘ Nigeria ’ was given and there are many systems in place today that are
simply leftovers of the colonial era . In a lot of ways we are working within a system that was
not built by us or with us or our best interests in mind . So how can we expect it to work for
us ? It raises the question , what exactly are we
free from?


Yesterday I again asked some friends their thoughts about Independence Day, there were various answers but one that struck out the
most was this: What is freedom without responsibility?

Better Nigeria Group
BNG

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