Better Nigeria At 59, What Is Freedom Without Responsibility?

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When I was younger, Nigerian Independence Day was big deal!

What exactly we were celebrating was somewhat abstract. None of us had lived in Nigeria or had a particularly detailed knowledge of Nigerian history. It did not matter
though, we all felt a sense of pride.

We embraced the ideal of our founding fathers kicking against ‘the white men,’ throwing off
the shackles of the ill that was colonialism and marching confidently into a bright future.

This 59th Independence Anniversary has a difference outlook, no one was really in the mood to celebrate.

Celebrate what?

I remember one of our people telling how far we have not come since 1960, it was difficult to argue with that.

Even more surprising are some of the arguments we heard moving seemingly in favour of the colonialists, saying that British left too early and had they stayed longer, things would be better, as Nigeria was not prepared for Independence.

I was shocked, but it is a telling indicator of just how bad things have become. Independent Nigeria was supposed to rise. It was supposed to be the leading country on the continent. It was supposed to be great. I wonder how it must have felt to experience October 1st 1960.

The excitement, the hope, the
belief that anything was possible and that the brightest days of the country lay ahead.

Wondering what is on the minds of those who experienced that first Independence Day today!

The country that was once full of promise is in disarray on almost every front; sectarian violence, banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen/farmers crisis, torturing and detaining pressmen or social critics, unemployment, disunity, poverty, no independent judiciary, manipulations of elections, economic crisis, the list goes on. We should ask ourselves, is there anything to celebrate?

For some people, one of the most endearing qualities about Nigerian people is our capacity to believe, the capacity to hope that one day things will change for the better.

Those celebrating will be lauding the enduring resilience of Nigerian people, the country’s potential for greatness, the belief that ‘one day,
we will get there.’

This capacity for hope is as good as it is terrible; the idealism keeps us stunted, prevents us from asking the right questions, and most importantly thinking critically.

This lofty idea that ‘we will get there’ is not rooted in reality.

Get where? What does ‘there’ look like? What steps (not speeches) are being made to ensure this happens? Is there a tangible or clear plan that ensures in 50 years’ time we are not still complaining about the same old things?

Hope is a good thing, a necessary thing, but without tangible action it is useless. Development and progress are not borne from wishes.

There is the argument that Nigeria is still young and has yet to redefine its post – colonial identity. The name ‘Nigeria’ was given and there are many systems in place today that are simply leftovers of the colonial era.

In a lot of ways we are working within a system that was
not built by us or with us or our best interests in mind. So how can we expect it to work for us? It raises the question, what exactly are we
free from?

Yesterday, I again asked some friends their thoughts about Independence Day, there were various answers, but one that struck out the most was: “What is freedom without responsibility?”

– Better Nigeria Group
BNG


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