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At 62, Nigeria Is Salvageable 

“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.” — George Bernard Shaw

When you hear Ndigbo say, “Echi eteka” (Tomorrow is too far), they often mean “Tabụ gboo” (Today is early enough). It is not too late for Nigeria to get it right at 62. In other words, Nigeria as a country is not finished, it’s still salvageable.

The reason many Nigerians still retain their colonial mentality more than three score years after Great Britain granted us flag independence is that successive regimes, by policies and actions, have tried to kill the conscientious compatriots among us, to pave the way for buying the rest of us. Every nation determines her destiny and, invariably, her fate. A nation’s life operates on the computing principle of garbage in, and garbage out. In other words, whatever question you ask Google determines the answer you get.

What garbage have Nigerians fed into the system called Nigeria since independence and what type of answer are they expecting? Every October 1 since 1960, we try to review our progress as a nation and plan for the future. If we look 62 years backwards,  are we to cry or smile at our lives as people of one nation depending? How has it been all these years? Welcome to the Independence anniversary edition of Political Musings.

In 48 hours, Nigeria will clock 62 years old as an independent nation. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain who had presided over the independence formalities just passed on after an illustrious and eventful 70 years of reign as the head of the Commonwealth of Nations. After 62 years, Nigeria has both positive and negative stories on all fronts. 

It has seen 30 months of brutal civil war that remains the sour side of its 62-year-old nationhood. Unfortunately, 52 years after the war its effect is still reverberating because nothing tangible has been done deliberately to put the war behind us. All the indexes that gave rise to an all-out war in 1967 still exist today even in a more pronounced dimension. 

Some Nigeria experts at home and abroad are reviewing the political situation in the country and seem to agree that 2023 looks likely a year to formally end the civil war if an Igbo candidate wins the Presidency of the country.

The larger Nigeria’s unwillingness to accept Ndigbo as an integral part of political Nigeria and give them equal opportunities to enjoy the privileges given to the other two major ethnic groups (Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani have remained the challenge to enduring peace and stability in our polity. In the minds of reasonable political gladiators, unless and until an Igbo candidate rules Nigeria, the civil war will continue to linger. Why? Injustice is antithetical to peace and progress. So long as a nation nurtures injustice, for so long it stagnates its progress and development and Nigeria is a clear case at hand. 

When octogenarians like Edwin Clark and Ayo Adebanjo scream for justice to allow an Igbo Presidency, it’s from their vantage positions as elder statesmen that know what a nation needs to be great and harmonious.

The concern of many in Nigeria today is whether 2023 is going to provide such a huge opportunity to right our wrongs and position ourselves for growth and development. Can an Igbo win the Presidency in 2023? To many, the signs are not there because of the inordinate (yes, you read it right inordinate”) fear of Ndigbo by the rest of Nigeria. That notwithstanding this glaring Igbophobia, 2023 looks possible for an Igbo through the shocking emergence on the political scene of the Labour Party Candidate, Peter Obi.

Already, Obi’s entry has affected the entire political system. Unlike before when Nigerians are boxed into only two choices, the indication is there now that the choice is open to four top Presidential candidates. Apart from Obi and his Labour Party who has proved to be the much desired third force in our political system, there are also the traditional election runners, Asiwaju Bola Ahmad Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and Atiku Abubakar of the main People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP.

If Obi springs any surprise by winning the 2023 election, it’s going to be a major political shift in the polity since independence in 1960. In this political dispensation, the biggest political upset occurred in 2015 when the then opposition APC torpedoed the ruling PDP. That became the first time in our political history that an opposition party could come from behind to unseat a ruling party. That singular action, coupled with the attendant seamless transition, positively put Nigeria’s political journey in a very good light before the democratic world. Not even the setback of the 2019 general election could rubbish this historic feat. 

The forthcoming general election provides Nigeria with the opportunity of adding to the layer of successes recorded in 2015 if a third force can win. If that happens with Obi of the Labour Party, it would be a huge political upset that will set Nigeria on the path of political rejuvenation. Such would be a suitable energizer for the political renaissance that may lead to the rebirth of Nigeria.

This Saturday, October 1, as President Muhammadu Buhari stands at Eagle Square to take his last Independence anniversary salute as Nigeria’s Commander-In-Chief, a lot would be going through his mind. What has his role been in the 62 years of Nigeria? He would be thinking of those actions and inactions of his that impacted this country positively and negatively. He would be looking at Nigeria he met in 2015 and the one he is bequeathing after eight years in such privileged service positions as President and C-I-C.

Looking back at our not-so-rosy history in the past 62 years, does it seem realistic that a desirable change is visible? Could such a change be in 2023? To many Nigerians, if 2023 produces either Atiku Abubakar or Bola Tinubu, nothing would be said to have happened, politically speaking. Why? Both Tinubu and Atiku in various political calculations and considerations are like six and half a dozen, old wine in an old wineskin.

The only political character whose message and mien come with something new and attractive is Peter Obi of the Labour Party. It was only when the likes of Obi emerged that Nigeria would be said to have shifted grounds politically since independence. Why? Since 1960, whether under civilian or military rule, an identifiable political ruling class has remained glued to power, making sure that nobody gets near if they do not belong. It’s not going to be easy dethroning such entrenched political interests.

If it eventually happens, the reason should be found in the prolonged poor governance delivery that would be forcing the hitherto docile and submissive Nigeria’s political system to wake up. Obi may just be providing an avenue to the overstretched Nigerians through his selfless and penetrating messages that resonate. If Obi’s messages reverberate, it’s likely not because of its contents alone but more due to antecedents. Obi’s visible performance in governance as the Governor of Anambra State for eight years, more than anything, helped to grease the wheel of the people’s eventual persuasion.
It’s therefore not for nothing that among the largest group of Obi’s supporters are people under 40 years who have been at the receiving end of the successive bad governance in the land.

As we mark the 62nd anniversary of our flag independence, let us in supplication look up to heaven for a dramatic change in our political life as a nation for a better and more prosperous country. Happy Independence, Nigeria.

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