Celebrating October 1 each year has become an annual ritual in Nigeria. That day in 1960 marked the end of colonial rule and the enthronement of indigenous leaders in the country. Today, exactly 54 years after, the country is still groping in the dark and tottering on the brink. The low key nature of the independence celebrations, since a few years back, is a confirmation of the bad times. It appears the older the country becomes, the farther it drifts from its promised land. Not even the advent of civilian governance in 1999 has brought anything significantly different. I say civilian governance because that is what we have in Nigeria today, not the democracy we all crave for.
In essence, our claim to democracy is a ruse. The reasons are glaring for any discerning mind. More than 15 years of civilian governance and 54 years of independence have brought no tangible respite for the long suffering Nigerians. Just look around. More and more people are being sentenced to a life of dependency, want and penury on a daily basis in the country. As a result of this, crime and criminality have taken over on a frightening scale previously unknown in history.
At the moment, the northeast of the country is almost being excised from the rest of the country due to the activities of a few misguided individuals who have taken up arms against the country and their fellowmen. Not even the much-publicised killing of the real or fake Abubakar Shekau, the acclaimed leader of the notorious terror group known simply as Boko Haram, has brought much relief. More than 200 schoolgirls abducted from their school in Chibok community, Borno State, are still marooned in the evil forest of Sambissa, also in Borno State, where the hoodlums have turned into their operational headquarters. The other day, one of the innocent girls (if the reports are true), almost half dead, was abandoned in one of the villages in Borno State.
By the last account of her health status, she was found to be four months pregnant with visible evidence of depression and trauma metamorphosing as some mental illness. Her case is a signpost of the calamity that has befallen the innocent schoolgirls who have been denied the comfort of their parents and families to forcefully co-habit with criminals, drug-addicts, rapists and people on the brink of lunacy. For these girls, there is nothing like independence; what they need and crave for today, is freedom from the hands of their tormentors.
As it is, not only the abducted girls desire freedom; those left behind in Chibok and other villages in the Northeast that are currently ravaged by terrorists activities are all desperately looking forward to their emancipation from the hands of their torturers. Recently, the media reported that no fewer than 150 refugees from Nigeria, holed up in a border community in a neighbouring country, were feared dead as the terrorists descended on them and snuffed out their lives. For those ones too, there is nothing like independence celebration.
So, in view of all these occurrences, do we deserve to celebrate the country’s independence at all this year? Certainly no. The day should have been converted into one huge prayer session all over the country in supplication to God Almighty to come and liberate the country from the current pains and anguish confronting it. But our leaders seem to be thinking in the opposite direction, perhaps, because they are comfortable anyway. Why do we pretend that things are normal at a time they are abysmally abnormal?
Just last Monday, more than 300 people were conferred with national honours. While a good number of them could have merited it, some of them were mere misnomers. Among them is a former governor of an oil-rich state of the Niger Delta region of the country who, in a bid to avoid prosecution for corruption and other financial malfeasance while in office, approached a court and obtained a “perpetual injunction” from prosecution. Today, he has been rewarded with a national honour. And there are so many other shameless ones in the same boat with him who have been so honoured in the country. Nigeria we hail thee!
In the past few years, particularly under the current democracy, the country has again and again demonstrated either unwillingness or lack of capacity to tackle corruption, the hydra-headed monster that has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation. The country is still enmeshed in the $9.3 million money laundering embarrassment that was discovered in far away South Africa. The government said the money was meant to purchase arms to fight the ongoing terrorists’ war in the country. If that excuse was meant to draw sympathy, it has failed and woefully too. The reason is that Nigerians do not trust their leaders because of their high propensity and proclivity to manufacture and tell lies. The same government enacted a law banning her citizens from travelling out of the country at anytime with an amount exceeding $10,000. Now, the government had the effrontery to pack $9.3 million in cash in three suitcases to go and shop for arms across the counter somewhere. Besides, those who ferried the money out are not government officials, while the vessel or the jet used belongs to a known government apologist and bootlicker in cassock.
There is no amount of explanation that can erase the guilty verdict the people have passed on the government. The public deserve to know the identity of the two couriers involved in this illicit transfer of money that has gone awry. As for the funky man in cassock, it might be too late for him to retrace his steps since he appears to be easily swayed by filthy lucre, for which he makes no pretensions within and outside the country. At least, he is well known all over the place as a commercial ‘Man of God’ who will stop at nothing to smile to the banks to the detriment of his perceived faith. One thing is that he should not allow his greed and selfishness to pit the two major religions against each other in a war of attrition. Based on his past antecedence, that is the danger his unguarded pursuit of worldly things could pose to the corporate existence of this country. After all, there is no need putting on a cassock and behaving more like a Boko Haram convert.
That takes us to the Synagogue of all races. The building collapse, regrettable and painful as it may be, looks more like an end time thing. For many years, one man suddenly appeared on the scene from nowhere and started equating himself with the trinity and we were all clapping. Within a few years, he built a stupendous empire with many fairy tales of magical prowess. Now that it seems the chickens are gradually coming home to roost, the same man is crying foul and attempting, at least by his body language, to extract sympathy from the public. If people troop to his miracle city in droves, must he only corner the proceeds from such pilgrimages? Why not out-source, for instance, the lodging, accommodation and feeding of his teeming pilgrims to competent hands. Instead, the man embarked on what a Warri man will call “long throat”. Now see what he has caused for himself and the country. For lack of any serious thing to say, he said that the more than 115 people that perished were “martyrs of faith”. By the way, how many of these martyrs are his relations or offspring? And the man is still walking free all over the place. Anyway, that is a story for another day.
On the political turf, the wave of endorsements and collation of millions of signatures, real and imagined, including the break dancing and the orchestra by our politicians on the threshold of the general elections scheduled for next year, does not give much cheer about the future of the country. Something is seriously wrong. That reminds me of that bespectacled tyrant, General Sani Abacha of blessed (or unblessed) memory. Nigeria we hail thee!