The Nation

Was independence ever our problem? By Dan Jacobs

I started thinking of what independence  means when a flurry of “happy independence” messages was coming to my mobile phone on October 1. The questions that occurred to me were: independent of what? Can anyone in this world be independent?

Independence means living in isolation. I don’t know if this is even desirable. Is it also possible? Or what does the dictionary say? It says ” freedom from political control by other countries”. Perhaps, this is what we in Nigeria think we are. To the contrary, if we are realistic and honest to ourselves, what we should lament on October 1 is our total dependence on colonial legacies. We also depend on other countries in so many other ways. However, I fault the English dictionary definition of independence which pretends that dependency can only be in terms of political control. What of the more critical cases of economic and cultural control and dependence? What more political control is the wholesale, official use of the foreign language of the foreign colonizer? If you say no English here, be sure they will fight.

Which brings us to the ultimate question if dependency was or is an issue? Did anybody in Nigeria at any time apply to the British to be ‘granted independence’ (of all things)? The stay of the British here may have resulted in our incurable dependency. If it did, it was not in their place to cure us of it. The removal of an infirmity is by cure. It is not granted. Given the colonial experience, is Britain a friend or a foe? I think it is a foe. But we treat it as a friend. The people are unrelenting in keeping us down and in remotely controlling us. Our so-called leaders don’t know this!

Americans who were colonized by the same British were not granted independence. It is an intolerable insult. They claimed it and then declared it. Most appropriately, they celebrate the declaration, not the granting. Thus Nigeria has always been illogical and timid in the principles of its sovereign foundation, decolonisation and severance from Britain. Which is why we belong to the so-called British Commonwealth and the Anglican Communion, while being independent. If we are independent, what are we doing in such bodies? The impression being created that someone who claims to be in his correct senses applied for independence which was contested by the British is very shameful. They eventually did grant it. And we’re celebrating. This is unbelievable.  A people’s independence is a fundamental, inalienable, un-challengeable right anywhere, anytime. Anyone who waits to be granted his independence rather than claiming it is stupid.

Assuming however, that independence is an issue in Nigeria, what is Jonathan doing about it? What are Nigerians doing about it? Yes, independence could well be an issue. What it is about is self-help and self-reliance. We must position the problem, define it properly and tackle it methodically. To have waited to be granted independence is a large measure of dependency in itself. Most Nigerians hate to be portrayed as such by our leaders.

Dependency is a maladjustment. It is a mentality issue. A dependent people never grow. Just as the case is here, dependency has denied us the ability to apply self-help and to be self-reliant in the process of our development. As an issue, dependency  must be worded differently for people to understand it properly and avoid confusion in its meaning. For instance, to reduce our dependency is necessary, but that won’t make us independent. We will always depend for something on others, even Britain. Others will also depend on us for what we can offer to collective world existence.

What must we do ourselves which we rely on others to do for us? What don’t we need that we waste our time and money to get; that we virtually depend on? These questions are at the root of our being rich and yet poor. And for under-development  being virtually a permanent condition here. A developing country, they call us. But shall we ever develop? Can we overcome mass poverty?

Let’s be reminded that while celebrating independence, our dependency is so much that all our females (from the youngest to the oldest), over 60 million in number, are dependent on foreign hairstyles and materials. You are no longer a female unless you use ‘attach’to your beautiful, natural hair. If we were truly independent, copying unwanted, frivolous foreign lifestyles, would be a very big issue. At what colossal costs are we doing these?

But you’ll notice that those things that will make us truly independent are the things we are  most unwilling to stop doing. The most shameful thing we do to remain dependent is to seek the approval of the very people who destroyed our independence in whatever we do. Our political process is tailored to theirs without our understanding their implications and complications fully.

Jonathan as president did not reflect on the issue of independence. Rather he dwelt on his boring assurance that ‘Nigeria will make it’. Why is our making it always an issue for presidential sermons. Every day and every year, the fear that we won’t make is always  rehearsed, but the conditions that make this fear persist are never addressed to remove them once and for all. How do you make it if you don’t know when you are deceived in a world where the British have laid landmines everywhere to ensure their selfish interests for ever over us. This is very serious.

If Zik and the rest of them did not ask to be granted independence and that was granted, then there was grand deceit somewhere. Those who accepted it and celebrate are both naïve and irresponsible as leaders. In a colonial situation what was needed was freedom and liberty to do our own things, using our own tools, talent and capacities. Nobody can give independence that we never asked for or needed. To celebrate it yearly gives us away as un-serious people who don’t know what we are doing. And accordingly the people have no feeling for it. I, for one. That Day is as good as wasted country-wide.

Stop the foolishness so far. Rename it to Freedom Day.  It will re-set our sense of purpose and duty to ourselves in the eyes of the world. Pursuant to this, we must put away all identifiable legacies of the colonial adventurers. Send then away completely so that whenever they visit, they will find no traces of what they left behind knowingly to keep us perpetually dependent.


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