by Sonala Olumhense
That was a familiar Nigerian greeting last week as the country marked its 54th year.
But the greeting could only have been applied as a joke. We should not be marking the calendar, which is God-given; we should be celebrating the joys we have given to our people, which are few and often dubious.
Happy Independence, Nigeria? Is any Nigerian happy, apart from those who blissfully wield power but know no responsibility?
Happy Independence, Nigeria? Does any Nigerian feel independent? If so, of what?
Fifty-four years later, we are spending inordinate amounts of money on everything…but accomplishing less.
Fifty-four years later, we are making more speeches in more spaces and places…but winning fewer listeners.
Fifty-four years later, we are naming more promises and projects and plans…but remembering fewer and fewer of them.
Fifty-four years later, we are opening up the government to more crooks and villains…and closing up governance to more patriots and achievers.
Fifty-four years later, our educational system is producing more semi-literates and misfits…who are leading and training the next generation.
Fifty-four years later, the government now writes its own evaluation, rejecting any external one that is not full of shameless praise.
Happy Independence, Nigeria? Does that come from the youth who are forced to receive only fragments of an education, or those who, when they finally get their diplomas, discover that employment figures are written only by the government printer?
Happy Independence, Nigeria?
Fifty-four years ago, few thought that in 2014, in this far-away millennium, there would still be Nigerian towns without water, or public toilets, or electricity
Fifty-four years ago, few people imagined that by 2014, Nigerian airspace would be crammed with private jets waiting for airports being built by Chinese workers in which to land.
Happy birthday, Nigeria?
In 54 years, we are a land which proves nature wrong: the cream does not rise to the top, the dregs do. And while the ruling party justifies democracy by employing patently undemocratic policies, the leading opposition party takes the field by seeking even more dangerous measures to determine its leaders.
And so, mismanaged and plundered into the edge of irrelevance, we look at the calendar on October 1 and say, “Happy Birthday, Nigeria!”
By doing so, we ask the people to ignore the crimes of those who cheat them and lie to them…people who ask them to be happy just because the country is 54, and allegedly in one piece.
But the country is not in one piece: one part is savaged by a pseudo-religious militancy, and the other bleeds and wilts.
The country is not in one piece: one part comes home at the end of the day, but the other has been in the hands of butchers for over 170 days.
The country is not in one piece: one part is in the hands of those whose preoccupation is power and privilege; the other is peopled by citizens who are used to prop up power and privilege.
The country is not one: one part enjoys the protection and provision of a government which fights for itself and nurtures corruption and incompetence; the other is the victim of that corruption and incompetence.
The country is not one: one part is daily looted and savaged by those in charge for their luxury and the luxury of their forbears in perpetuity; the other is in fear, negligence and squalor, daily recipients of preachments about patience and prayer.
The country is not one: one part, should it wake up ailing, jets off to the ready and reliable care of our developed friends; the other, in poor health, must take solace in prayer, and be comfortable with funerals.
The country is not one: one part, should it wish to travel, can delight in the pleasures and certainty of the air; the other must resign itself to roads, where they exist, of dubious quality and maintenance.
The country is not one: one part, in its own time, can purchase justice or beat it out of judges; the other must cower before the rich and kneel before the powerful.
The country is not one: the rich get richer, not because he is smart or works hard or has any investment; and the poor, poorer, but not because he is uneducated, or lacks effort and investment.
The country is not one: one part has no shame, when hungry, he goes abroad to eat; the other knows no outrage: when hungry, they laugh at him and call him an outsider.
The country is not one: one part, when in danger, calls out a Swiss Army knife of military, security and intelligence agencies; the other, when in danger, finds the Swiss Army knife looking in the other direction.
The country is not one: one part, when its guests come, is protected by thousands of fierce soldiers and fiercer dogs of war; the other, should it dream a wedding or a funeral, must buy off the police, armed robbers, and kidnappers.
The country is not one: one part, when its children go to school or visit their friends, is protected by government militia with no loyalty to nation or citizen; the other, when the enemy snatches its children, is told: diaris God ooo…
The country is not one: one part, when it celebrates, hides in a fortress, and behind trees, and behind columns of men made of metal; the other, when it ventures outdoors, is the unknown target of unknown gunmen and unrecognizable assailants.
The country is not one: one part, when asked, boasts there is no hunger in the land and no darkness in the dark; the other is overcome by speechlessness imposed by grief so deep it is spelt in tears.
The country is not one: one part is dressed in rich fabrics of gold and loot, power and arrogance, speech and double-speak, deception and indecency; the other in poverty and desperation.
The country is not one: one part says it is transforming the land, but immediately places boulders and deep valleys in front of the truck of progress; the other says…
The country is not one: one part insists on the celebration of mini-gods of ruthless men and women of whom no questions may be asked, alongside mediocre mini-gods of clay and mud, who cannot hear the prayer of the other.
The country is not one: Country Hide does not serve Country Seek; the first does not account to the other, does not remember that children of the other need water, too.
Happy Birthday, Nigeria? I regret I am unable to return the greeting, or offer an honest smile.
At 54, nothing tells the story of Nigeria better than the story of her abducted teenage girls. Until there is soap potent away to wash away the guilt of our common desecration, there will be no happiness here.
That counts twice as much for those who are looking for votes so they can take power, and dehumanize and demonize Nigerians even more.
Happy Birthday, Nigeria? Heck no!
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.