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‘Nigeria is free, but, everywhere in chains’

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By Onyike Ifeanyi Ebenezer

Nigeria, our fatherland is free today by virtue of her flag independence on October 01, 1960. The irony however, is that the more Nigeria celebrates her independence and freedom from British domination, the more it plunges into the abyss of helplessness. A commentator once said that we have lived our best lives in the 1960s and 70s when the shadow of colonial governance was still cast on everything Nigerian. Afterwards, the Nigerian spirit took over and we have rapidly and roundly progressed in error ever since.

The Nigerian spirit is seen from different angles depending on which side of the divide you belong to at a particular time. It is what Vice President Osinbajo in his Independence Day speech called the Nigerian swag. A spirit that remains resolute and happy despite the hubris of ethno-religious cum political jingoism that tears through the fabrics of the country. Osinbajo says that “one of the attributes of the Nigerian people is the uniquely confident way we stand out”. While this may be true going by the exceptional displays attributed to Nigerians in Diaspora in different works of life, one doubts if the VP knows that behind every confident looking Nigerian is a depressed patriotism and lack of faith in the leadership.

A peep into Embassies and High Commissions and the reasons Nigerians give for wanting to leave the country will upset the heart of any genuine leader. Like Osinbajo, many of our leaders don’t even know what’s going on in the country and neither are they aware how the citizens feel about the government.

There is a trending story on social media on why people left Nigeria and some of the abroad guys had this to say, “a house was burning in my street and we called the Fire Service. They came quite alright but without water”. Another talked of how government policies kept crippling his businesses until he made up his mind to leave. According to him, “it’s better I disappear than for me to die of frustration”.

The stories went on and on and on. These stories didn’t surprise most participants, they were usual lines and everybody seemed to have a story to tell.
What about those that wrote JAMB ten to twelve times without securing admission because neither can they afford the high paying private universities or the bribe requisite for admission into a government university? When they eventually struggle through school and graduate at the age of 32 or 33, they cannot no longer get jobs because both governments and corporate bodies peg recruitment age at 26 -28 years. So, it’s either they reduce their ages to football age or they remain permanently unemployed

I was at the Police Station last week to report a case. The ASP on duty, on hearing my case was so excited and what he said killed every enthusiasm I had to pursue the matter. He wasn’t looking at the crime; his interest was how much he would make from the case. He demanded to know how much I had with me because ‘you don’t go after a man holding a gun empty handed. He was bold and every part of him exuded the kind of confidence the vice president talked about. If this trend is not addressed, with time, we may likely begin to witness statements such, “I’m a Nigerian, and I’m proudly corrupt”.
That reminds me; in his Independence Day speech, President Buhari said that his administration won’t relent in its fight against corruption. That’s a good one. The only problem is that one never knew there was a recent fight against corruption in Nigeria except he was making reference to the kind we have always trumped up for removing or enthroning administrations. From 1963 till date, governments, both military and civilian have been enthroned on the promise of fighting corruption. All were also removed because it couldn’t tackle corruption. The issue is simple, there is no corruption in Nigeria, but, there is Nigeria in corruption. I once likened the anti-corruption fight of the present administration to cutting the bottom of a bucket open in order to cover the top.
One bad thing about corruption is that it triggers off a chain reaction to the extent that it becomes unfashionable to be decent. It also affects every spirit of patriotism, industry and honest living.

Many people on social media would rather wish the People’s Republic of China happy independence, than their own country. The level of apathy towards the Independence Day celebration is something that should bother any thinking government. Unfortunately, instead of holding the leadership accountable, the citizens align with hangers-on in the corridors of power to hold brief for the government and or to stampede dissenting opinions into silence.

A news commentary on Radio Nigeria, noted that “keeping Nigeria united is the greatest achievement of the country since independence”. Hmmm! Has Nigeria been at war with itself? We neither have ethnic nor religious problem in Nigeria, ours is a case of failed leadership. No nation with responsible leadership experiences separatist agitations like is experienced in the country. The way we view our neighbors from other tribes is fueled by those who have led us from independence till date in order to keep the oil of domination burning. Nigeria will become better the day we all – Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Ibibio, Efik, Bini, Esan, Itsekiri, Urhobo, Isoko, Ijaw, Tiv, Igala, Christian, Moslem, Atheist, African Traditional worshipers etc will wake up and demand for equity, fairness, and good governance from our governments. Until then, let us enjoy our freedom in chains.

Onyike wrote from the Centre for Information and Communication Research [CICOR], Enugu Office

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