Nigeria’s centenary celebration

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CURRENTS: Wale Sokunbi 
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Nigeria will be 100 years old next year having come into being with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria by Lord Fredrick Lugard in 1914. And, the Executive arm of government, in its wisdom or lack of it, has proposed a year-long programme of multi-faceted activities to celebrate our centenary.

Should we all be shouting Halleluyah to this? Certainly, there is a need to celebrate the fact that Nigeria has managed to stick together as one entity. President Goodluck Jonathan has never allowed this fact to be lost on Nigerians, and, when we consider the challenges that the nation has battled with over the years, including a three-year Civil War and, most recently, challenges of unbridled insurgency of Boko Haram in the North and fresh threats of instability from the Niger Delta, it becomes quite clear that the task of keeping Nigeria one is one for which our governments, over the years, deserve kudos.

But then, one germane question Nigerians have been asking of late is: Unity, for what benefit, and at what cost? The question undoubtedly, arises from the failure of our leaders to make the unity of the country count, or reflect in improvement in our development indices. At the risk of sounding melancholic, Nigeria’s centenary does not call for the convoluted and profligate year-long celebration that some persons in government are putting together.

The programme for the celebration reads like the story of an impoverished fifty-year old rolling out a five-year programme for his 50th birthday, when he is unable to properly house, feed and educate his children. And this, at a time when some of his children have turned to vagabonds and have begun to threaten to kill him and put his house asunder. President Goodluck Jonathan, himself, underscored the sad scenario in Nigeria sometime ago when he said that the Boko Haram insurgents would actually attack him, too, if they could! More recently, he said the objective of the insurgent sect is to “take over Abuja so as to make me and those in government to go and hide.”

This is rather pathetic, coming from the Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and seriously questions the rationale for this elaborate centenary jamboree. From the Niger Delta, militancy has become the snake that was scotched, but not killed. Militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta was only buried, half-alive, with the amnesty programme, under which billions of naira are paid to ex-militants as stipends. It has taken the recent conviction of Niger Delta militant leader, Henry Okah for the Independence Day bombing of 2010 in Abuja, by a South African court, for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to issue fresh threats against the country.

The organisation, in a statement signed by one Comrade Azazi, said it would target families of government officials. It banned government officials at all levels, as well as permanent secretaries and director-generals of parastatals, from the Niger Delta region. The group also vowed to attack anyone in the country. According to the statement, “Nigeria as a whole will feel our presence when we finally decide to carry out our targets which will not be restricted to the Niger Delta area alone.” The group further told the government: “You have seen nothing.

The disintegration of Nigeria will start through us and by us.” The Minister of the Niger Delta Ministry, Mr. Godsday Orubebe, was “banned” from the region. With such crises and threats of further crises emanating from the North and South-South of the country without adequate response from the government, it is difficult to see the sense in the elaborate centenary celebrations being planned. Luckily, the National Assembly has been reported not to be well disposed to the elaborate celebration, which will involve the construction of a centenary city in Abuja, and the construction of some structures such as police laboratories in every region of the country Both the Senate President, David Mark, and the House of Reps Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, have been reported to have questioned the sense in the centenary jamboree.

Mark is apparently unimpressed with the explanation that the celebration would not involve use of public funds, which is unlikely, while Gbajabiamila shot down the proposition as inappropriate at a time that the economy is almost laid prostrate by unemployment put at 23 percent; 12.21 percent inflation; unbridled corruption and failure to implement the budget as passed. One major factor that makes the loud celebration uncalled for is the soaring insecurity in the country, which has made it difficult for even the regular Independence Day celebration to hold at the usual Eagle Square venue. What, then, can the country be said to be celebrating so loudly and unabashedly at 100?

The explanation that public funds will not go into the centenary celebration is a tale that is best told to the Marines. This is because private sector organisations which will commit billions of naira to the Centenary City project will get their money back through phony contract deals and other shady patronage from government. Either way, public funds will be used. No private sector organisation exists to dole out hard-earned profits to government projects. The hard fact is these private organisations exist to make profit, not to build cities free of charge for the government. The explanation by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, that the centenary celebration will provide 5000 jobs is also beside the point. Jobs will be better created via production, which will be sustainable. Nigeria does not need a multi-billion naira, multi-faceted, multi-location centenary celebration to think out way to create jobs.

The proposed loud celebrations are uncalled for, especially when we consider the positions of some of the nation’s past leaders on the amalgamation that is to be celebrated. There has been no doubt over the years that Nigeria, which came into being through the amalgamation of 1914, is a marriage of strange bedfellows. The Premier of the defunct Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, called the amalgamation the “mistake of 1914”. The late Obafemi Awolowo described Nigeria as “a mere geographical expression.” It is arguable that there is, indeed, any Nigerian nation. What one can beat one’s chest about is that there are many nations – Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ijaw, Fulani, etc – in Nigeria. After 100 years, Nigerians hardly think of themselves as one entity. Many people think of themselves as Igbo or Hausa, first, before thinking of themselves as Nigerians. Nigeria is more or less an orphan, a “nation” without nationals.

Among the leadership class, instead of a continuation of the vision of our past leaders to educate the people and build a strong, prosperous nation, we have a rabid rat race for acquisition of wealth. Public service is not for any service to the people, but for acquisition of wealth.

Self – interest is the first law of our leadership class. For this reason, basic amenities that are taken for granted in other countries such as good roads, constant electricity and good health and educational facilities, are out of reach of Nigerians. Instead of this wasteful jubilation on the nation’s centenary, therefore, the president will do better to engage his team in sober reflection on the state of the nation. Instead of corruption and incessant floundering of Nigeria’s riches in needless celebrations, instead of a national owambe to celebrate our centenary, Nigeria’s leaders should be concerned about how to surmount the challenges facing the nation to ensure that they still have a nation standing in one peace to celebrate by 2014.

For me, Nigeria’s centenary presents a good occasion for sober stock- taking and strategizing on the way forward to building a strong and stable country that is truly worthy of the type of celebration being proposed.

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10 Comments

  1. A good article on the amalgamation which no Nigerian asked for but which we are all saddled with.

    Our leaders lack the capacity for original thought and creativity. The citizens must think soberly what the last 100 years have brought us?

  2. So what do we think that we are? A happy and cohesive nation? NOT at all. A developed, peaceful, caring and lovely nation? For where!!! A nation that accepts defect and makes correction? MBANUU!! CAPITAL NO. A nation where the organs of our Government is made purely independent? oh! Oh! Oh yaoo! A nation where election or selection of leaders is always free and fire? Worst. We are in a nation were our brave men and women are threaten never to come close while the old soldiers were said to have be the modern democratic fathers and have fogotten so fast that soldiers never fought for our independence, what a shame to our retired but not tired generals, for so long our dear nation have archieved shame, hatred, misfortune and tribal war in the name unity.

  3. There is nothing wrong in an idea. Amalgamate these protectorates into a single FEDERATING gepgraphical entity was the idea. From 1960 -1966 the Federation was working. Powerfull Regional Governments, fulltime Executive at Federal and Regional levels, Fulltime Judiciary and part-time legialatures at Federal a nd Regional levels were established. Everthing was working.
    It was the Ibos that attempted to take power by force, thereby introducing the Military into governance and politics. The result is that the idea of a federated Nigeria was set aside.
    By the way, Hausa, Yorubas, Igbos, Ijaws etc are not nations. They are tribes or ethnic groups.

    Muazu H. Wali

    • Hi Muazu H. Wali,
      Could u please read your comment once again.. and again..
      If thereafter you are unable to find out your faults. Then you have to go back to school and start from Elementry one. In the article no group was being pointed at for any mistake. You came in with your ethnic hatred start to point at some groups. Where did you get your definitions for Ethnic and nation? Please do some research on that, then come back again.

  4. Another avenue for Ijaw-man to siphon money. Well the Ijaw /Asorock weiil not finish drained the Nation foreign reserve before they leave in 2014. Let me make the following assertion about what is not going to happened in 2015.
    1: We will not have Ijaw man as a President of Nigeria come May 1ST 2015.
    2: We will not compromise by given any part of Nigeria or region to be succeed from the Country
    3: Nigeria will not be Islamized.
    4: I jaw will not get independence from Nigeria.
    5: Presidency will not go to South East.

  5. The pre-colonial era of many Africa Nations demonstrated some amount of love, unity and progress among its people which the colonial era gradually destroyed through slave trade, introduction of western culture and civilization which was definately to promote their culture and develop its economy, while the independence era of difference colony created commucation barriers through the introduction of forign languages and seperated many Africa ancestral connection with colonial boundries. The centenary celebration will create sober reflection that abandon Africans culture for western culture was the major problems to our unity, peace and progress, If we can go back to our cultural heritage and moral values definately (85%) of present problems and challenges will be solved. The lessons and achievement of FESTAC 77, will definately gives historical direction to the centenary celebration because the celebration is important to socio-economy, political and cultural development of west-Africa in particular and Africa at large.

  6. Couldn’t have said it better myself. A yearlong jamboree indeed! What happens after the celebration. Do we go back to how we were? What happens later to the youths who will be employed during the celebration? With the state of insecurity, it would be devastating if anything should happen during the celebration.
    We don’t think long-term, but only how to satisfy our immediate need. If the country is as it should be we wouldn’t be making plans now; it would have been in motion two years ago.
    We truly need to sweep our compound before looking at another’s compound. They want the Centenary city to be modelled after the Sundo business city of South Korea and Dubai…??!!
    This will be a typical example of someone dying of thirst in a lake.
    God help Nigeria!

  7. Muazi H.wali must you people,yorubas and housas mentioned Igbo name wenever a national issues were being discursed?.Its obvious that other tribes in Nigeria love Igbos

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