Our Voiceless Generation

As the clock struck midnight, they took their positions on the dais and watched the lowering of the Union Jack and the hoisting of the Nigerian flag… And so ended 100 years of British rule… 100 years of colonial bondage… A nation conceived in faith and unity is born today… And I am happy. And I am sobbing…” Babatunde Jose, editor of Daily times Newspaper, Edition of 1 October 1960.

Nigeria we hail thee, Our own dear native land,
Though tribe and tongue may differ,
In brotherhood we stand,
Nigerians all proud to serve
Our sovereign Motherland. Lilian Jean Williams

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but our selves can free our mind”: Bob Marley

Fifty years ago, at the stroke of midnight on 1 October 1960, the Union Jack was replaced by the present bicolour flag: Green White Green and the British “God save the queen” was replaced by our first anthem “Nigeria, we hail thee” written by a British expatriate, Lilian Jean Williams. This was in use until 1978 when the Government decided that it emphasized rather than unified our differences. (This anthem still can be heard in Nigeria as a form of protest against the government.) People poured out into the streets at the stroke of the clock to celebrate the new Nation. There was an undeniable sense of hope, relief and joy which was somewhat akin to the return of democracy in 1999. A new day has come and the sun couldn’t have shone any brighter. Few years down the line, dreams quickly transformed to nightmares replete with monsters and, one generation after another has endured a plethora of bitter disappointments in the 50 years since Nigerians celebrated their liberty.

Nigeria has survived a brutal civil war and more than 30 years of military rule to become a nascent democracy – with massive wealth to spend as the largest oil producer in Africa and even more massive levels of despicable poverty. The biggest problem that Nigeria has had in 50 years of independence is corruption. Close to about $40 billion (£25.4bn) has been stolen. The biggest threat to entrepreneurship in Nigeria is a power supply that suffers from epilepsy. The country that once used to export food now spends $6 billion (£3.8bn) each year on food imports . The biggest failure of the Government however remains the lack of security especially in the South east region.

The Nation was used as a guinea pig by the British to determine how well a democracy can thrive amidst various cultures, religions, languages etc. Needless to say, the Nigerian experiment has failed woefully. The Country is reminiscent of a woman with very large buttocks which impedes her movement. The emancipated south is trying to move on with the democratic times while a fundamentalist north is dragging it down with a theocratic system of government. However, as in the world of scientific experiment and indeed in life, if in the first you don’t succeed, try harder. This simply means that we have to fish out our compass, rulers, and pencils and head back to the drawing board.

The problems are manifold but there remains only one viable solution: Change in leadership and by that I mean that a whole generation of tired old hags must be dispensed with. I believe I speak for every member of my generation when I say we are tired of recycling. We seek fresh ideas from bright young minds. The corridors of power having been worn thin by aging shuffling feet need to be replaced by vibrant steps. I remember during my primary school days in Enugu, the then governor of old Anambra State visited our school and told us that we are the future leaders. Twenty four years later, we’re still being touted as the Future leaders. Which leads me to ponder when exactly the reins of leadership will actually fall to us: as octogenarians with no teeth?

A certain Wiseman of the senior citizen generation once pointed out to me that the crime spree in Nigeria is carried out by men of my generation. I replied that every generation like in every country, has its own fair share of the good, the bad and the ugly. Unfortunately, the villains are running amok because the saints among us have been denied the opportunity to shine. This however is by no means a quick fix solution but my people say we do not abandon war for fear of being shot. What we need to do is simple: Get rid of a divisive mindset, stop hoping and start acting, get involved and let your voice be heard, despise that which is evil and embrace that which is good. Finally and most importantly, free your minds from negativity, passivity, cynicism and pessimism for battles are either won or lost in the mind.

I conclude with a 1985 NTA jingle (my favourite of all times) which is an apt summary of all that’s been said:

1) A nation of hard working people is a strong nation,
We are well blessed; we’ve got everything to make Nigeria great,
If you want the good things of life, you just stand up and say,
Refrain: I will work hard today; I will put in my best to make Nigeria great

2) We can do it, we all can do it, let us work for a fine reward,
For the joy of a modern country, will be ours if we change our ways.
Refrain: I will work hard today; I will put in my best to make Nigeria great
Start today, start today

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!

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– White stripe denotes peace and unity and is also symbolic of the Niger River bisecting the countryside. The green stripes represent agriculture. The flag was designed in the twilight of colonial rule in 1960 by Mr. Michael Taiwo Akinkunmi,

– Reuben Abati ,chairman of the editorial board of Nigeria’s Guardian newspaper group

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