Opinion

Nigeria @60: Beyond celebration, fireworks

History is littered with both bitter and sweet experiences. When we became an Independent Nation on 1st October 1960; it offered an expression of joy and altered the pale contours of 36 million Nigerian faces.

Six decades later, it is a time of reflection, national pride, and celebration; it is a day where we dock ourselves out in green white green celebrating liberty. It is a day when we celebrate the creation from six regions to 36 states, it is a day when we celebrate the creation of a highly planned Federal Capital Territory, Abuja which started from the administration of General Murtala Mohammed, it is a day when we looked back, we are proud of hosting the largest cultural event ever on the African continent tagged FESTAC ’77, it is a day when we celebrate owning four refineries, it is a day when we celebrate building giants projects across the country.

Projects like the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos, Eagle Square etcetera. It is a day when we celebrate winning several African Cup of Nations and the Under 23 football World Cup, it is a day when we celebrate the introduction of the Global System of Mobile (GSM) that allows us to make a call as we wish. It is the day when we celebrate our economy as the largest in Africa; it is a day when we celebrate democracy.

Yet there are still heaps of things undone, the birds that once chirped now cried, the rat and insects that once squealed in the underbrush now stuttered, the octave of a dove became a strident blare more penetrating than ever, the rabbits that were once a friend in the house now squeak at the sight of a human, the cow could no longer moo like a cow, people are beginning to perched like blackbirds on the crisscross trunks.

A nation that was once known for peace is now engulfed in unprecedented racial violence and religious intolerance – an Igbo man cannot live in peace amid a Hausa man without fear of a hostile demonstration. A Yoruba man cannot do business with an Igbo man without the suspicion of being duped, some Southerners think that the Northerners are wild fanatics and avoid them like a plague. These are erroneous beliefs that must be assuaged.

Why did we get it wrong? We got it wrong because our past leaders could not muster the courage to take certain steps and preferred to grossly betray the trust the people had in them. We got it wrong because of the lust of power prevails over governance. We got it wrong because the interest and the destiny of one individual become more important than those of other nations.

We got it wrong because we were having a groove of a boom in agriculture: groundnut pyramid in the North, cocoa in the West, the palm trees in the East, and yam and rubber plantation in the Middle Belt. We discovered the second wife and abandoned our loyal wife armed with all its beauty we could think of. And today we share from the museum of history hoping we can rewrite history.

Today the palm trees that once spread across hectares of land in the East quiver in pale, the cocoa that we can use to make chocolate and cosmetics have dwindled. The rubber that we can use to make tires, boots, medical and educational equipment is in short supply.

The groundnut that we can derive tons of peanut oil and don’t have to import peanut butter from abroad is in peanuts. We are now in a quivering tangle of reflections trying to gain what we have lost but there is hope, history can be rewritten if we put our act together.

When I dug into the museum of history, I observed that no country has ever become rich by exporting foodstuffs and raw materials without having an industrial sector, I burrowed deeper into the history books and it tells me any country that specializes in the production of raw materials will become poorer. Can we borrow a leaf from Finland who is one of the least corrupt countries in the world? We don’t need any soothsayer to tell us that the absence of a manufacturing sector is the cause of poverty in Nigeria.

The only industrialization can create an effective agriculture sector we all yearned for. Our forefathers prepared for the next season by storing corn, maize (crops) in the attic and kept yamseed in the cellars, but what do we do as a nation, we eat our seed and plant pale crops and expect a bountiful harvest.

Some of us are tired that after 60 years of independence we are still at the edge of tapping our glittering potentials and we have adopted the sidon look approach, no, that will amount to being a victim of creative suffering. Until we begin to plan for tomorrow, until we begin to place values on morals and ethics, until we begin to love our brother like ourselves, until we begin to demand of our leader the kind of leadership we expect, our pale economic activity will follow a cyclical pattern.

Anjorin contributes this piece from Lagos via olusanyaanjorin@gmail.com

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