Nigeria at 50: To Celebrate or not to Celebrate?

Tomorrow Nigeria will celebrate fifty years of independence from Britain. At independence in 1960, Nigeria held out great promise based particularly on our human and material resources. This promise has to a very large extent not been fulfilled, and the gap between potential, promise and fulfillment seems to be getting wider. In view of our shortcomings and lack of direction as a nation, does the 50th anniversary of our independence from our colonial masters deserve to be celebrated or not?

Two weeks ago, I was involved in a discussion with some of my Nigerian colleagues in Chicago on what the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA) Chicago/Northwest Indiana Chapter should contribute to the Nigerian Independence Organization to make the celebration of Nigeria’s 50th birthday a success. The Nigerian Independence Organization in Chicago is a coalition of several Nigerian civic and professional organizations in the Chicagoland area that has been organizing parades, fanfare and other fun activities to celebrate Nigeria’s independence for many years.

The discussion with my colleagues provided a mix of opinions. While some felt that there was nothing worth celebrating in Nigeria, others felt that though the Nigerian state is at a precipice, there are still things we have achieved in our fifty years of nationhood worth celebrating. Both groups actually have things that support their points of view. However, irrespective of their points of view, one thing that was gladdening to me was the passion of all those involved in the discussion. Even those who felt we have fallen short still believe in Nigeria.

Personally, while I do not think it’s time to roll out the drums and do not support the grandiose celebrations being planned all across the globe, there are things in our 50 years of nationhood worth celebrating. Nigeria has endured a civil war, multiple coup d’états, and several ethnic and sectarian conflicts and has remained one. This to me is worth celebrating even as our as claim to be one nation has been queried many times. I believe in and still have faith in Nigeria to turn things around. My country men say “When there is life, there is hope.”

This said, as we celebrate Nigeria’s independence tomorrow, this should be a time to reflect on fifty years of nationhood and do a thorough assessment of why our potential as nation has yet to fulfilled. The leaders of our country owe this and many generations to come a full appraisal of the Nigerian state and where and why we went off track from being a nation having too much money and not knowing how to spend it (thanks to General Gowon) to one in which poverty is rampant, literacy levels have fallen, and major hospitals have become mere consulting clinics (heard many times as reasons for planning coups by our military men).

Hebrews Chapter 5 and verse 12 in the Holy Bible says “For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food.” This verse captures the current state of Nigeria. At 50 years we should not be experiencing teething problems and still drinking milk when we should be grown and eating strong meat even as verse 14 of the same chapter says “But solid food is for full grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.” This also goes to say that it is not that those who have run our country aground do not know the difference between good and evil, they have simply chosen the one that benefit them.

So, as we celebrate our fifty years of nationhood and our unity, and prepare for the 2011 elections, all men and women of goodwill should pray that God endows this country with a leadership that will get us out of the wilderness in which we have found ourselves.

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