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Nigeria: We Betrayed the Founding Fathers – Citizens

As the government spends billions of naira to celebrate Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary, the citizens have reacted with anger and indignation to the celebrations as a result of poor governance by past administrations which has retarded development, saying the hopes and visions of the founding fathers had been betrayed.

According to most of the respondents, there is actually little to celebrate, especially among majority of the citizens, as they believe that the country had been perpetually hijacked by a select few, depriving the majority of enjoying the resources of the nation. Hajiya Rekiya Haruna Kassim Idris, a political activist in Nasarawa State says the quality of leadership had deteriorated since independence.

“Since we lost our past leaders to a needless military coup, the country has been deteriorating. The quality of leadership has continued to fall by the day. As a result, we are now faced with a myriad of problems too hard for us to solve as a nation. We were a decent people, a decent society and morally conscious. We cannot say things are the same way we started 50 years ago.

In 1962 or so, there was an international report which indicated that in about 15 to 20 years, three developing countries would join the league of industrialized nations of the world. These countries include India, Brazil and Nigeria. Nigeria was believed to be the most promising at that time because of the natural and human resources we are endowed with. We started well with good and God fearing leaders who have remained today as our nationalists.

They were committed leaders, dedicated to nation building and the general development of our motherland. Today, we are nowhere close to realizing that dream. India and Brazil have gone several steps in meeting the challenge of this report. Meanwhile, we have degenerated from a striving nation to a poor nation, thirsty with patched lips while drowning in a pool of wealth. Our problem, like the great author Chinua Achebe said, is leadership”, she said.

“We are still a colony, this time under our very leaders. The aspirations and dreams of our past leaders are far from being achieved. It is like a vision or baby whose mother has died. It will suffer in the hands of others. Nigeria is a baby in wrong hands, the hands of those who never conceived it, or know why it was conceived. That is the case of Nigeria today, and to say the aspiration of our past leaders has not been realized is an understatement. It cannot be met when the country has been held hostage by invaders, a crop of leaders without vision.

They are leaders of occupation, not of nation building. For me as a student, I have no hope that Nigeria will meet that aspiration if it is condemned to remain hostage to an army of occupation, a clique which has turned the country into a new colony. Nigeria is still a colony, not under foreigners again, but under our very own people masquerading as leaders. They are worse than the British colonial masters”, he said.

Senator Walid Jibrin, veteran politician and leader of the textile manufacturers’ association, draws a clear line between past leaders and the present crop of leaders, saying there is a great deal of difference.

Sardauna of Sokoto, Zik, Awolowo, Akintola, Aminu Kano, Tafawa Balewa, name them, were good leaders and Nigeria has not had it that good. They created an atmosphere that encouraged unity and development. Sardauna, a Muslim, had in his personal entourage many Christians. Today, I can’t say the situation is the same. I can’t say the goal of the struggle for independence by these leaders is achieved.

Today, corruption is the watchword for leaders at all levels. Religion has worsened everything as is the case with ethnicity. This has gone a long way in destroying the foundation laid by the fathers of Nigeria’s independence whose politics was that of ideology. There were regional differences, but all politicians worked for the common good of Nigeria, not of regions. Today, although we have remained one in spite of our deeper differences, we cannot say this is the Nigeria of our dream at independence. We are worse off today as a nation”.

Ralph Amokaha, the Chairman, ASUU, Benue State University (BSU) shares the view that the present Nigeria is not the country our past leaders planned and worked for. He sees no need for a celebration.

If a student finished primary school at 10 and at 20 plus, he is yet to be a graduate, would there be any need for him to celebrate 20 years or more of education? That is the case with Nigeria. The aspiration of our past leaders has not been met, Nigerians remain in despair, and we are heading nowhere. There is no need for celebration at all.

I aligned completely with General Muhammadu Buhari who shelved off independence celebration when he was Head of State in the 80s. He said there was no need for any celebration. He insisted that what Nigeria needed at that time was a sober reflection, not celebration because there was nothing worth celebrating as a nation. Today, we are no different from that period,” he said.

Makurdi based retired journalist, Simon Shango, says the aspirations of the average Nigerian have not been met; rather, hopes are being dashed by institutionalized corruption in high places.

He said, “By 1960, it was perfect. It was an aspiration for a great Nigeria. For instance, in all the primary schools and secondary schools at that time, the national anthem was taught pupils and students. I was in class five in the primary school at that time in Sankera in today’s Ukum Local Government Area of Benue State. I was one of the pupils selected to travel to Makurdi for a march past. When we came, we discovered that we had the same set of pencils and biros and books which were shared to us by our teachers in our respective schools. Everything was uniform. We had the feel of independence, rice was cooked and shared out to everybody, and the celebration was in the air.

We were taken to Benue River where a naval ship named NNS Lokoja berthed. We were taken on board the ship. We ate with the captain, rested in his cabin, played at the deck and so on. We were also taken to the Makurdi Airport where a plane landed and was made available for us kids to enter and enjoy ourselves. Our aspiration was like that of our leaders then, for a great Nigeria where we all would have equal opportunities, not a Nigeria in the hands of “colonialists”.

We dreamt of a day we would be like our teachers, those naval officers, those pilots and our political leaders. 50 years after, our aspirations are far from being met, they have been dashed by corruption, by a clique of new colonialists. I am surprised our leadership said they are celebrating independence.