Nigeria: What manner of Independence Day celebration?

By Nwohonja on

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Nigeria: What manner of Independence Day celebration?



A young boy of about 12 years old, was reclining in the sitting room with his father on the morning of Wednesday, October1, 2014 (Nigeria’s Independence Day). They were watching the Independence Day anniversary celebration on television.

What went on for a long stretch of time, were military parade and drills, punctuated with British military history dating back to the days of imperial Britain. In other words Nigerians were treated to alien history on their Independence Day, and taught of things that happened before the cobbling together of the entity that was eventually named Nigeria.

The boy, after watching what was on display for some time, could not make sense of the whole scenario in his precocious mind. So he turned to his father, gesturing towards the television set, and said: “But this does not make sense”.

Briefly taken aback, the father wondered what was on his young son’s mind, and enquired to know. The son explained that he could not understand why the country’s Independence Day celebration would be all wrapped up in a military parade and show of military power. He said it was difficult to reconcile that in his mind with the reality of the country’s history, especially in view of the fact that the country did not fight a war of independence.

Now, the father, after thinking it through for some time, accepted it as ‘truth’, but which he, hitherto, had not given any serious thought to in the past. He then confessed that having considered it, he was inclined to agree with his young articulate son that the manner of celebration of the country’s Independence Day made no sense at all.

To make the matter most shameful, the armaments often on display at Independence Day celebrations were not locally made, they were all imported and paid for with the people’s money, and always a sad reminder for the articulate ones that neo-colonialism was still alive and well in Africa.

To be sure, like the boy’s father, a great number of Nigerians (even Africans) have not given a thought to the way their countries celebrate Independence Day. They hardly questioned anything in the package of the celebrations. And painfully, there has equally been nothing to suggest that those in authority are wont to give serious thoughts to such issues. They all always seemed to be content sitting back to enjoy the trappings of the offices the colonialist vacated without any responsibility to the people.

However, after careful considerations, the simplest explanation would be that the celebration was majorly based on the principle of intimidation – a carry-over from colonial times. The intent was to prove to “trouble makers”, or rather, conquered peoples that enough military might existed to crush them should they provide any opposition to what the colonial authorities were doing.

This principle did not come from nothing. Colonial administrations had reasons to continuously remind the people that they had the capability and able to crush any opposition. They were never accepted by colonial peoples.

It is on record that Igbo people were not fully conquered by the British until about 1919; the Jola of Senegal fought against the colonialists until the 1920s; Dinka of Southern Sudan until 1927. It is equally a proven historical fact that the Beduin resistance lasted up to 1931. Added to that is the historical fact that colonial powers never gave a hoot about what the people thought concerning the way they were being governed. What mattered to the colonisers was that the people were adequately held down under their jackboot and subdued for as long as their resources were being carted away to Europe.

That explained why there were killings, mass murder, maiming and fighting – from year to year – everywhere in Africa during the colonial days. That was the major reason behind the storming of Benin in 1897, in what has come to be known as Benin Massacre. That was the reason for the travails of King Jaja of Opobo, because they dared to oppose the British on their imperialistic drive.

So each time African administrations display foreign armaments at their Independence Day celebrations, it is doubtful whether they understood that they were accentuating the shame of their history that they were conquered people, and still held under the yoke of foreign armaments and mindset, and that they were the stooges of the conquerors over their people.

Some have argued that the above interpretation was wrong. But if wrong, how come the situation never changed after independence? How come the only change ever experienced was the colour of those occupying the governing offices, how come all the structures and systems are still in place as well as the philosophies of governance?

The incontrovertible fact is that many who ended up governing the countries as was the case with Nigeria, were handpicked peoples known to have the predisposition to do the bidding of Britain – that is to play the agents of neo-colonialism.

No wonder, it is this understanding that have motivated some people to advocating for another round of independence struggle in many African countries. They said this has become imperative for the people to liberate themselves from the jackboot of new (internal) colonisers.

Who would blame them when many African rulers do not seem to have at any time sat down to ponder on why their countries were not growing economically. Yes, why have African rulers not come around to understanding that using all their resources to fight unnecessary wars meant that there would not be much left to engage in development projects? Why would countries, for instance, continue to fight those who want out of a system when dialogue would ensure that peace is maintained with the development that goes with it?

But what they have been doing is wasting state funds to buy arms from developed countries, thereby developing their (the foreign countries’) economy, but which ends up depleting their own (the African country’s) economies. Such action does not show any measure of good judgment, but exposes such leaders as suffering from colonial mentality. Why must any sane Africa leader kill and main his fellow African to maintain a colonial legacy that gains him nothing, but rather reduces the dignity of the African man.

How come they have not come around to realising that each time they stand to observe those parades or step out to inspect guards of honour mounted by military, they give themselves out as neo-colonial stooges. Could this then be a case of the Biblical truth which states that what has been hidden from the wise has been revealed to babies?

This is why critical and insightful minds have always argued that what was always on with many African rulers were colonial mentality packaged as nationalism. With such Africans I ask, why would those who prosecuted Nigeria/Biafra war believe they were being nationalistic and that the Biafrans were not? How did Olusegun Obasanjo who stood behind the Nigerian Police, giving them support to murder up to 2000 members of Movement of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) think he was being more nationalistic than those youths that were killed. How come President Goodluck Jonathan, would sit pretty and have members of Biafran Zionist Movement (BZM) arrested and placed incommunicado, if this perverted (brainwashed) sense of nationalism is not at work in him and those who constituted his government? After all, between Biafra and Nigeria, which one is more of a nation? How will all the killing, maiming and destruction translate to peace in the long run, if not to breed hatred and retaliation that will last for ages?

It was this same mentality (colonial) that guided Nigerian government to celebrate the centenary of Nigeria’s existence in a way that meant nothing else but endorsement and celebration of colonialism (which is the most shameful part of African history). Or what else could someone say of a Nigerian government that gave awards to people like Fredrick Lugard and the Queen of England? Even the United States of America (USA), a country founded by Europeans would not dare to do such a thing.

Yes, serious peoples and countries go to great lengths to remove relics of colonialism in their polity and everyday lives. So countries like Nigeria that celebrate independence as a way of extoling colonialism should know that they are being ephemeral. My verdict is that Independence Days should be occasions to celebrate freedom and seek to restore the dignity of the African man, which we do not seem to be doing at the moment.


Posted on October, 11 2014

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