Nigeria At 53: A Celebration With Mixed Feelings


By all accounts, Nigeria’s political history has shown that the struggle for independence and nationhood has not only been tortuous and cumbersome but daunting and tasking.

Historically, while it is true that not much blood was spilled in the struggle against colonialism as was the case in some African countries, many of Nigeria’s founding fathers suffered untold hardship in the hands of the colonial masters.

Observers point to the fact that the doggedness and determination of most Nigerians to keep the nation united in spite of obvious challenges made it impossible for agents of division and fragmentation to succeed in breaking up the nation.

This, according to them, explains why superior reasoning had always prevailed against attempts by a few individuals to cause disaffection and division in the country.

Although not all the aspirations of the founding fathers have been met, observers believe that significant progress had been made in 53 years to sustain and ensure that Nigeria remained an indivisible sovereign entity.

Malam Sanusi Mohammed, a public analyst, believes that the country has not done badly in the last 53 years.

“It is a big score; we may not have reached the ‘Promised Land’, the kind envisaged by Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Tafawa Balewa, but the country is steadily making progress and gaining global recognition as a leader on the Africa continent.

“This is not to say that all is glossy as we must admit that there are still developmental, economic and social challenges which we have to contend with,’’ he said.

Mohammed argues that with the opportunity given to Nigeria to address the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, the third of such opportunity since independence, the country will eventually attain its dreams of being the top 20 economies by 2020.

In the same vein, President Goodluck Jonathan expresses confidence that Nigeria will be stronger and united despite her challenges.

He told the 2013 World Igbo Day Congress in Enugu that he was optimistic that the future was still bright for the nation in spite of the challenges facing it.

To further strengthen his optimism, the president declared that the amalgamation of Nigeria by Lord Lugard in 1914 was not an accident.

According to him, the amalgamation was an act of God, designed to bring together the nation’s diversity for positive purpose.

“As we look up to our centenary celebration, there are quite a number of questions people ask themselves.

“People ask, may be Lord Lugard made a mistake to amalgamate the northern and southern parts of the country.

“This informed why some talk about sovereign national conference and so on and so forth.

“But those of us who are Christians know that God does not make mistake. God has a reason for Lord Lugard to amalgamate the northern and southern parts of this country.

“So, those people who are trying to exploit our diversity to create problems for us as a nation will surely not succeed. The challenges we are seeing now are very transient; we will surely get over them,’’ the president assured.

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Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State shares similar sentiments when he said that Nigerians have cause to celebrate the nation’s 53rd independence anniversary despite the challenges facing the country.

“In spite of the challenges that the nation has faced both in recent times and in the past, the country is still united and is moving forward,’’ he said.

Oshiomhole said that independence anniversaries were celebrated, not because the nation is perfect or without challenges, but because birthdays are usually celebrated.

In his sermon to mark the nation’s independence anniversary, the Catholic Archbishop of Benin, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, noted that although some Nigerian leaders had fallen short of the expectations of most Nigerians, the country is still united.

He decried the attitude of some politicians who, he said, placed their selfish interests above national interest.

Analysts believe that although Nigeria achieved a significant growth in GDP in the last 53 years, the growth was yet to translate positively on the lives of ordinary citizens of the country.

Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, shared similar sentiments when he expressed regret over the failure of the country to attain `progressive governance’.

He noted that in spite of her 53 years of existence, Nigeria still lacked purposeful leadership, adding that it had deprived the nation the ability to take its pride of place as the giant of Africa.

Martins chided past and present leaders for failing to properly address the root cause of the widening disenchantment among the various ethnic nationalities.

“I want to thank God for making it possible for us to come together once more as a country to celebrate independence anniversary.

“However, I am sad that we have yet to evolve into a truly united and progressive country as was envisaged by our founding fathers at independence.

“There is so much disenchantment owing to unemployment, lack of electric power and general decay in the polity; our educational and healthcare sectors are in a state of comatose.

“All these have led to endemic state of insecurity and corruption in the system. It is time for us to appraise where we are as a nation, and where we are heading to.

“Unless we do this, I am afraid the unity of this country will continue to remain a mirage,’’ he stated in a statement released recently in Lagos.

Analysts, however, have harped on the need for purposeful leadership to consolidate the gains of the country’s existence since the past 53 years.

For them, Nigeria must begin to think seriously on how to reduce its dependency on foreign loans; move from a mono-economy to a diversified economy.

But all said and done, for Nigeria to overcome its current political, economic and security challenges, analysts opine that leaders at all levels of governance must put the interest of the nation uppermost above their selfish political, sectional, and economic interests.

—Sani Adamu, News Agency of Nigeria

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