Category: sunday column Written by Murtala OPoola Hits: 4011
--Good day here and up Nigeria!--You surely pick your time to pay a visit, at midday when you know my ‘’swallow’’ would soon make its appearance from the kitchen, you saunter in with a mischievous grin on your face.
--At mid life when you should have done away with the mean and selfishness of your youth and make the values of ‘’love your brother as yourself’’ as a creed, you have refused to change, rather you are entering your twilight years as an embittered old man always going against cherished African ethics of showing the visitor respect and compassion.
--Save me the sermon. Our fore-fathers did not mean visitors like you who always come visiting during meal times. Anyway, what are you upbeat about, Up Nigeria for what? Have you found another victim to swindle?
---I have told you I am a good and reputable businessman, who do honest to God business and I take exception to the slur and aspersion you are throwing at me as a 419ner. Anyhow, my upbeat mood is on account of Nigeria’s centenary celebration. Boy! A hundred years of continuous existence as a country is no mean achievement. What do you say?
---Me? Why do you want me to say anything? You go ask those whose decision it is to celebrate Lord Lugard’s amalgamation of the various administrative entities that were cobbled together to become Nigeria in 1914. They certainly must have good reasons which common men like us cannot fathom for committing us to another celebration so soon after we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence in 2011 at a whopping cost of 10 billion naira.
---Now, when you talk like this it is obvious you are against the centenary celebration. But I tell you this time around you are mistaken. People like you feel the way you feel because of the word ‘celebration’ that is used to describe the whole idea. According to my understanding, if you are thinking of the usual parade of military and para-military organizations marching up and down with the accompaniment of martial music, then you are off the mark. Government is marking the occasion in a novel way; it plans to build a new city gate in Abuja and another new capital city entirely that will be the envy of Brazilia, the capital of Brazil as well as providing the universities with state of the arts computers and communication apparatuses and many more.
See, it is all very well. I have read what fares being peddled to justify the decision, including refurbishing state capitals to make them spanking new. Let me say however that I am all for ‘’putting out more flags,’’ to adopt the title of Evelyn Waugh’s novel on patriotism, in the name of our dear motherland Nigeria. if it will make some people to sleep well in the night. What worries me however is for otherwise normal people to think we could be treated like kindergarten children incapable of evaluating issues on their merits. Pray, the yearly independence celebration which, thankfully was rescued from being jettisoned for Democracy Day in importance during Baba Iyabo’s tenure, encapsulates fittingly the recognition and ennobling of Nigeria as a homeland which should occupy an emotional space in the heart of every patriotic person. Independence Day should have no rival date in importance, anything contrary should be treated as a travesty. My point therefore is that all those things itemized to be done could still be done in their own right without attaching them to amalgamation celebration. The centenary matter will have meaning if we could roll out tangible accomplishments like a made in Nigeria vehicle, ship or airplane. Or if our teaching hospitals routinely admit and do cutting edge medical wonders, the type that Nigerians go abroad to do. And ABU, UI, Unilag, Nsukka and Ife attract students from all over the world as other universities abroad do. That would be enough indication that the nation has done well in its centenarian. But if after 100 years, all we are insisting on is to refurbish our universities with new but imported communication gadgets or build a new city from scratch, even when existing ones need renewal, then it makes one wonder.
---Your point is taken. But you should also realize that Nigeria has to be justified and constantly revalidated, lest we let our guards down and endanger it as we are currently witnessing. Hence every available opportunity should be utilized to hold it up as sacrosanct and inviolable and an indivisible entity. That is surely what we are trying to do with the centenary of amalgamation. But I agree with you we must move away from shadow boxing and begin to grapple with the issue of concretely showcasing tangible achievements. To do that would amount to paying proper homage to it.
---Now you are talking. India, Malaysia, Indonesia, not to even talk about South Korea—all started off just about the same time with Nigeria. The TATA Group has turned India into a motor manufacturing country, Infosys-headed by Nanekani Ramachandra has made a giant leap in communication engineering and of course, open heart surgery is done routinely in its downtown clinics and Nigerians constitute a sizeable number of their patients. But none of these countries make much ado about the date of their inception; not because they put less store on them, but because they know those dates would remain mere dates unless concrete and tangible achievements of universal value could be pointed at as the outcome of all those years.
---Well. We’ll get there one day. Someday some purposeful government would emerge, which will drag Nigeria out of its slumber, much like what Lenin and Stalin did to the then Soviet Union when necessity of survival stared it starkly in the face. In the meantime, let the ceremony continue complete with the attendant ariya and merry making. Government has made it known that the whole programme would be private sector driven, let me rush to submit my proposal of intent, there is money to be made. Good day my friend and happy centenary celebration.
--- Good luck with your proposal and remember not to abscond with the mobilization fee, because if you do I’ll be the first to hunt you down or is it smoke you out from under your madam’s skirt!