Five years ago when this writer was graduating from secondary school, a lecture entitled, “Ignite your potential” was delivered to the pupils. The eloquent speaker, whose name I could not remember now, spoke glowingly to the outgoing pupils of a future filled with gold and abundance.
Five years after that speech, Nigeria marked her 52nd independence anniversary. The ceremony was marked amidst excitement by the political class and hope by the common man. Rather than joining the bandwagon, I reflected on where the country started and where it is and the level of development its peers have achieved.
The lecture of my graduation came to mind. It was a sober moment for me, for I was faced with a naked truth of our march to nationhood- the Nigeria of our dream has been a possibility, a huge potential that has never been ignited.
The streets and resort places were busier with revelries, people dressed in attires displaying the national flag colour and I received a deluge of messages, whose main contents were that I should celebrate our nationhood and independence. But I ask: Is the country truly independent?
In pre-independence era, our founding fathers dreamt of an independent nation where resources would be deployed to benefit all. Today, these resources have been literally converted to the personal use of the few in the political class. While majority of the citizens still live below $2 per day, the people in the nation’s leadership live in abundance and affluence to the surprise of many that believe Nigeria is potentially endowed with greatness.
It has been said that the best road to progress is freedom’s road, but it appears Nigeria’s condition has, so far, been an exemption to this oft-said maxim. After the independence, the country has enmeshed in a situation so pathetic that people now reason that, had we not gained freedom from the Britain, our story of misery would be have been different.
Thanks to decades of bad leadership, we have made amockery of our independence by showing to the outside world how helpless we are at managing our own affairs.
Truth be told, Nigeria deserves to be wept for. The state of affairs in the country has bewildered even a discerning mind. Nothing is going well. We dream of a good future but in over five decades of independence, a promising period has not surfaced. All the dreams turned mirage when corruption was introduced into the system.
It is sheer illusion in our psyche that we adopt an unmerited appellation – giant of Africa. If we have succeeded in anything, then it must be our success in placing the name of this nation on records which not only denigrate us, but also mock our nationhood. To that end, when the world speaks of corruption of the ruling class, massive unemployment, tribalism, terrorism, insecurity and lack of basic infrastructure, Nigeria is a name that would immediately call to mind.
Truly, if spirits could bite, then the spirits of our founding fathers would have surely bitten the present ruling elite for constituting a stumbling block preventing the country from achieving its dreamed greatness among the comity of nation in the black continent.
It amounts to restating the obvious if one says the present political class has destroyed the foundation and legacies of our founding fathers.
It is not unknown that Nigeria was beset by internal setbacks. We cannot forget the long years of military incursion in governance, the gory Biafran war and other national tragedies, but let it be also known that other prospering nations of the world have had their own fair share of setbacks and tragedies in their journey to excellence.
Let it be known that once upon a time, China was listed among the third world nations; that at a point in time, Nigeria was better than Ghana; that South Africa was once beset with apartheid iniquities and America, which is now a reference point of functional democracy, has also witnessed periods of internal upheavals.
Yet, these countries have moved on and have all developed from its rubble of contradictions. So, what is wrong with the so-called giant of Africa? If I could say rightly, Nigeria’s major problems are the leadership and our refusal to learn from our past errors.
Achebe posited: “The only thing that we have learnt from experience is that we learn nothing from experience.” Thus, our potential has, for 52 years, remained in a state of inertia. It is unarguably a common denominator for patriotic leaders and visionaries, to perceive independence, or better put, freedom as a means to an end, which is happiness.
During his year as America’s president, John F. Kennedy, maintained that “the best road to progress is freedom’s road”. Also, Swan Anthony stated that, “independence is happiness”. But our independence has precipitated more hardship never imagined in pre-independence. When will this voyage to nowhere end? When will Nigeria’s potential be ignited?
Uche Anichebe, 500 Law, UNIZIK