56 years ago Nigeria gained independence from colonial powers Britain. The excitement, joy and sense of patriotism that filled this nation then, was palpable.
At last, we had gotten rid of those meddlesome Brits. Who raped and plundered our resources and treated us like second class citizens on our own lands.
The future of our nation was now 'firmly' in our hands and that future looked bright.
The economy of several African nations anchored on one or maybe two mineral resources. But Nigeria had and still has over 50 recurring minerals in commercial quantities.
We were among the top exporters of cocoa, coal, groundnut, rubber, cotton, tin and oil palm. We were drawing up plans to mine gold and several other natural resources we had been blessed with.
Then came the oil boom, and Nigeria’s economy blew through the roof. Foreign investors fell over themselves to come to Nigeria.
There were enough jobs and other African citizens migrated in droves to Nigeria. Nigeria, truly, was the giant of Africa.
Today, 56 years later, the giant is now an Agbaya (Yoruba word meaning - big for nothing). The once revered African nation is now a laughing stock amongst its peers.
Tribalism, corruption and an overdependence on oil, brought this great nation to its knees.
We have neglected the variety that made us a force to reckon with it.
Gone are the groundnut pyramids, the cotton and the huge quantities of food we produce. We have gone from an exporting nation to an import dependent one.
Buhari said “...Rice alone, for example, costs Nigeria two billion USD to import”. He said this in his 2016 Independence speech.
I agree with Buhari, the past leaders are to blame for the mess we find ourselves in.
For over 40 years Nigeria has been run like a fiefdom. Our resources shared amongst cronies like loot and our industries left to rot.
Our leaders are like conquering emperors. They have no attachment to the people they rule. And so have no qualms exploiting them and their lands.
Emperor’s hand over cities to their allies. Our leaders hand over thriving ministries to their unqualified cronies.
Nigeria can and I believe will be great again. Things might look bleak right now but great nations are often born through adversity.
We have run to the ground the prosperous nation we inherited from the Brits. But the foundations that made us great are still with us.
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As our President said in his Independence speech last year...
“No temporary problems or passing challenges should stop us from honoring this day. Let us remind ourselves of the gifts God has given us.
"Our Creator has bequeathed to us Numbers – Nigeria is the ninth most populated country on the planet. We have in addition: Arable land, Water, Forests, Oil and gas, Coastline, Solid minerals”.
In that spirit, I wish every Nigerian a happy Independence Day.