Our people say if a person doesn’t know where he is going, at least he should know where he is coming from. Most are not sure where we are headed at this point, but we have come from foreign exchange rates that were once the envy of the continent; from an education system that was the pride of the world, attracting scholars from far and near to drink of our knowledge.


Happy birthday Nigeria.

This is one birthday that calls for sober reflection, quiet accountability and soul-searching, questioning where we are now, but more importantly, where we are headed as a nation, and how we intend to get there. In the days of yore, this would be a day to rend our clothes, sprinkle ashes on our heads, and wail, not because there is nothing to celebrate, but because there are more reasons to mourn.

There are reasons to mourn the three steps forward and twelve steps back dance we have been sweating to for a few decades, having a form of progress but denying its absence in the lives of the ones who, every day, join the disappearing middle class, or worse, cross from poverty to abject poverty. We are creatively finding new ways to wring the poor to serve the rich, doing everything but slashing the cost of government. I would have said governance but I am hard-pressed to relate with the word.

Our people say if a person doesn’t know where he is going, at least he should know where he is coming from. Most are not sure where we are headed at this point, but we have come from foreign exchange rates that were once the envy of the continent; from an education system that was the pride of the world, attracting scholars from far and near to drink of our knowledge. We have come from Nobel Laureates and research institutions with cutting-edge outputs; we have come from being number one in agriculture and teaching other nations to farm items we now underproduce to importing these same items from those we taught. We have come from a coveted military, swooping in and around the continent to maintain law and order; we have come from the pedestal tagged ‘Giant of Africa’.

Where are we going?

We have not learnt that palm oil on one finger ends up staining the others, and the rotten head of fish, regardless of its best intentions, doesn’t portend well for the body. And so while we parrot rhetoric about fighting corruption and the rule of law holding sway, citizens whose reality is the exact opposite see reasons to justify their petty expressions of illegality…


Nigeria overtook India to house the highest number of the world’s extreme poor in 2018 – a position we have since clutched closely to our chests, not in words, but in deeds. At 13 million, we have the highest out-of-school children in the world, yet spend way below the recommended minimum on education. Successive governments have bred a terrorist group that is currently top three in the world, and we’re mollycoddling our herder/nomad/banditry problem, which in 2018, killed six times more people than Boko Haram. Today they’re Nigerian, tomorrow they’re Chadian, the day after that we need to accommodate our brothers, and the day after that, hoodlums are issuing threats in the media, sometimes in the presence of government officials. Where are we today, at 59? Where are we going? We have learnt nothing.

We have not learnt that palm oil on one finger ends up staining the others, and the rotten head of fish, regardless of its best intentions, doesn’t portend well for the body. And so while we parrot rhetoric about fighting corruption and the rule of law holding sway, citizens whose reality is the exact opposite see reasons to justify their petty expressions of illegality in the name of ‘getting by’. And so, in small daily doses, we entrench getting one over others as the nationwide acceptable manual for survival. Where are we going?

Happy birthday Nigeria, land of my birth, haemorrhaging the blood of its people recklessly, where for most it is easier to die than to live, and ‘thriving’ is a word reserved for the weekly injection of hope from our places of worship. We have banned SARS, reformed SARS, reintroduced SARS and now have resigned ourselves to seeking redress for the injustices and outright robbery committed by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The irony. It boggles the mind that the tech community is now crowdfunding to stop the onslaught on young men; onslaught from the very people who should be protecting us. Help it make sense, please.

Where are we going? Out, for as many who can legally or illegally find their futures in other countries? Apart, as more and more people adopt their ethnic-identities and see everything from the prism of theirs and ours, rather than right and wrong? Feting, at one of the many events within the country and at various diaspora locations to make the day?


They say a fool at forty is a fool forever; it is assumed that the exuberances of teenage years, the indiscretions of the 20s, and whatever missteps of the 30s should patter out at 40, so if not wisdom at least experience becomes the teacher. Sophocles said, “old age and the passage of time teacheth all things.” Has time taught us anything though? It appears we have learnt nothing. One political cycle after the other, we have perfected subverting the will of the people in the name of technicalities and exacting wickedness over perceived enemies and dissenting voices. Our prisons are slowly filling up, not with our ‘friendly’ politicians who robbed us blind and exploited the ambiguities in our legal processes, not with rapists and perverts who steal the innocence and futures of our women and children, but with enemy journalists, and critics, the ones whose only crime is holding up a mirror to our rotting sores and ugliness.

Where are we going? Out, for as many who can legally or illegally find their futures in other countries? Apart, as more and more people adopt their ethnic-identities and see everything from the prism of theirs and ours, rather than right and wrong? Feting, at one of the many events within the country and at various diaspora locations to make the day? Or inwards, to understand what on earth we’re doing with ourselves?

Ah well. Happy 59th, Nigeria. Here’s to a much better year.

Chioma Agwuegbo is an active citizen and the Founder of TechHer. She writes from Abuja, and is social @ChiomaChuka.