The fault … Not in our star, but in our style
We take 1940 as a base. A man or woman born on October 1 of that year would have been 20 years old on October 1, 1960 when Nigeria had independence from the British. The same man or woman is 76 years old today. October 1, 1960 as a monumental historical event was not automatic. There was a build-up to it, which actually started decades ahead of the D-day and therefore there were expectations from all sides. But we shall stay on the Nigerian side.
The founding fathers would have said many beautiful things in the build-up. Things like life would be massively transformed on the positive side for all Nigerians at the exit of the colonialists. There would be jobs yafun yafun because all available job vacancies in the official bureaucracies and public sector generally would be taken up by Nigerians. In the private sectors, opportunities for Nigerians would also increase astronomically.
The segregation that kept Nigerians in hurriedly assembled homes in Ebute Metta in mainland Lagos while the white overlords lived in well planned avenues in Ikoyi and Apapa in the island would be dismantled for good.
Given this backdrop, young men and women waited with bated breath for the official lowering of the Union Jack and the hoisting of the newly green-white-green Nigerian flag to herald the country’s political emancipation after about a century, since 1861, of British rule. Today, the young folks of old have all grown. They have lived through the two epochs and they are by all means in a solid stead to look at both sides and offer value judgment.
And it has never been a balanced judgment. The past is always adjudged better than the present. By way of speaking in Nigeria, it is the good old days and not the good nowadays that we always say. The good old days are mainly the days of colonialism and perhaps the days immediately after which do not endure enough for a substantial part of the post independence generations to have a feel. These generations are grossly short-changed and left to only imagine, or at best, read about what constituted the ‘good old days.’ The attendant feeling of nostalgia and even a permanent sense of loss is overwhelming and can only be managed to avoid serious psychological injuries.
All the same, it is most unfortunate that the inverse interpretation of progression in Nigeria is almost becoming a norm such that our yesterday is considered better than our today and our today, even before the close of day, is adjudged better than our tomorrow. With us, passage of time and spatial expansion hardly correlates with progression in real terms. Like a harvested produce, we tend to degenerate with time and with hardly any capacity to regenerate to recover lost mass.
At 56, the narrative is more about a lost glory than it is about genuine efforts at building a new paradise. Perhaps if the option is offered today, many may vote for a return to colonialism to acquire a basic footing for self-rule. Republican nominee in the US presidential race, Donald Trump actually said so in one of his numerous off-range campaign jibes. He said since we didn’t learn a thing from the British, it would be in our best national interest to re-submit ourselves to the same or another imperial power for yet another century of political tutelage.
But a return to colonialism is clearly not an option. Nation building is not a quick fix. There are also no short cuts. Nations work assiduously at their ascendancy. In other words, if Nigerians had worked conscientiously at making Nigeria great in 56 years, Trump and others would have had nice things to say about the country. We have fallen and risen through four republics in 56 years in search of a suitable destination. Yet the survival of the ongoing republic depends on what we make of it. We fumble at every turn and return to blame everything and everybody (including slave trade and colonialism) except ourselves for our failures.
Well, the fault, I can say, is not in our star, but in our style. And if the style remains the same, the lamentation will continue, no matter the number of years Nigeria records as an independent state.