Friday, October 01, 2010

Nigeria's 50th anniversary of independence

Nigeria celebrates it's 50th anniversary of independence from colonial rule today. The government is marking the occasion with some celebrations and parades, however most people don't have much to celebrate and some have used the occasion for terrorism.

Nigeria is a country that has a lot of oil wealth, yet many people remain poor. Only a few people make money off of the oil, and that money is mostly stored in off-shore bank accounts and never gets put back into the nation's economy. This has created a lot of anger and some people resort to violence to fight it.

So despite the celebrations of independence, Nigeria remains a poverty wrecked country, and the events of today only highlight the dilemma.

From this Associated Press article that we found at WBOC, writer Bashir Adigun describes the terrorism.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main militant group in the country's oil-rich southern delta, had threatened to attack the festivities and warned people to stay away.

"For 50 years, the people of the Niger Delta have had their land and resources stolen from them," the group said in a statement. While Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is oil rich most people live on less than $1 a day. The delta is very impoverished and polluted from spills.

A third and smaller explosion hit a venue at Eagle Square where President Goodluck Jonathan stood with other dignitaries, about a 10-minute walk from where the car bombs detonated. A security agent was apparently injured in that explosion.

Friday's attacks would be among the militants' boldest yet, striking in Nigeria's capital during an event with heavy security held hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the delta.

The car bombings seemed designed to lure first-responders and then kill them with a second blast. Five minutes after the first vehicle exploded, the second went off, killing at least seven people, a police officer told an Associated Press reporter at the scene. At least one of the dead was a policeman, the officer said. The officer spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The Guardian has this round up of some of the comments regarding Nigeria's 50th anniversary. Writer Claire Provost says that Nigeria has little to celebrate in regards to development.

But, looking around the web, the commentary on Nigeria's golden jubilee has a less triumphant air, much like Nigeria's mixed progress on the millennium development goals (MDGs). As Ike Okonta writes on our Comment is free site: "Nigerians don't quite know how best to mark the 50th anniversary of their country's independence".

The Nigerian Compass reports the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, as saying that the country's success in remaining "one nation" over the past 50 years – enduring decades of disunity, civil war, and over 30 years of military rule – is an achievement in itself.

But as the anniversary falls little over a week after the UN MDG summit in New York, and as the country faces elections in January 2011, much of the commentary on Nigeria's anniversary focuses less on independence and more on its development progress.

A recent report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) reported that the proportion of Nigeria's population living on less than $1.25 a day rose from 49% to 77% between 1990 and 2008.

In the run-up to the MDG summit, ActionAid reported that 26% of Nigerian children are malnourished, and that Nigeria would need until at least 2025 to meet the MDG target to halve child hunger.

"For a country endowed with such rich and fertile soils and Africa's largest oil reserves, it should be doing much better," said the NGO.

Finally, an outstanding commentary on where Nigeria stands 50 years into independence. Sam Aweda, a President of the Jesus for the World Revival Mission says in his piece for NigeriaWorld that some things were actually better in 1960.

Our fellow Countrymen in Politics have turned the rest of us into slaves, beggars and sycophants in our own land; a situation that was unheard of even when we were colonized.

The Politicians have beaten their fellow Citizens, hands and pants down to submission. Worse, Citizens in their hardship and poverty still hail their politicians as the best that could happen to them if only to have some crumbs that fall out of their (Feudal Lords) tables.

They know that their Politicians are nothing but thieves and robbers and confess it in private but in public, speak, write, and paint them in glowing pictures when really they know in their hearts that they are lying.

It is now a common occurrence for citizens to place their paintings and those of their Politicians side by side, by the road sides with inscriptions such as "Mr. A or Governor B, "God sent" or "Legend of our time"" when really the hands of the Government is not felt by the majority; the roads are impassible, the health care facilities are in shambles, School walls are in dilapidation, Classrooms have no chairs and tables for pupils, Potable water is inexistence, it is noise of improvised electricity (generators) that fills the whole air, day and night.

Not many people in my age group will ever believe that the Nigeria we knew when we were growing up will ever degenerate into what we are witnessing today in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 2,010 A.D.

I was there on October 1 1960. I took part in the School parade that ushered in, the much anticipated Independence from the Colonial rule. All school children across from Ipee to Erinle etc gathered at the Offa Grammar School athletic and Soccer playing ground proudly displaying our small green white green flag in excitement.

The outgoing Colonial rulers of the British Government had created the Central and Regional Systems of Government.

These various Governments (Central and Regional) were steadily building the necessary infrastructures in their areas of command. Roads were being constructed, linking cities and villages. Potable water was being supplied in scattered places. The same with electricity. These two utilities (water and electricity) were available though mainly in the big towns. The potable water might not be available in the individual homes, but there were public taps in most cases within 15 - 20 minutes walk, which could be collected in buckets. The development could be said to be progressing gradually. This is in spite of the fact that, there was no oil revenue. Revenue from agricultural produce was all that were depended upon.

The legacy of commitment, dedication, honesty, hard work and careful planning, which the Colonial Masters bequeathed to the native people who took over the reign of the various Governments lasted for some time. People did the job for which they received their salaries cheerfully without expecting any extra reward (gratification). Of course, there were those who demanded for it but it was not a common occurrence of the magnitude, which we are seeing today. Cheating, bribery and extortion were not frequent. In fact, bribery or gratification was done very carefully and with fear because if caught, both the giver and the receiver had had it.

During this period, which is being talked about, there were various foreign Church Missions, which were establishing themselves in the country. They were developing the country along side with the Government, especially in the area of education and health. Communities were also tasking themselves in building High Schools. These High Schools, whether managed by the Government or by the Church Missions or by the Communities were modest, but a beauty to behold. The ambition of any child was to look forward to the day when he would be enrolled in any of the schools and wear the school's blazer.

With time, the Government took over the management of all the schools, including those that were owned by the Church Missions but it failed to maintain them, instead left them in dilapidation and pathetic state till date. This is in spite of the big revenue that came from oil afterwards.

About 12 years ago, I was driving my daughter back to her University Campus one early morning after she visited home when I noticed some young damsels emerging from the shrubs inside the campus. I inquired from my daughter what was happening. She laughed as she was providing me with answer. The taps were most of the time dry and so there was no water in the closets. So, everyone had devised alternative means to ease him/herself in what, in the students' slang was called "Bush attack". I was moved with pity and I commented that, "If you students have the opportunity of viewing as in a video what University life used to be in this country up to the mid 1970's, you will riot in the magnitude that it would be difficult to quench".

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