John Adams, one of the American founding fathers, prognosticated 238 years ago with uncanny accuracy that America’s Independence Day would be forever celebrated as the great anniversary festival with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of the this continent to the other. As someone who has celebrated ten Independence Days in the U.S., I can attest to the joyous mood, patriotism, and a deep sense of nationalism that takes place throughout America during the 4th of July holiday.
Nigeria, my ancestral home, is a supposedly a sovereign country that also gained her independence from the British Empire 54 years ago today. But the juxtaposition of United States and Nigeria with regard to their respective independence saddens my heart. While Americans celebrate their independence, most Nigerians regret theirs.
One of the legal luminaries Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) loudly echoed the drumbeat of regret a couple of years ago when he stated that he would have opposed Nigeria’s independence in 1960, if he had the clout that he enjoys now back then. Chief Afe Babalola further stated that colonial masters could have better utilized Nigeria’s oil in ways that would have generated economic prosperity for all Nigerians.
I applaud the courage of men such Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa that fought for Nigeria’s independence. But given the diminution of decency, morality, public ethic by all standards, and the pervasiveness of lack of humanity dignity in Nigeria after our independence, one can safely conclude that those who fought for our freedom only knew what they were fighting against, but not what they were fighting for.
The aforementioned illustrious sons of Nigeria got what they fought for- “Freedom” but there was no roadmap for success to lead us to a place of unity, peace, dignity, and economic prosperity after we secured our freedom. For this reason, we have compromised the freedom that they have worked so hard to gain.
Can we create the vision that we desperately need to move us into a different future? Do we have the ability to create the roadmap for success that will restore our virtuous quest for freedom from not only colonial influence but every other nation state that means Nigeria harm? Overwhelmingly, my answer here is yes! We do have what it takes to change our current reality and produce exceptional outcomes for our children and our children’s children. But the question that remains is what it will take to achieve this honorable aspiration? Good leadership! The good news is that the actualization of economic decency that can translate into human dignity for Nigerians in all strata of life is not a pipedream if we have a different kind of leadership. We need leaders of integrity, morality, ambition, gumption, and vision governing the affairs of Nigeria if we are genuinely concerned about achieving this noble goal.
We not only need a different kind of leadership, but we need a different kind of citizenry. We need Socratic citizenship where people see it as their duty to hold leaders accountable for what they say and do. We need people who will not be afraid to question the actions of our decision makers, and who themselves can participate in the process of subscribing who and what they want our beloved country to be. Such goes against the grain of what we are most familiar with, but familiar isn’t working – let’s opt for something different and become thinking citizens. “The power to question is the basis of all human progress”- Indira Gandhi