On October 1, 1960, the most populous black nation, Nigeria, became independent. This news was greeted with excitement, as the world romanticized on the promises it held for her Nigerians, Africa and the rest of human civilization. Fifty-nine years on, Nigeria still soldiers on. Faced with a myriad of challenges, some of which have collapsed other states, including a civil war that claimed the lives of over 3 million Nigerians, the nation’s potential as a leading country has not waned.
At the Independence Day celebration in 1960, Nigeria’s first and only Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, in his speech excitedly expressed:
“This is a wonderful day, and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience, compelled to watch one country after another overtaking us on the road when we had so nearly reached our goal. But now we have acquired our rightful status, and I feel sure that history will show that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest pace: it has been thorough, and Nigeria now stands well-built upon firm foundations.”—Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s PM
Indeed, it was a wonderful day. It is even more wonderful today to see Nigerians hang the Nigerian flag in their cars, offices and other places as a symbol of love and patriotism.
Since 1960, the country Nigerians calls home has also been described as the giant of Africa. This is because she has demonstrated, time and again, her “Big Brother” status. Many African countries owe Nigeria greatly for her contribution in the liberation struggle; and apartheid in South Africa never came to an end without her support. Alongside boycotting the 1976 Olympic Games, the financial backup from Nigeria to South Africa’s ANC cause, at least, two of her President were accommodated and housed in Nigeria during the aparthied struggle – Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. The mobilization of men of the Nigerian army to lead the ECOWAS force, known as ECOMOG, was the base for the end of the protracted Liberia/Sierra Leonean war. Aiding the restoration of civilian government in Sao Tome and Principe and many others are among the multiple contributions of the country to Africa.
Yes, we are not where we wish to attain, whether with the foreign policy of “Africa as the centerpiece of Nigeria’s foreign policy” or the Nigerianized version of “Nigeria first,” however, over the course of fifty-nine years, Nigeria, which is home to over 250 ethnic nationalities, has showed resilience in keeping the country as one entity and on the course of development no matter how strenuous it is. The people too are identified as one of the highest achieving group in the world.
Remarkably, Nigerians have made significant achievements in various spheres of life. In the US, data shows that Nigerians are the most educated immigrant population with 60% being College graduates and regarded by the Rockefeller Foundation studies as the most successful ethnic group. In the UK, a Nigerian family, the Imafidons, are the smartest family. The fastest computer in the world was invented by a Nigerian, Philip Emeagwali; and the wealthiest black person on earth is a Nigerian, Aliko Dangote. And the list of renowned Nigerian achievers (like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Buchi Emecheta, to name a few) keeps going on and on. Indeed,Nigeria is a country of greatness!
Nigerians believe that greatness is the destiny of their country. This idea was and continues to be the backbone of actions of the founding fathers. As Nigeria celebrates another Independence Anniversary, we should reflect and ponder on the common dream we have for Nigeria, the yearnings and dreams of greatness only for our beloved country. A country that all, whether in the diaspora or living in Nigeria, would be proud to call home.
As we dream, we are reminded to awake to work, to awake to this call for a nation that lives up to the expectation of its people. Yes, Nigeria can become a Wonderland for her people but this can only be translated when, all and sundry awake to build.
Featured Image Source: Voice of America