Opinion: About That Centenary Celebration

On the 28th of February, the Nigerian Government celebrated 100 years since Nigeria’s amalgamation. You may have seen or heard about preparations for the event both here in the UK and back in Nigeria. I particularly remember the awful sneakers constantly being advertised on Ben TV as part of the merchandise marking the occasion.

For many Nigerians in the UK, the occasion was marked with indifference. I switched the channel from the live coverage of the centenary celebrations on Ben TV after about 30 minutes. I did manage to catch a glimpse of former heads of state including General Muhammadu Buhari, General Badamosi Babangida and General Yakubu Gowon.

I was also still watching as the talented man who designed the Nigerian flag was honoured alongside other deserving awardees such as Chioma Ajunwa, Nigerian artists in the art and literary world etc.

Granted, some of the recipients rejected their awards. Perhaps, it was no surprise when no one turned up to collect Professor Wole Soyinka’s award, nor that of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. Professor Soyinka cited being awarded at the ceremony alongside late Military dictator General Sanni Abacha as his bone of contention.

Now, we can argue back and forth on the wisdom of the award selection committee for including Abacha in the list of awards, but like most arguments regarding Nigeria, everyone would have a justifiable reason for sticking to his/her own side of the story with little chance of either party willing to budge.

Personally, I think it depends on what context these awards were given. Are we honouring Nigerians who have contributed to the nation one way or the other and left their mark in history (for good or bad)? Or are we honouring Nigerians who have made outstanding contributions to the development and growth of the country and made their marks both nationally and globally?

Quite frankly, those who belong in the latter category aren’t that many and most of them would probably not want to have anything to do with these celebrations so you can sort of understand why the former group would have been more prominent at the ceremony.

A lot of people have been asking (especially those who live abroad), what exactly are we celebrating?

Granted, the occasion in itself is worth celebrating but at a time when the country is going through such difficult times in terms of the security and growth, one might argue that there isn’t much to be joyful about.

Not celebrating it though, would mean that we’re not true Nigerians. We’re the happiest people in the world after all, aren’t we?

We smile and pray our way out of adversity and it’s worked for us for many years….at least on an individual level (BBC’s documentary, Welcome to Lagos suddenly comes to mind).

So in true Nigerian spirit, we must celebrate the 100th year of our country’s amalgamation, but as we do so, shouldn’t we at least take time to recognise our short comings instead of pretending all is well? Afterall, we’re not the only country with these challenges and we have seen other countries overcome theirs to become global forces.

Anyone with half a brain knows that Nigeria is more than capable of being a global force. It is the fact that despite all our resources, talent and hardwork, we’re still a country that is essentially a laughing-stock internationally that frustrates and angers a lot of Nigerian youths.

Bringing out that green passport does not exude a sense of pride in us, we hurriedly shove it back into our luggage before anyone guesses our Nationality.

A country that values the lives of the citizens whether they’re rich or poor would have taken the first few moments from this great occasion to respect those who’ve lost their lives (some on that very day) to the current insurgency of Boko Haram.

They would have paid respect to people who died while fighting for the country…like our soldiers.

It would seem everybody else but the people that matter are genuinely worried about Nigeria. For most of us living abroad, we know that the problems Nigeria is facing is not synonymous with just Nigeria, It’s a plague most developing countries both in Africa and Asia are suffering. It’s uncanny how similar we all are in terms of corruption and lack of development.

We still don’t have uninterrupted power supply (something that is crucial if we are to become an economy to be reckoned with), we have some of the highest rates of unemployment in Africa, the standard of living is still well below the accepted global standard and now, we have a big problem in the form of Boko Haram.

Let’s celebrate our centenary anniversary by all means, but let’s also take the opportunity to benchmark our achievements or shortcomings against our goals.

We most certainly are not where we ought to be.

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