Celebration With Pomp and Bomb…Nigeria @ 50 – By Abubakar Ibrahim

Arise, O Compatriots” (1978-present)

Arise, O compatriots,

Nigeria’s call obey

To serve our Fatherland

With love and strength and faith.

The labour of our heroes past

Shall never be in vain,

To serve with heart and might

One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.

O God of creation,

Direct our noble cause;

Guide our Leaders right:

Help our Youth the truth to know,

In love and honesty to grow,

And living just and true,

Great lofty heights attain,

To build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.

I wish to say a happy 50th anniversary to our dear brothers and sister down Nigeria. It is disappointing that on a day when our green and white neighbors are to be more than happy, a Bomb blast which has so far killed eight and maimed several others have taken the shine out of a celebration. All the same President Goodluck Jonathan carried on the parade that was to mark the country’s milestone.

Despite an earlier email threat to the security services by some dissatisfied residents of the Niger Delta, they went ahead and carried out the threat. They security services who called the bombers bluff only gnashed their teeth after being caught unawares.  There were vibrant celebratory activities in Lagos and other parts of the country where a lot of people were in joyous mood. This only lasted for sometime as the news of the blast sent shivers down the populaces’ spine. Celebrations unfortunately were cut short as no one could tell where the next target was.

What are they celebrating?

The debate so far has been that it is time for Goodluck to sit down and take the country through reflective mood. Historic or not, opinions are very much divided by Nigerians who do not think that there is anything worthy of celebration(s). Chinua Achebe for example posits that there have been many wasted opportunities by Nigeria as a country. “A lot has prevented them to reach the height they want to reach as a brilliant people,” he said.

Muhammedu Buhari, a onetime military dictator is impressed that the country is still one country but rather disappointed with its resource management. Asked what went wrong, Buhari said, “There is a lot of corruption and indiscipline. These acts sent the national railways, shipping and airlines into extinction. Nigeria is simply a country which has 50 years of bad leadership to show for.”

Wole Soyinka, a Nobel laureate, had to go into exile because he was not so happy with the military dictatorship of the country. He constantly criticized the country’s leadership even from afar and was so disappointed in Nigeria’s inability to take advantage of it wealth.

Elizabeth Ohene, former editor of BBC flagship programme Focus On Africa was disappointed that she didn’t see neighboring countries citizen’s trooping in into Nigerian with big buses to celebrate. This she said shows a sign of failure to some extent. She recounted also how happy she was during her first days of reportage Nigeria after the Biafra war when cars with Biafra number plates drove through Lagos freely. Although people still talk about ethnicity, it is not a major factor in today’s evolving Nigeria.

Nigeria to date has only witnessed twelve years of civilian rule. The country has lived under the dark clouds of military rule. The military came in to fill the gap left for the country’s inadequacies. With a breakdown of law and order, violence became a substitute for performance and repression replaced economic development.   The destructive element in the country’s infrastructural development was the military staying in power for too long.

Again, constant kidnapping especially in the oil rich Delta region has done more to cast a slur on the image of the country rather than propel it. A lot of the residents don’t see the use of their oil reserves because they still wallow in abject poverty in the face of plenty natural resources. Residents think that about half of the oil and gas earning are spent by politicians. The percentage allotted to the infrastructural development of the Niger Delta, for example, seems very likely inadequate as the region lack some very basic amenities. Their share of the national cake is negligible considering they are the backbone of the Nigerian economy.

Nigeria was fortunate to have discovered oil at the dawn of independence. It was to have a great future with lots of money and potential of a virgin land. It is sad to admit though that with all this riches Nigeria has been a country waiting to break at the seams. This discontent has lead to a lot of violence in the region which seems to affect other regions. Goodluck Jonathan’s approach to negotiate with a militant group for the Niger Delta has so far fallen on deaf ears.

Nigeria is facing a constant struggle to repair it national image and integrity amidst reports of fraud cases and recently the Umar Mutalib’s failed airline bombing plot. This makes nonsense of all the good efforts put in by the country to change this stereotypical thinking.

All is not rosy in Nigeria’s religious garden.  There has been persistent violent behavior between Muslims and Christians in the Jos area for example. It is very troubling to try to count the thousands of innocent souls who lost their lives because they got caught in the middle of a religious conflict.

Threading a troubled road, Nigeria needs to put the clock of a multi party system back on the wall of democracy. With such a vibrant media, they will surely need to ensure a free and fair election to go places. But with the same old corrupt leaders waiting in line to take the reins of political power once again, is the future bright for West Africa’s most populous country? Will Nigerians get that savior they have been waiting for to redeem them and take them to the promise land?

Today was a day we were all supposed to get dressed up to celebrate, but it has not been the case. For all those who want to run the country in next year’s election, they have their job well cut out for them. They should talk more about these problems and more if they want to run the country. We are sick and tired of all the negative news from Nigeria that hits the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

It is time to REDEEM Nigeria’s image and fly high the green white green flag. The best time to plant a tree would have been the last twenty-five years but the next best time is now! I hope that all Nigerian footballers score goals in their respective leagues around the globe to commemorate the occasion. Had Nigeria been a business, will it have survived to mark it golden jubilee?

*This article was written two years ago? Has anything changed in Africa’s most populous country?