With mixed feelings we celebrate Nigeria's independence anniversary

By Emeka Chiakwelu

Nigeria is 49 years today. On October 1st, 1960 the colonial master Great Britain lowered down her union jack and Nigeria raised her green-white-green flag, simultaneously singing her new national anthem written by a British expatriate, Lillian Jean Williams.

Nation building has not been easy for Nigeria, for she have gone through traumatic episodes in her very short history. There was a devastating civil war, numerous military coups and International Monetary Fund structural and austerity programs. After all these ugly times the country is still standing and for this Nigerians are grateful for having a nation they call their own.

Nigeria from the beginning was being identified and ascribed as a nation with great possibilities and potentials on the African continent and truly she is. But the dream of being a great nation is neither deferred nor dead.

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

- Langston Hughes

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and she is endowed with both natural and human resources. Nigeria is largest oil producer in Africa and largest exporter of oil in the continent. A large amount of money counting in billions dollars has been realized from the oil export but it was not prudently invested and utilized. Moreover corruption dealt a heavy blow to the young nation because she was not prepared to handle such a gigantic fund. Nigeria invested in some white elephant projects - setting up an ill-conceived Iron and Steel Industry and others which she cannot manage and wasted some of the funds in projecting the herculean image as the giant of Africa.

Nigeria is bedeviled with myriads existential problems. There is large segment of the society that is very poor and cannot afford three square and balanced meals for their families. About 70% of Nigerians are classify as poor. The educational and health facilities are in shambles. Diseases that can be easily control with clean environment and sanitation are taking a huge bite on the children. At the dawn of 21st century, there is no efficient running tap water and steady electric power in Nigeria. Simply, Nigerians are living in darkness and in thirst in this century of possibilities and innovations. Nigeria has finally become the land of electric generators and dug water wells. Crimes, corruption and indiscipline are confronting our country grimly. Nigeria is sloshing and tilting to unenlightened society.

Many Nigerians of all walks of life are quick to point accusing fingers on their leaders and fellow citizens as corrupt and inefficient. One thing we must understand is that leadership is as good as the people they lead. For the leaders come from the people. The people must not abandon their responsibility as a watchdog because they also have a stake in the system. This is not by any means to be an excuse for the leaders to abscond their responsibilities to the people and nation. There must be a watchful and observant citizenry that is willing to standup for the truth and nation. The leaders must strive to govern with transparency and probity by giving chance to democratic checks and balances enshrined in the constitution to flourish and take hold.

On this 49th birthday, Nigeria must go back to the basis of governance. First and foremost, Nigeria must attempt to organize a free and fair election. Nigeria must make the effort to provide the basic necessities of living to her people - food, water and shelter. The most important function of any government is the protection of lives and property. Nigerian government have not farewell in any of these things. There are still rampant kidnaping and killings in streets and villages of Nigeria. The frequent rioting in urban areas do result in demolition of properties and taking of sacred lives.

I am eternal optimist, Nigeria will rise to the occasion and utilize the God given talents and gifts and build a nation in which all people including Nigerians and well wishers will be proud to call a great nation. Happy Birthday Nigeria!!!

Emeka Chiakwelu is the Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol Organization. Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. www.afripol.org

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