Freedom or Independence?

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!

 

THE GIFTS THAT ‘JOS’ KEEPS GIVING.

Most of the exceptionally talented and successfully people in Nigeria have had a Jos connection.They were either born and raised in Jos, went to school in Jos or have parents and relations whose roots and origins are in Jos. Needless to say they have been touched in some way by the tin city.

I guess with that in mind, I can boldly say Jay city, J-town, Jay-town, however we choose to call it on any given day is the best city in Nigeria, right? Can I get a heck yeah!

So color me extremely surprised when people ask me with pure judgment questions like, “How can you stay in Jos? there is nothing there.”, “Why would ever leave Lagos for Jos? No opportunity is there”, “Aren’t you all killing yourselves in Jos? you want to die young abi?” and on and on it goes.

First of all, can I be the one to answer your questions? Geez! Nobody waits for an answer, they all feel they know my town better because they watch the news and read the papers.

Anyway, these conversations I have found have not only happened to me. A lot of people in Jos that have made the decision not to migrate but stay, work and hopefully restore glory back to our beautiful town have also been asked the same questions.

So in honor of the mocked, despised and ridiculed like me, I want to share with the world a few reasons why we do not want to leave our small town of Jos. This is coming from a former road runner and restless traveler, so I think I have some kind of authority on this issue.

Hopefully when you are done reading, you will gain some insight into our talents, creativity and ability to stand out within the crowd.

SIDE NOTE: No, it doesn’t have anything to do with breathing the cold mountain air, although this is totally debatable.

PRESENTING, THE GIFTS OF JOS!

1) THE GIFT OF TIME: There must be a mysterious phenomena that deals with time. Yes, we all have 24 hours in a day but I believe time moves differently in different places. When I worked in Lagos, no matter how fast I tried to work, I just never have enough time (time wasted sitting in traffic included). In Jos, however, it seems time just moves slower and whatever I have to do in a day, I always get done (procrastination excluded). May be it has to do with the general personality of the people within an area. Perhaps this writes the rule on time for them. And since we aren’t hurried people, we get more time. I know it can’t be explained like that rule that says the more you give the more you get. This is why by the time Jos people go somewhere else, we seem more ‘cooked’ and developed in our skill.

2) THE GIFT OF AVAILABLE RESOURCES: Someone is always willing to help you with whatever you need to get along. I know a lot of musicians whose first guitars were gifts. They were also given free music lessons and free access to studios and equipment. You really don’t need to have all the tools you need to get started in Jos. My cousin and I are huge beneficiaries of this gift. We have made about 10 short films out of the sheer generosity of Jos people giving of their time, resources and energy. Not once, did we make a film because we had all the money to do it.

3) THE GIFT OF GENEROSITY: Although this is closely tied to the previous gift but it is worth mentioning as a stand alone. Hey! Naysayers!!! I present to you the most under-reported news item; you are not going to see this on your TV and in your newspapers. Jos people are truly generous with what they have. Sometimes it is not much but they are more than willing to share or even sacrifice. To get us moving on our dream of making films and having our own time and space to work, someone generously paid our first office rent, just to encourage us. And I know a lot of people in Jos that have been beneficiaries of this type of generosity.

4)THE GIFT OF AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS: When I worked in Lagos, I used to set my timer on meeting someone for the first time. The aim was to see how long i would have to wait before they said,”you know when I was in the UK”. Nobody went above 30 minutes. Is it wrong for someone to let me know they had been to the UK? Nope. But it’s surely hilarious to watch them try to connect and justify including the information in a conversation that didn’t require it. I don’t know about other people but the moment I meet a person, I begin to search for some kind of connection or some common ground. And it is beyond what you have or where you have been; for me, it is based on what your life is about. And when that agenda is immediately taken off the table because one party want to paint a perfectly empty picture of their lives then…we can’t be friends. Trust me, I try to steer the conversation in that direction but any topic I raise is swiftly converted into an opportunity to brag or show foreignness; a validation that I don’t feel I need. Do we not have these kinds of people in Jos? We do. But it is such a small town, they have been spotted and are on the ‘wanted and avoid at all cost’ list.

And lastly, the most important one.

5) THE GIFT OF FEELING LIKE YOU BELONG TO ONE BIG HUMONGOUS FAMILY: We are all cousins in Jos; especially on the Plateau Indigene side of things. And God bless you if you have an Ngas, Berom, Ankwai/Quanpan or Mwaghavul Mother; you automatically have thousands of cousins. If you are not cousins with someone then you are cousins with their cousin! Haha but we are somehow related by blood, by marriage and by friendship. This is the biggest blessing of all because there are so many people looking out for you.

I know there are people out there that will and could argue my points to the ground, so calling on all critics and naysayers, feel free to drop your own two kobo in the comments section. And before you begin the accusations; Yes! I maybe a bit biased. How does it go again? North or south, east or west, home is definitely the best!