Yeah we are 49 going on 50 – chronicles of an underachiever

October 1 1960 – the union jack was lowered as it leaves us for the final time and the green – white – green of the free nation soared high in the sky. Our nationalists and heroes were finally vindicated and their hopes were raised to the heavens thinking their labours of the past will not be in vain. The road to independence was filled with a lot of struggles especially from the acclaimed group of intellectuals that fought the British to a standstill not necessarily with guns but solid ideologies. Little wonder that the products of the political class that evolved from that time were great men both upstairs and in deeds. Anthony Enahoro, Obafemi Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikwe, et al till today occupy a fond space in our memories till date.

Our flag represented Agriculture from the green land we are excessively blessed with while the white part connotes the peace and brotherhood expected of us. God bless Pa Akinkunmi for that great representation. Agriculture provided a massive export economy for Nigeria. It is interesting to note that we were not only known for our cocoa in the West but also for the groundnut pyramid in the north as well as rubber from the East. Those were the days of true federalism when each region worked hard to make something good come out of their midst. Obafemi Awolowo was a worthy premier in the west and so was Akintola. Even the regional houses of assembly were a model and competition was fierce for seats in those days.

It is very easy to know that Nigeria’s degradation did not start in one day. It was a gradual decomposition that engulfed us due to a number of factors. Ethnicity was the first culprit in this mess. The first coup by the Nigerian military and the next one which happened within a few months of each other was precipitated by ethnic sentiments. We then welcomed the commercial drilling of crude oil with its attendant big revenue. Our sitting head of state saw too much money and he famously made the statement about us having money but not knowing what to do with it.

This era signalled the beginning of the end of our other thriving export commodities like agriculture and mining. Everyone was interested in the oil boom. The Federal government saw the booty and decided to destroy our federalism by appropriating all the proceeds to the center. That was a milestone in Nigeria’s history. I have noticed a syndrome in the black man and I have been praying to God to heal me and all of us of that disease. We lack the ability to simulate the future. We fail to understand that most of our decisions now even if they are gratifying for us as individuals can destroy a nation. I am quite sure most past heads of state would look back today and realize they started the destruction many years ago.

A country that does not look back to its past can never move forward. Decisions made in those days are the ingredients that contributed to the finished product we have today. It is interesting that 20 years ago, we looked back and said things were not this bad. 10 years ago was the same story. Today we mark the 49th independent anniversary of our nation and the only thing on my mind is that we are just 12 months away from our golden jubilee. And I am wondering what the story will be then.

Look around the country and you are faced with same stories of fading hope and distress. It is getting increasingly bad with each day. Best Ogedegbe, who was the green eagles (as super eagles were called then) first choice goalkeeper when Nigerian won the 1st of its only 2 nations cup died in UCH on Monday. It took an eye problem which he wanted to treat to diagnose a brain tumor. Even if he was diagnosed earlier; are there facilities to treat the man? Do we even have adequate health insurance? No. In a good country, a man of Best’s status does not need the state government to pay his hospital bills because his health insurance covers for it.

I am also angry at the middle class as well as the poor who don’t even know that the key to making Nigeria work lie with them. This group of people will still not come out to register for elections when the time comes. Or some even support the thieves during the elections forgetting that it will still affect them or their kids in the future. When change came to France in the 18th century; it was due to the masses that were suppressed for a long time by the powerful and rich. I sense we are about to come to a point when a collective anger will suffice in Nigeria. We are very close to that point now and I don’t support violence but alternative ways of getting what we want. We can resist rigging by petitioning the INEC from now. By turning out to register and subsequently voting at the elections. 1 Million bad people cannot continue pushing us into abyss – 140 million people can decide to defeat the minority in their dirty game. Yes we can.

If you are one of those who think things have not gone so bad, please look at the sorry state of our sport. We have been relegated to the stands and the football that used to make us happy is also a thing of sadness for us now. It is not that we don’t have good footballers but I think this is a way of telling us that nothing is working in our country and a total overhaul is needed to bring change. And also remember that ASUU is still on strike and Nigeria is hosting the world for the U-17 world cup which might be disrupted by NANS. Can you blame them? No. Isn’t it weird that Mr. President who most likely did not pay a dime throughout his glorious educational pursuit is so insensitive to the plight of the Nigerian students who have to go through under-funded universities?

Nigerians do not need much from their leaders. We only need a human face to the whole episode. We need leaders who are ready to work for progress. We understand that things have gone so bad but we know that the journey to redemption can start today. We need leadership that can put a stop to corruption in every way not just by an anti-corruption agency but via effective means and leadership by example. We don’t need feeble point agenda but a real effort towards changing things around.

Even though the story is not so nice today as we clock 49, but there is hope as we still bask in the euphoria of the achievements of men like Governor Babatunde Raji Fasola in Lagos State. We are also confident that many Nigerian youths are still committed to change and are ready to stake all to achieve a new Nigeria. We will not put our pen and mouth to rest but continually excite our peers and even elders about the need to bring about change. And one day, very soon – change will definitely happen.

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