Nigeria at 54- The Good, The Bad and the Downright Ugly

by Dayo Laniyan

 

Is there anything worth celebrating on Nigeria’s Independence day? Our News and entertainment reporter Dayo Laniyan analyses both sides of the argument.

 

The state of Nigeria has now reached its 54th birthday, in celebration of its independence from British colonial rule in 1960 today. Of course, standing on its own two feet has not been the easiest task in the world, with our independent history starting with the Nigerian Civil War and leading to numerous military coups. It has been a long road for Nigeria to finally reach democracy, setting itself up for economic and social prosperity.

However, is there anything to celebrate this year? President Goodluck Jonathan certainly thinks so:

“The first one hundred years were marked by triumphs and tribulations, benefits and burdens, opportunities and challenges. We made some far reaching advances in building a strong, united and prosperous nation. We also overcame the forces of disunity that culminated in a debilitating civil war. We have also renewed our faith in one another, and in our country. We have also renewed our faith in one another, and in our country. We have proven that we are truly a resilient nation.”

However, former governor of Lagos state, Asiwaji Bola Tinubu thinks differently, saying in a statement titled A Return to Decency:

“We commemorate this Independence Day because the nation has survived despite its many challenges. We dare not celebrate because the nation has not flourished as it should. Fifty four years our national trek began with hopes of promise, peace and unity.

“Today, the nation staggers beneath the weight of trouble multiplied by hardship. Peace and unity seem to have yielded the moment to violence and discord. We exist as a political unit on a map but we do not prosper as brothers and sisters in one nation, under one flag and pursuant to one accord.”

Looking at the country through British eyes and British media, it’s not very hard to come to the same conclusion. For months now the news concerning Nigeria has been full of tales of woe and embarrassment: Perhaps the biggest thorn in the side has been the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, who continue their aim to carve out an Islamic Caliphate out of north-east Nigeria.

It has been a constant sight of embarrassment for the Nigerian government and military, with soldiers either fleeing the border or refusing to fight outright, and supporters of Goodluck Jonathan making the poor decision to spin the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to promote the President’s election campaign. A bad move, since the majority of the abducted schoolgirls are still in captivity with no real attempt made at rescue.

On top of that, Nigeria has currently been pulled into the group of countries affected by what is now the world’s worst Ebola outbreak. Although there are not many casualties, it has caused a lot of social damage, with both doctors and teachers poised to strike on the grounds of not being properly equipped for the outbreak. Even today, apparently the general celebration that usually happens in football stadiums cannot even go through anymore because of infection risks.

Add in the Nigerian Football Federation election scandal that almost denied the national football team a place in the African Cup of Nations, it would be easy to assume that this has been a bleak time for the country, and hard to assume that things can get better.

However, it has not been all doom and gloom for Nigeria this year. Recently, the Nigerian military have made progress against Boko Haram, killing one of the men that impersonated the group’s leader, and overseeing the surrender of 260 militants.  As for the Ebola outbreak, although a social crisis, the virus has mostly been contained with. Nigeria is still titled the “Giant of Africa”, because it stands out from its neighbours in two fronts:  Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, with about 174million people living within; and the largest economy (GDP), being worth more than $500billion, and being ranked among the “Next Eleven”, economies that are set to become the biggest in the world.

And need we mention the ever growing Nollywood film industry, currently the 2nd biggest in the world?

So with all this in mind, with what expression shall we in Britain and Nigeria look to the future of the country that we came from? With anticipation, or dread?

In this moment in time, it’s so difficult to say anything except this: We are on the precipice of something big.

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