Nigeria At 50: Antonyms Of A Nation

The Federal Republic of Nigeria (Republik Federaal bu Niiseriya, Republic nde Naigeria, Republik Nijeriya and Ijoba-Apapo Orile-ede Naijiria) as all our people would call it, celebrates her 50th year Independence Anniversary with much sober reflections on the situation of the country for the past five decades. My special attention is drawn to the motto of Nigeria. This is a maxim adopted since 1960, as a guide to people’s conduct. “Motto” is an Italian word for pledge. This phrase is meant to formally describe the general principle, motivation and intention of the country. The most populous country in Africa came up with its motto of “Unity and Faith,Peace and Progress”.What is particularly given me much concern is despite the fact that you will find this motto with the country’s President official photograph on all government units, departments, ministries, parastatals, public and private offices, most Nigerians ways of life remain otherwise. To many people, this has no practical meaning to them, consequently, their behaviour are demonstrating exactly opposite (antonym) of the country’s motto since Nigeria got her independence. This has become a serious problem when our successive leaders who everybody was looking up to had betrayed the Oath of Allegiance making good governance and accountability in governance impossible.

Coming back to the motto issue. The word first word “unity” means oneness, unification, harmony, agreement, and uniformity. It is the combination or arrangement of parts into a whole. Unity is an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting. Definately, there is value in unity as a conscious approach to living pooling all resources together. On April 1st, 1953, in an attempt to foster unity under self-government in this country, Chief Anthony Enahoro, a member of the Central House of Representatives intriduced an historic first motion for Nigeria’s independence on the floor of the house. He said; “My view is that self-government is an inalienable right of man and it is not to be sought of negotiation or debate. Mr. President Sir, I rise to move the motion, standing in my name that this House accepts as a primary political objective the attaintment of self-government for Nigeria in 1956. Sir, this motion is an invitation to the Honourable members of this House to associate the highest legislature of our land with the expressed desire of the people of this country, whose views we all represent, for political autonomy in 1956.” This historical motion was later realised and ushered Nigeria Independence on 1st of October,1960. The main intention of Chief Anthony Enahoro‘s government motion is to unite the country in order to work togerther fully for the development of this great nation. Since fifty years ago what we have been witnessing is exactly opposite of unity which are disunity, discord, disagreement, controversy, conflict, dispute, inharmony, contention, strife, division, partiality and variance.The nation is faced with the overwhelming task of unifying a country with over 250 ethnic and linguistic groups.The country has been breaking apart along religious and ethnic issues. There has been inter-faith violence which is said to be rooted in poverty, unemployment and the competition for land. Since the first military coup in January 1966 which led by young leftists under Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, it has been more coups till 1999 when democratic government was installed again. The aftermath these coups was the violence against Igbos in the Northern state which eventually increased their desire for autonomy which consequently led to the Biafra civil war, from May 30, 1967 to 1970 when Biafra soldier surrendered to the federal government..The country have never unite in real sense and no thanks to the British colonialists for unequal amalgamation. Late Dr.Nnamdi Azikwe was so worried about unity of this nation when he said on October 1st 1965 that; “Our main problem now is to hold our unity intact by safe-guarding individual freedom under the law…Ours is a man made constitution, therefore,its is an organic law which can succeed provided men and women who inspired and promulgated it are prepared to let it guide their political utterances.” The schemes like National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and the federal Unity Schools were meant to develop common ties between the youths of different groups and promote national unity in the country.

The word “faith” also signifies trust, understanding, a confident belief, loyalty and thought about ideas or something believed.This is another good guide to people’s conduct to themselves, their rulers and to the nation as a whole. How many of our leaders have ask themselves; how much faith have they allow to become reality in their life as representative of the people? An ancient history book defines “faith” as “being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see”.One of the Russian greatest novelists, Leo Tolstoy describes faith as “force of life.” It is an action when you make yourself vulnerable-practicing what you believe. We have to have faith in God and ourself. Our nationalists have toilled, struggled and fought that we can a soverign state with good governnance, but the new leaders refused to keep the faith and hope alive because of their selfish ambition. The military juntas that seized control of the country by coups for almost three decades have created a lot of problems to the country for their missmanagement,depotism and severe corruption. The leaders and the people have not been faithful to each other.Their incompetency, greed for power and lust for money have deber us not to make any meaninful progress since independence. Nigerians are now tired of their unfulfilled promises of successive leaders who has been failing to provide basic fundamental human needs for its citizenry .For this reason, this has turn everybody not have credibility to our leaders. The high level of poverty has turn the whole system upside down with many vices in the society. Tell me if anybody knows what will happen tomorrow in Nigeria. The foreign companies find it difficult to come and invest because they are in doubt of the socio-economic and political situation of the country. There are increase in ethnic tension and violence every day on minor squabbles or disagreements.

Peace is a universal word. Peace is reconcilation, absence of war or other hostilities, state of harmony or friendship, the state of serenity, contentment in obedience and law, peace of mind and freedom of disputes. The word “peace” describes a society or a relationship that is operating harmoniously and without violent conflict. There is peace when one’s human rights can be guaranteed and one’s integrity is protected. If there is no love, peace and progress can never find a place. To have peace in a society, there must be religious tolerance, civil rights,good governance and accountability . Democracy and social justice are the two elements necessary to have a permanent peace. Peace was sought for in a goodwill message sent to Nigerians by Queen Elizabeth II on October 1st 1960, it read thus: “As you assumed the heavy responsibilities of Independence, I send you my good wish for a greeat and noble future. It is with special pleasure that I welcome you to our Commonwealth family of Nations. I am confident that Nigeria will play a worthy part in the Council of Nations and remaining true to the high ideals of friendship and cooperation which are so manifest today will make a positive contribution to the peace and posperity of mankind. May God bless and guide your country through the years to come.” The Queen in essence was saying that with peace, life could achieve perfection among Nigerians. In order to have peace, there should be an established social justice, democracy and freedom as rights for al

l human beings. Despite the message of the goodwill, the country has been plague with disagreement, fighting, disharmony and civil war. The word peace can also means more than serenity. For exaple, child that does not have access to free education does not have peace. Also, a section or minority of people that does not have access or being denied of basic fundamental human needs does not have peace.

Progress the last word on Nigeria motto means the act of moving forward towards a goal, to develop in a positive way or satisfactory development. It also simply means advancement of knowlege, development or growth, steady improvement,and to advance. Change is not progress, but progress requires change. Progress is an improvement in the well being of human beings. Improvement in the society is indispendable and almost inevitable for soci-economic and political development. Progress means a longer and better quality of life for a longer proportion of people.For a progress to be meaninful, all the following elements must be considered. These include; unity, faith and peace. Tafawa Balewa, the first Nigeria Prime Minister emphasised our desire to make necessary progress in developing the nation on his first independence anniversay speech on October 1st ,1960. He said; “This is a wonderful day. Today is independence.October 1st,1960 is a date to which for two years, every Nigerians has been eagerly looking forward. At last, our great day has arrived and Nigeria is now, indeed, an independent sovereign nation. Now that we have acquired our rightful status, and feel sure that history will show that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest peace. It has been through and Nigeria now stands well-built upon firm foundations.” Late Balewa urged Nigerians to unite with peace that will surely generate growth, healthy competitions and developments among all regions of the federation. Nigeria has not achieve desire progress since independence due to persistence leadership problems. Most Nigerians successive leaders since independent are very corrupt, lust for power and lack the capability and integrity to develop Nigeria socially and economically. There has been stagnation,deterioration in all sectors of the economy. All our inherited infrastructures like schools, universities, railway, hospitals, roads, civil-service machinery telephones are now in shambles. Education, the only solution to eradicate poverty were not given much concern it deserves.The country is blessed with human and natural resources,but were left untapped. This is our golden opportunity to re-write Nigeria history by coming together with one voice and elect good leaders to lead us to a new Nigeria where all its citizens basic fundamental human needs will be provided and live in peace.So God bless Nigeria.

Written by
Adewale T. Akande
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