Nigeria`s sixty-second independence anniversary brings with it a rush of memory; a clear and distinct sense of nostalgia on what could have been for the Giant of Africa; of a prodigious potential that has not been fulfilled; of an incomparable opportunity gone begging; and of an indescribable sense of a loss at a lost promise. There appears to be quite a lot to rue when one considers that Africa`s great hope has failed to really kick off and become the shining light that many predicted at independence.
Teething problems which included a brutally bloody civil war were expected to be the dying of the seed which necessarily and naturally predicts its sprouting and flowering. However, it is with sighs of disappointment that Nigerians who were around before independence and those born into the suffocating struggle since then have continued to greet the passage of each mediocre year marked by stagnation. There has been frustration, desperation and no little despair.
Failed leadership and complicit followership
If Nigeria was an animate and animated storyteller able to tell its story by itself, that story of course would be one full of the highs and lows that would mark the life of anyone or anything which has been around for sixty-two years.
In Nigeria`s case, it will be a story replete with the tragic failure of leadership that has seen a country that was once Africa`s great hope become its great pain. It would also be a story featuring the many instances when robust followership has failed to come alive in Nigeria to put a complacent leadership under enough pressure to force change.
It remains a mammoth misfortune that every year especially in the last seven years under the All Progressives Congress, whenever Nigeria`s independence anniversary comes around, those who use such annual opportunities to reflect on the journey of the country so far have nothing to compare but wounds and nothing to tell but old, painful tales rehashed until the long-suffering citizens of Nigeria need to be relieved of them.
Whenever the chronicles of the cancers that have eaten away at Nigeria in last sixty-two years are opened, the Nigerian military will find conspicuous chapters ascribed to it. That in the last seven years, Nigeria has huffed and puffed to little effect under someone who once ruled Nigeria in a military capacity, has forced the country to remember that a country that was still struggling to find its feet by 1966 would have in all probability overcome its teething problems and gone on to fulfil its prodigious promise was it not for the egregious military coups of 1966 which hastened the Nigerian civil war and laid the foundations for the problems that are today peeling away the country layer by layer.
That more than twenty years after his death the infamous Abacha loot is still being repatriated to the country in tranches reflects Nigeria`s disturbing struggle with monstrous corruption.
The signs of promise are still there. In 1999, months after a providential death forced the Nigerian military to go into labour with Nigeria`s democracy, democracy returned to the country. It survived that comically odious attempt at tenure elongation by Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006. If recent accounts which hinted at a military intervention are to be believed, Nigeria`s democracy survived more than just the third term fiasco.
It has continued to provide Nigerians with options. In 2015, it offered Nigeria an option which in hindsight turned out to be a disaster. But an option nonetheless.
Next year, democracy will give Nigerians a chance of changing the direction of their country at the polls. It is a chance Nigerians must grab with both hands. If Nigerians have learned anything in the last seven years, it is that darkness can be multilayered. If between 1999 to 2015 they were accustomed to one layer of darkness, the last seven years have been an altogether different experiment with another layer of darkness.
There is still light at the end of the tunnel. It could yet be that the pains Nigeria and Nigerians have known all these years are of childbirth.
If that baby is to be born, then Nigerians must with unanimity reject all those who for all these years have continued to play Russian roulette with the destiny of a great country. Nigeria surely deserves more.