By Emma Iheaka
By this time in 1960, the euphoria of freedom was still pervading in Nigeria. The ecstasy was still on. The hullabaloo was yet to subside. There was still fun and joy in the land, joy of victory over dependency. The atmosphere was charged.
I was not there. But those who witnessed the exhilaration, the independence frenzy told us. The people were elated. Shouts of joy and freedom rent the air. It was a realisation of the people’s desires and aspirations. The people had suffered a lot under strangle-hold by the British colonial masters. They had long desired for a country of their own, controlled by themselves and for themselves.
The dream came to fulfilment on October 1, 1960. Nigeria became an independent country. The people had every reason to celebrate. To the majority, it was the dawn of a new era. The beginning of genuine nation building. There was high hope and great zeal for a better Nigeria. The kind of hope and jubilation that greeted the election of Owelle Rochas Okorocha as governor of Imo State last year.
Like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and others laboured for Nigeria’s independence, the people of Imo State craved and gallantly fought for the emergence of Owelle Okorocha as governor. When Okorocha was declared governor on May 7, 2011, the people rejoiced as Nigerians did in 1960. There was wide spread jubilation in Imo State. The people could not contain their joy. I remember a seasoned journalist, the Editor of Nigeria Newspoint Newspaper, Gele Agbai describing the situation as the triumph of the people.
Since 1960, there has been the commemoration of the Nigeria’s independence. While some believe the country’s leaders have failed, hence no need for any celebration, some others believe celebration is worthwhile. This group will troop to stadia to celebrate the independence anniversary. They also hold parties in honour of the country’s independence. This year, as usual, parties were held in celebration of the country’s independence.
While the parties were going on this year, I was wondering what the people were actually celebrating. I could not convince myself on the cause for celebration. Some people say the celebration had to do with the Nigeria’s unity, its sovereignty. It had to do with the fact that Nigeria has remained one as a country despite the challenges. But does Nigeria’s unity worth celebrating? When members of the terror group in the North, Boko Haram are killing people every day. The terrorists are fed up with the unity of the country.
However, comic actor, John Okafor, alias Mr. Ibu was the one that gave the right reason behind celebration of the country’s independence anniversary. Mr. Ibu was at this year’s party in celebration of the country’s independence anniversary at the Ibari Ogwa Village Owerri, Imo State. In an interview, the actor said they were only making themselves happy. According to him, since the country’s leaders have refused to better the lot of the people, the people had decided to make themselves happy. In other words, the Independence Day party was just an opportunity for the people to enjoy themselves, for merry-making, not really a celebration of the country.
But the fact is that I am waiting for the Nigeria I will celebrate. I don’t know when that Nigeria will be. But I have hope that it will surely come to be. A Nigeria where one can stay at home or walk round the streets without hearing deafening sounds of generating sets and inhaling dangerous fumes. A Nigeria devoid of environmental pollution due to erratic power supply, or is it lack of electricity? I mean a Nigeria that can boast of constant power supply like its West African neighbour, Ghana. A Nigeria where Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) will not bill consumers whether they consume electricity or not. It does not matter whether you received service, or not. What matters is that you have to pay.
I wish to celebrate a Nigeria where pupils and students will not study in dilapidated schools. A Nigeria whose public schools will not be abandoned. Strikes have become part of the curriculum of public schools in the present Nigeria due to negligence of the welfare of the teachers and learners. Records show that there are about 17,000 Nigerians studying in universities in Ghana. They pay not less than N160 billion as tuition fees in the universities. Children and wards of those holding political positions in Nigeria constitute bulk of these Nigerian students in Ghana. If a whopping N160 billion is invested in Nigeria’s education sector, you can imagine the transformation that will be witnessed in the sector.
I will celebrate a Nigeria where there will be constant water supply and not one where governments will fail to provide water and yet tax citizens who have decided to provide water for themselves. A Nigeria in which political leaders will abide by their words, not a Nigeria where leaders will scheme to deceive their subjects. Let me even ask, where are the vehicles the federal government led by President Goodluck Jonathan displayed in Abuja as part of the palliative measures to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal? Where are the ones that belong to Imo state? We only watched the vehicles on television. This is not the Nigeria I will celebrate.
I will celebrate a Nigeria where the hospitals are well equipped. A Nigeria in which its citizens will not have to travel to South Africa and other developed climes to get good medical care. I cannot celebrate a Nigeria that its governments have refused to equip the hospitals to tackle life threatening ailments and yet cannot sponsor citizens of the country to receive medical treatment abroad when critically ill. A case in point is that of Master Chibuike Okafor who was diagnosed of cancer of the eye. The six-year old boy who hails from Amaifeke in Orlu was given 15 days to live. It’s now over a month, but God is still sustaining the boy. Master Okafor needs only about N3 million to travel to India for treatment.
Appeal had been made to Governor Okorocha, political office holders, groups and individuals. But the money is yet to be raised and the boy’s condition is worsening. I had expected the state government to release the money urgently for the boy’s life to be saved. If it means sacrificing one project to rescue Master Okafor, it is worth it. Saving life is more important than whatever project the governor could embark on. No caring father will have one of his children critically ill that needs to be healed and he will abandon him in order to invest in other projects. Any father who does it is not worth being a father. Until political leaders in the clime begin to think and act like a responsible father does in a family, Nigeria will not be better.
I will celebrate a Nigeria whose governments will not allow roads to collapse like the roads in Aba, the commercial nerve-centre of Abia State. A Nigeria whose leaders will not be insensitive to the plight of the people. I will celebrate a Nigeria where life is sacred. A Nigeria where improvised explosive devices will not explode anytime, any day and anywhere. A Nigeria where human beings are not traded for ransom. This is the Nigeria I will celebrate. And I hope we will achieve this Nigeria someday.
When I see the giant strides of the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola and that of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, I get optimistic that soon I will have cause to celebrate Nigeria. I commend Fashola for sponsoring the tenancy bill that has become a law in Lagos State. Such an act depicts a governor who is actually thinking about the people’s welfare