Opinion

Nigeria at 55: What did the nation celebrate?

Nigeria, last Thursday, Oct. 1, celebrated 55 years of its independence from the British colonial masters. In its life as a nation, many things have transpired – the good, the bad and the ugly – among which is the 1966 military coup which eventually culminated in a bloody civil war that ended in January 1970.  Amidst the pomp and pageantry that characterized the day, despite the low-key nature and the N70million budget of the federal government for the day, some commentators took time out for sober reflections.
Among those who voiced out their opinions on the state of the nation was Mr. Tony Uranta, The Executive Secretary of the Nigerian National Summit Group (NNSG)who warned that current trends in Nigeria, if left unchecked could negatively affect the nation’s existence. Uranta who is also the Secretary General of the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS) said there was urgent need to checkmate some insensitive power thrust trends so as to retain the continued unity of Nigeria.
“The trends of seemingly insensitive power-thrusts are not the best conducive with the accepted national aspirations for equitable economic development, democratic politics and social justice”.
“These ought to be driven by the constitution and the respect for rule of law, plus the pragmatic recognition of diversities that a united Nigeria needs to be premised upon”.
“As an imperfect member of this less than perfect human race, one empathizes deeply and sincerely with all other specimens of humanity, especially those who may be inadvertently misled by others into thinking that they are infallible or that admitting to errors is in any way belittling”.
“As a truly patriotic Nigerian who ardently loves his nation, and daily prays that President Muhammadu Buhari succeeds in changing the negative trajectory that corruption, mediocrity and loss of positive values have forced this country into, one cannot remain silent in the face of these new trends that could threaten the very fabric of Nigeria’s survival”.
“Nigeria just lost over sixty of her citizens in a tragic accident during the just-ended Hajj in Mecca, yet this nation has not corporately mourned them in any way”.
“Our President just suffered a series of avoidable diplomatic gaffes at the ongoing United Nations General Assembly, and we are still being assailed by a deluge of cheap spin and buck-passing! that insults our intelligence.
“The Economy is in shock following the series of oil revenues downturns, foreign exchange policies fallouts, absence of a holistic economic strategy revelation from Abuja, and the absence to date of a sense of urgency in creating the Presidential Team to run the nation”.
“Not to mention the, at best, probably misplaced perception that Mr. President, who has already affirmed a preference to work with cronies and people from certain parts of Nigeria, truly intends to wield a putatively punitive rod against those sections of the country that voted less for him during the General Elections much earlier in the year” Uranta said.
He however urged the President to see himself as leader of the whole nation, and publicly affirm his openness to civil public critique-ing by the diverse elements of national and global Civil Society.
He also urged all Nigerians to look beyond petty agenda and embrace the common good spirit of sincere nationalism and patriotism.
However, other commentators contended that when the country got her independence as a sovereign nation from British colonial rule in 1960, the expectations of our founding fathers were very high and that no one had expected that by this time, the country would be facing the kind of challenges it is facing, which includes terrorism, irregular power supply, deplorable condition of roads, insecurity and unemployment. This, they believe, is because the abundant natural resources in the country have not been properly managed to the benefit of its teeming population.
Nigeria, at 55, remains one of the countries with the highest poverty indices in the world and also among the leading exporters of food items, with corruption yet to be minimized.
In the welfare circle, many hospitals in the country are ill-equipped with some ailments that are supposed to be treated in the country being referred to outside the country for attention.  The quality of education in the country continues to deteriorate with no Nigerian university named among the best 1000 in the world.
Some went into the historical controversies, such as who moved the motion for the independence of the nation. A blogger, Teejah James, in gistnation.com, wrote: Given the fact that Nigeria is 55 years old on October 1 and it marks our Fifty five years an independent nation I believe that it is time to to set the record straight and bring this matter to closure. And in order to do so successfully we must be guided by facts and historical records and not by sentiment or political considerations. The moment we allow our recollection or knowledge of history to be guided or be clouded by such perenniel considerations we are finished as a people. The truth is that almost 90 per cent of Nigerians have been brought up to believe that the motion for Nigeria’s independence was successfully moved by Chief Anthony Enahoro, a man that is undoubtedly one of our most revered nationalists and founding fathers. Though nothing can be taken away from Chief Enahoro in terms of his monumental contributions in our quest for independence (I would argue that he kicked off the process for that struggle with his gallant efforts in 1953) the fact remains that he was not the man that successfully moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence.Another group of Nigerians believe that Chief S.L. Akintola, another great nationalist and elder statesman and the former Premier of the old Western Region, was responsible for the successful movement of the motion for Nigeria’s independence. Again, Chief Akintola played a major and critical role in the whole process, he was not the one that successfully moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence. There is yet another school of thought that says that it was Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the much loved former Prime Minister of blessed memory that was the first to successfully move the motion for Nigeria’s independence.
Again this is not historically accurate. Sir Tafawa Balewa’s 1959 motion was not the first successful motion for our independence and neither was it in actual fact a motion for independence at all. It was rather a motion to amend an already existing motion which had already been successfully moved and passed by Parliament and which had been accepted and acquiesced to by the British in 1958.That successful 1958 motion was moved by none other than my late father of blessed memory, Chief Remilekun Adetokunbo Fani-Kayode QC, SAN, CON, the former Deputy Premier of Nigeria’s Western Region. Not only did he play a major role in the movement of the motion for Nigeria’s independence but, as a matter of fact, his was the first successful motion for independence in Parliament that was accepted by the British and it was actually the one that got us our independence. His motion, which was moved in Parliament on the platform of the Action Group on August 2,1958, was actually the landmark and most significant motion of all when it comes to the issue of our independence. Let us look at the history, the records and the facts. You will recall that Chief Anthony Enahoro moved a motion for ”self rule” in the Federal House in 1953 which proposed that we should have our independence in 1956. Unfortunately it was rejected by Parliament and it therefore failed. It also resulted in a walk out by the northern NPC parliamentarians who were of the view that Nigeria was not yet ready for independence.
The tensions and acrimony that came from all this and the terrible treatment that was meted out to the northern parliamentarians and leaders that were in the south as a result of the fact that they would not support Enahoro’s motion resulted in the infamous Kano riots of 1953. In 1957 Chief S.L. Akintola moved a second motion for independence in Parliament and asked for us to gain our independence from the British in 1959. This motion was passed by the Federal House but the British authorities refused to acquiesce to it and consequently it failed. Sir Tafawa Balewa’s motion for amendment was seconded by Chief Raymond Njoku, the Minister of Transport, and it was acquiesced to by the British. That is how we arrived at the date October 1 1960 for our independence. The details of all this can be found in Hansard (which are the official record of proceedings of Parliament) and they can also be found in what in my view is one of the most detailed, authoritative and well-researched history books that has ever been written when it comes to the politics of the 50’s in Nigeria titled “Nigerian Political Parties: Power in an Emergent African Nation” by the respected American historian, Professor Richard L. Sklar. On page 269 of his book Sklar wrote the following “in July 1958, barrister Fani-Kayode had the distinction of moving the resolution for independence on April 2nd 1960, which was supported by all the parties in the Federal House of Representatives”. Another excellent book that covers this topic and era very well is titled “Glimpses into Nigeria’s History” and was written by Professor Sanya Onabamiro, a highly distinguished elder statesman and nationalist in his own right who was also one of the main political players at the time.
However, the yearly Independence Day Special Edition Poll results released by NOIPolls Limited revealed that Nigerians considered ‘unity of the nation’ (20 percent) as the most important achievement of the nation since independence; alongside Telecommunications (15 percent) and Democracy (13 percent). These have remained consistent in the top three greatest achievements of Nigeria as perceived by Nigerians over the past three years. Moreover, security topped the list of the most important issues Nigeria as a nation should address in the next one year as reported by majority of Nigerians (22 percent each).
More findings revealed that most Nigerians (84 percent) believe the Nigerian Independence day is worth celebrating because it signifies ‘the day Nigeria was liberated from colonial rule’ (26 percent) and some say ‘it fosters Peace and unity’ (13 percent) in the country amongst other positive reasons. On the other hand, some Nigerians (16 percent) think the Independence day is not worth celebrating, mainly due to ‘poor development’ (23 percent) in the country, hence no need to celebrate the Nigerian Independence Day.
Finally, Nigerians have declared they love being Nigerians and this is mostly due to the perceived ‘peace and unity’ (22 percent) that exist in the country, as well as the ‘cultural diversity’ (16 percent) as one of the  key characteristics of the nation. In addition, ‘Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’ (13 percent), ‘Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo'(12 percent) and Muhammadu Buhari (12 percent) topped the list of Nigeria’s founding fathers/leaders who have inspired Nigerians the most. These are the key findings from the 55th Independence Day Special Edition Poll conducted in the week of September 21st 2015.

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