On Sunday, 29th September, 2019 I was enjoying a car ride in Abuja city centre with the last two of my children, ostensibly to enable them catch some fun in the city. As we approached a speed bump somewhere, they spotted some hawkers with a hand made flags of Nigeria, and they both shouted in chorus with great excitement. ‘Flags, “Flags’, “Please buy us flag,’ because tuesday is Nigeria’s Independence day. What immediately came to mind before I decided to obey their wishes, was that some Nigerians can be so sensitive to their environment and take advantage to make a living.
As i bought the flags and sped off to continue our ride across the city, as we maneuvered around Abuja City Gate, ahead they observed colourful adorning of the green white green flags all around the City Gate. They exclaimed, ‘Wow, this is beautiful’. To my surprise, one of them mentioned to the other, ‘Won’t you salute the flags?. They scene actually looked so beautiful and colourful, with the flags flying proudly, as if they are obeying the mood of the moment, that is the cold evening breeze. As we continued our ride, this got me thinking and I was lost in my thoughts, while the kids were busy playing with the hand made flags. So many thoughts at the same time, like my childhood memories of moments like this, why do some Nigerians do selfie when they visit even near by Benin republic, or get themselves entangled in the mist of fun seekers in Europe to do selfies or do some snapshots, why do our strides as nationhood no longer matter to us Nigerians and so many other thought like that.
As a young pupil back in those days, two events got me excited and always look forward to being selected to participate. The Children’s Day, which comes up every May 27th and Independence Day on every October 1st. The preparation and practices that heralded these events were unprecedented. Any moment I got chosen to participate, rest assured that my sleep penultimate the day will be halfly undertaken. In between, I see myself rehearsing in my dream and hoping the day breaks so soon. The DDay for me was always characterised by both excitement and fear. Excitement for a fact that I was chosen, we were being shepherded and guided at every point so as not to miss out, I’m also always excited to meet pupils/ students from other schools. Students of Federal Government Colleges always stood out in neatness and colourful presentation. They were the ones we in the Unity Schools then always struggle to beat. But in most instances we don’t question the rationale of them coming first. Without mincing words, they were simply the best at the time. Fear about not fumbling on the day, either out of stage freight , or missing some steps or to be a reason for us not doing well. .
All the same , these events reassured and emboldened our faith in Nigeria. In the Unity Schools, exchange programs were encouraged where you have students from all across the country. That opportunity till date is a factor that makes me feel at home in most states I visit, especially in the north, because of friends all across. But, sadly all these are now missing. Even the NYSC Scheme is being manipulated by parents, to ensure their children/wards serve within the locality of their residence. If the Youth Service can be done in diaspora, I bet you many Nigerians will jump at it. This really negates one of the noble ideas of it’s creation i.e. to foster unity amongst Nigerians. . Blame them? Many things have happened over time that put a question mark to our hope as a nation. We continue to get polarised by the day either through ethnicity, religion or otherwise. Security of life and property are no longer guaranteed under a small provocation. People no longer feel safe in any strange environment. People seem to have lost hope in leaders and the system which they feel is not fair. Merit hardly counts, as such solace to many out there is to seek opportunities anyhow outside the shores of this country. No wonder Nigerians without proper entry permits continue to get humiliated, harassed, arrested and deported from many countries across the globe. Even the recent xenophobic attacks of foreign African nationals by South Africans whom Nigeria strongly supported during their apatthied days seems to be the worst hit, while adversely we could not single out even one South African in our midst for a reprisal, we rather resort to attacking South African branded companies where we have franchise. These and many others enables many Nigerians to see the event of October 1st as another day of rest and not to celebrate as was clearly done when the green, white , green flag was hoisted for the first time on October 1st, 1960 heralding our self determination from the British colonial masters as a nation to continue to preside over our own affairs. The dream of the founding fathers of this nation has been dashed, and this made me pity the enthusiasm and patriotism exhibited by my litlle kids as I ponder the future of a country.
Hope is certainly not lost, for some countries have gone this route before and they are back rebuilding their nation.Ghana is a living testimony. Nigeria requires a total rebirth from the abyss of hopelessness to a promise land. Nigeria with all the abundant resources should not take the back seat. The starting point is for me and you . We must bring back the enthusiasm and patriotism we all shared in the past as the little kids exhibited.
On our own part, let’s remain patriotic, participate in governance at all spheres to improve the lots of this country and restore it’s lost glories. Let’s continue to believe and support our leaders at all levels. Let the institutions of governance at all levels be accountable. Let’s eschew restraints under any provocation and avoid hate speeches even to the earshots of our children. May the temporary set backs we witness as a nation be restored.
It is on this note that I wish all Nigerians both in the country and diaspora a happy and joyous independence celebration at 59. Let’s give hope to our children.
Yahaya Yakubu writes from Abuja.