THE CHRONIICLE THURSDAY OCTOBER 1, 2009, PAGE 5
BY THE KAYODE KOMOLAFE
It is expected that today’s 49th anniversary of the nations independence will again be low-key. And that will be in the pattern of the day had been marked in several years. In the words of the eminent journalism scholar and columnist of the nation, Dr. Olatnji dare, it would be “another sombre anniversary, again”. The recurring question has been this: when will the nation be in the mood to celebrate? When?
The standard excuse for not according the day the due importance it deserves has always been that there is nothing to celebrate. People point to lack of socio-economic development. The symptoms are grim enough- mass poverty, infrastructure collapse, comatose health and education sectors, poor power supply etc.
Others refers to the nation’s poor showing in liberal democratic development. Increasingly the conduct of free and fair elections is becoming non-feasible. The democratic culture is far from being deepened.
The reasons to justify lack of celebration officially and otherwise are legion. In particular, there is a waiting excuse why celebration could be deferred this year: next year is the golden jubilee of Nigeria’s nationhood. So, celebration could as well wait till next year.
Doubtless, the contemporary reality would affect the mood of the nation positively or negatively. A nation in a negative mood cannot be expected to celebrate. A government that has failed to perform would naturally lack the moral basis to galvanize the people to cheer its leadership on the national day.
Yet, there is another perspective to the discussion of the significance of October 1. The national day is as much as about the present Nigerian condition as it is about the reminder of the journey to nationhood. For the reflection on his occasion to be judicious it should not just focus on the manifest failures of the present, it should also led to the birth of the nation in the first place.
The story is not only about the unmaking of Nigeria, even though the majority of the contemporary actors is working assiduously to unmake the nation.
There is also the increasingly hidden narrative of the making of Nigeria. The balanced record of his period should be popularised. Nigeria is being presented to his youths as a nation without any positive line in its history. The perception that is fast sticking especially for the youths so that of a nation without heroes. Now this is simply fallacious, historically speaking.
The national day should not only provoke justifiable anger about monumental leadership failure, it should also remind us about the exemplary leadership of those Nigerians who led in the struggle for national freedom
It should be day to reflect and promote the leadership virtues of those who gave leadership in the anticolonial struggle. It should e a day to draw the attention of the young generation t positive story of the genuine makers of Nigeria.
The story of founders of Nigeria is not all about woes regardless of the valid faults identified in those leaders. It is easy for those who never lived a day under colonial bondage , humiliation and dehumanisation to take national independence for granted especially when freedom has not brought about prosperity.
Nothing exemplifies the levity whit which national history is handled in Nigeria more that the attitude to the historic import of October 1 and the roles of those who led the people in making it possible. No matter the errors of their lives the Hubert Macaulay’s, the Nnamdi Azikiwe and Anthony Enahoros of Nigeria’s history ought to be celebrated for their roles in fighting freedom.
Today’s youths should be inspired by selflessness, courage and nationalism of the young men in the Zikist movement. These great Nigerians were the dynamos of a national movement that fought for freedom and democracy at a period when western nations acted toward the colonies as if the words –democracy and freedom –never existed in the political dictionary of the time.
The powerful nations of the west who today go about imposing democracy in different parts of the world punished these Nigerian democracy and freed fighters in the first half of the last century. They acted at a period when men and women identified with a truly national cause and were prepared to make sacrifice for the common good. This is a vanishing virtue in the land. It will be helpful to summon such a historical fact to encourage the contemporary to pursue common good.
Ghana has recently been offering secure independence from the british colonial rule, Ghana used the occasion to draw attention to the positive lines in its history. The occasion was structures in such a manner that collective reflections involved Africans in the Diaspora. Only last week, Ghana marked the centenary of the birth of the country’s first president, kwame Nkrumah.
A year long programme of activities was launched to draw attention to the historical Nkrumah not just as a Ghanaian national hero but as a Ghanaian national hero but also as a foremost pan Africanist. Form President Attah Mills himself to the ordinary man in the street there is the humanity of view that the true stature of Nkrumah, the hero, should be restored. Such views transcended partisan and ethnic divides in the polity.
And that is perfectly healthy for the national psyche of Ghana. His birthday was marked as the founders day. Boys and girls born decades after the death of Nkrumah mounted the rostrum to eulogise the man who fought not only Ghana’s independence, but who also inspired liberation struggle in other parts of Africa. People extolled Nkrumah’s virtues as the man who gave leadership at the crucial moment of laying the foundation for Ghana’s development.
They remember him as the exponent of African union government and to African union government and the African high command decade before African leaders embraced before African leaders embraced the ideas. Yet the same Nkrumah was overthrown by some military adventures with imperialist support in 1966 and had to remain in exile before he died in Bucharest six years later.
He was accused of dictatorship detention of opponents, violation of human rights and moving the countries towards communism among other sins. However, the memory of Nkrumah looming large today is that of national hero who gave his country leadership in the movement for liberation and helped in laying the foundation for national development.
In a survey by BBC at the turn of the century. Nkrumah was voted as the greatest African of the 20th century. His body has been buried three times in different locations as part of the process of rehabilitation with the present Nkrumah mausoleum becoming a tourist site.
The lesson Ghana is teaching the rest of Africa is threat a nation that aspires towards greatness cannot afford to burry the memories of its heroes with their bodies.
Ghana is rehabilitating Nkrumah largely for his role in its emergence as an independent nation. By the way, Nkrumah in his autobiography acknowledges Nigeria’s Azikiwe as his inspirer. But Azikiwe existed in a nation that does not have time for the memories of its heroes.
The national day should be used to reflect on the positive rolls of the heroes of national independence so as to inspire the succeeding generations.
While governments should be remained of steady power supply , good roads, standard schools and efficient healthcare delivery 49 years after independence, the nation should also draw inspirations form the nationalism of the Azilikwe’s of our history. By extension the succeeding generations of heroes should be acknowledged. There are certainly oases in what many see purely but erroneously as Nigeria’s history with little or not respect.
That is why it carries on as if it is a nation without heroes. If Nigeria learns to celebrate its heroes for the inspiration of the youths, there will be no excuse for making October 1 perpetually a low-key occasion