Celebrating Nigeria @ 50

President-Goodluck-JonathanAll peoples of the world from time to time celebrate one feast or the other in commemoration of some important and significant events in their lives or in honour of some deities. For example, till today, the Jews celebrate the mystery of the crossing of the Red Sea in the Old Testament when God miraculously delivered them from the slavery of Egypt. This also reminds one of the modern Israel’s colourful celebration of its sixty years of nationhood in 2008. It was a worthy celebration given the ordeals it has passed through as a nation. It is on record that a day after the declaration of the state of Israel, there was a declaration of war on the infant nation. The war with Palestine and other Arab nations has so much lingered and the aim has been to exterminate the small Jewish nation. But Israel has survived all these. When they celebrate, one needs not go far to see the causes of their joy. They celebrate, not just survival but success. In agriculture, Israel ranks about the best in the world. In science and technology, they are not lagging behind. In commerce, Israel is there. In the art of warfare, military intelligence and security, Israel is almost unbeatable.

Last two years, at the celebration of Nigeria’s 48th anniversary, I wrote an article, NIGERIA JAGA-JAGA. I took the caption from one of Eedris Abdulkareem’s songs. I also made allusion to the Aba-based comedian, Uche Ogbuagu’s joke where he presented Nigeria as not being far from hell. Today, it is clear that not much has changed. The country is rather getting worse. All rational Nigerians should be asking this one million dollar question: What is Nigeria celebrating at fifty? In so far as I do not want to sound too ethereal, I must say that too much celebration has become a Nigerian trademark. Our people celebrate birth, marriage, ordination, title-taking, awards, political appointments, poll victories and so on. The most nauseating is the celebration of death among our people. Funerals are celebrated as if they would resurrect the dead and they are referred to as ‘befitting funerals’. Many a time, the monies wasted on these celebrations are not easy to come by and some people have to borrow just to celebrate. However, such celebrations afford the teeming hungry and poor Nigerian population the opportunity to have free food and drinks.

For those at the helm of affairs in the country and those who stand to gain from the Nigeria’s Golden Jubilee celebration, there is every reason to celebrate. They celebrate the peaceful transition from civilian to civilian regime for the first time in the country. The other may be successful thirty eight years of military rule. They may celebrate the successful prosecution of the Nigeria-Biafra Civil War just as they can celebrate the Niger-Delta insurgency and the subsequent amnesty granted to the Niger-Delta militants. They may celebrate the massive rigging of elections that brought most of our leaders to office. They may also celebrate the numerous kidnap incidents taking the country hostage right now. All these and many others happened just in fifty years. Congratulations Nigeria!Military Parade at the independence

At the inception of the preparations for the celebration of Nigeria’s Golden Jubilee, the whopping sum of N10b was said to have been budgeted for it. The mere mention of such a huge amount gave some people a very high fever. It took the National Assembly to reduce the budget to N6b, an amount still too big for such a celebration. I do not know if the breakdown of the budget has been given and whether the account of the expenditures will be given afterwards. But I know that celebrating Nigeria’s Golden jubilee is not worth that amount. What and what will be done that day? Yes, we shall have some foreign visitors, and so what? They will be treated to a dinner, have we not heard such before? All these point to the high level of dishonesty and disloyalty in the nation. Believe me, the money will be used to celebrate the roguish contractors and their foreign counterparts and their friends in government who facilitate their winning the contracts. As usual, they will smile to the banks with their pot-bellies and oversized buttocks, stacking the wealth of the whole nation for themselves and their unborn children. Those who bear the crunch of this nonsense are the many poor Nigerians on whose sweat and blood the few rich feed and live. Cry, my beloved Nigeria!

A funny dimension to this celebration is the proposed printing of new N50 notes to mark the jubilee. It was just two years ago that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) came out with the new fifty naira polymer notes. And to accentuate the wild celebration of fifty years, we shall stand up to yet another change. The reprinting of these notes, of course, will be contracted to some foreign company? Can’t someone stop this joke? If we redesign the currency, will it attach more value to our lives? Is this all that we need now that the country is lying on its belly? Again, the insensitivity and selfishness of our so-called leaders are highlighted here. We are just celebrating their bloated ego and not the country.

{div width:250|height:250|float:left}{module Inside Advert|none}{/div}The Federal Government of Nigeria and Abia State Government are standing like castrated bullocks as kidnapping overruns Abia State. The residents of the state are relocating en masse. On 28th September, 2010, the dailies were awash with the report of fifteen school children kidnapped in a school bus in Osisioma, a town in Abia State. This is said to have brought some private school activities to an abrupt end in the state to avoid a similar fate. The kidnappers are demanding the ransom of N40m. What will both the state and federal governments do to revive the hope of the citizens in Nigeria? If care is not taken, those innocent children may be in captivity as the country celebrates its Golden Jubilee. Can a country go celebrating when its children are in bondage?

Though the power supply has insignificantly improved in the recent time, the problem has not been finally solved. Long ago, when the hope of the people began to wane in power supply, the then National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was renamed Never Expect Power Always. When the NEPA died and its ghost was named Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Nigerians quickly invented the names: Problem Has Changed Name and Power Has Come (to) Nothing for the PHCN. Since then, this country never knew any good as regards power supply whereas our neighbouring small countries like Ghana and Niger have been celebrating years of uninterrupted power supply. Yet contracts were awarded for the improvement of power supply in the country. We neither saw the improvement nor the money. And yet, no culprit was brought to book.

The same goes for the Nigerian brand of politics and politicians. As the country prepares for the next year’s general elections, we see those who have contributed to the death of the country, either as military or civilian leaders, coming out to contest for different offices. Some of them are at the background as kingmakers. They believe that with their ill-gotten wealth, they can rig themselves into power. This gives the impression that even after fifty years, the country may still be far away from good governance.

In the same way, the medical sector has collapsed. The rich Nigerians now go to countries like India, Germany, the US and UK for medical treatment. Those who cannot afford the bills die and rot in our hospitals that are glorified mortuaries. Our doctors and other medical practitioners have fled to other countries where they are made useful, thus depriving us the use of our experts. One cannot go on enumerating what is wrong with the country as everything is obviously wrong and we cannot go on like this. Our forefathers who fought for the country’s independence will be weeping in their graves as their efforts and sweat are being disrespected.

The ostentatious celebration and ridiculous spending do not make us the best. The time has come when such monies should be distributed to everybody to celebrate privately in his or her home. In the alternative, we can forgo such celebrations and use the money to provide the teeming Nigerian populace with the basic facilities and generate employment. As things stand now, the country seems to have no bright future. But we hope that God will work through the present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan to bring the much deserved change. With tears in my eyes, I remember the country’s fifty years. With the same tears, I congratulate my fellow citizens for surviving thus far. Those born in the year of Nigeria’s independence are no longer children but adults. Some are grandparents. But Nigeria is still a child at fifty. Cry, my beloved country!

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*Rev. Fr. Clement Muozoba writes from Awka Anambra State.                                                                            

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