I wonder what the general feeling was in Nigeria on October 1, 1960? We all know there was a huge celebration countrywide thanks to archived footage; but what did it all mean to the individuals celebrating? When they were clinking their bottles of beer, what did they say cheers to?
This year’s Independence day celebration really got me thinking about what must have happened in 1960. Maybe because it has been our cheapest Independence day yet; so it was basically no celebration. Last year, billions of Naira was spent on all the pomp but it was cur down this year to a measly 70 million. My sister who lives in the capital city, Abuja said, the difference was extremely clear; everywhere looked boring and ordinary. The previous year was colorful, noisy and all kinds of decoration were on display. I saw (yes, saw) the silence, all the way from Jos and that made me reflect.
And when something really hits me, a movie related to my general thought process begins to play in my head. Now my final question after analyzing the situation is, did Nigerians of 1960 feel Independent or did they feel Free? Let the movie comparison begin…
Today’s feature film is Mel Gibson’s, Braveheart. If you haven’t watched Braveheart, you are missing out on a good deal. This is basically the story of how the Scotland sought and fought for liberation from oppressive Englishmen. It is a film about the first Scottish war of independence. The Scots wanted to liberate themselves from King Edward I of England. William Wallace was the gang leader in this fight and a very inspiring man. What plays over and over in my head and heart however is the last shot of William Wallace, after all the wars, the fighting and just before he was beheaded. Wallace uses his last strength and energy to shout freedom in a way that reverberates, it seems throughout the country and into the hearts of his people and mixed with a little fear into the heart of King Edward I.
Nigeria at that time was nothing like Scotland fighting for freedom but every time I watch the archived footage of the Independence day celebration of October 1st 1960, it seems we ‘partied’ a bit too hard; like we were celebrating freedom not independence.
This year, while taking stock of this country and all the mess going on in it, I have come to the conclusion that we had no clue what independence was about; because if we did then we would have been ready, put in a lot more work and not be anywhere near where we are now.
The first step on the road to true independence will not make you too celebratory. Yes, you may have that heady feeling of finally being your own boss but the fear of the unknown punches you in the gut almost immediately. Essentially because a person wanting independence is really saying, “I am taking sole responsibility for EVERYTHING!” This means successes and failures are all on you; this is daunting, I should know. I burnt all my bridges after studying Geology and Mining to become a writer and a filmmaker; no job applications for me! The harsh reality hit soon enough and I had to make all the necessary adjustments.
This is something Nigeria hasn’t done. We have made zero to no adjustments about our independent state. We are the most dependent independent nation. This mindset is very evident in our discussions and comments as individuals. It is commonplace to see our leaders scampering to other world leaders for help . The irony or paradox of this situation is, we are usually the first on the scene to help other African countries but we can’t seem to help ourselves.
The citizens of Nigeria on the other hand seem to want the government or God to help in every type of situation. It is normal that certain things are expected from the government but when you watch the national news and hear the things people expect the government to work on, it almost seems like a joke. It is more ridiculous when they use the term ‘help’. The government is not expected to do its job but expected to help. “Government should please help us!” is a common expression on the national news. Does this even sound like something that should be coming out of the mouths of independent people?
There was a running joke in my house that whenever something happens we will shout, “Government do something, help us!”. If the neighbors were having a noisy party, “Government do something, help us!”, even a mosquito bite could elicit a, “Government do something, help us!”.
Freedom is a wild, carefree, indulgent feeling and on October 1st 1960, I will argue that Nigerians celebrated freedom from the British not Independence.
To make this nation great again, we must have an Independence education and sensitization program. As a country, both leaders and citizens, we must fully understand what it means to be independent and what that involves.
After all this is done, then we have to declare a new independence day from the old Nigeria. This will be a day where Nigeria and Nigerians acknowledge being independent and accept the responsibility that comes with it.
Here is to hoping…cheers!