Independence: Nigeria and how we started

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Today’s independence anniversary is unique, historic and like no other in the past. Aside being the country’s 60th, Nigeria gained independence in 1960. The largest black nation on earth began her journey into nationhood on a very promising note.

Founded on a tripod, she had three strong regions, which competed healthily in terms of socio-economic development and emancipation of their citizens.

The regions were Northern, Eastern and Western. The Northern region covered all parts of today’s 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Eastern region had all the five states of the South-East geo-political zone, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa states.

The Western region covered six states of the South-West zone, parts of Lagos, Edo and Delta states. In 1963, by plebiscite, a fourth region Mid-West (covering today’s Edo and Delta states) was carved out of the Western region.

Then, the nascent Nigerian nation was the envy of the world as the regions, rooted in fiscal federalism, tried to out-do one another in terms of provision of world-class infrastructure and facilities.

The educational and research institutions, hospitals, roads, stadia and edifices such as the Cocoa House in Ibadan, and Western House, Lagos were top of the craft.

Tertiary institutions such as the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1960); the University of Ibadan (established as a college of the University of London in 1948 but became full fledged in 1962), Ahmadu Bello University (1962), and Obafemi Awolowo University (1962) among others attracted students from all over the world and were easily among the best in the globe then.

Today, these universities are still among the very best in Nigeria but their world ratings have gone down drastically. In the 60s, the University College Hospital, Ibadan, was a haven of medical tourism for foreign heads of government including the King of Saudi Arabia.

Now, 60 years down the line, the four regions have morphed into six geo-political zones, 36 states, a federal capital territory and 774 local councils.

Fiscal federalism that drove development and shaped relations between the regions (federating units) and the centre has been replaced with unitary federalism where the centre wields humongous powers and corners 52 per cent of revenue allocation.

Hitherto, the regions controlled their resources, contributed 50 per cent to the distributable pool at the centre, from which they also got a share.

Distortion of the independence template, some observers argue, is one of the reasons the country is currently wriggling in a mire of ethno-religous, socio-political and economic cesspool.

It is also one of the reasons that today’s anniversary celebration will not be done in one accord. For the first time, some people from two of the three major tripods are singing discordant tunes of self-secession as cracks of disunity widen.

As many people observe the Federal Government’s public holiday to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary, members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and their supporters will be observing a sit-at-home, to press home their agitation for Republic of Biafra.

Also, the Yoruba One Voice, YOV, will organise events in 60 countries including Nigeria in pursuit of the quest for Oodua Republic. The first battle for Republic of Biafra caused Nigeria a 30-month civil war between 1967-70 and led to the loss of an estimated three million lives on both sides.

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Before then, there had been a battle for Niger-Delta Republic led by Isaac Adaka Boro. Proponents of Biafra and Oodua republics cite marginalisation, and hindered growth and development as some of the reasons for their agitations.

The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said last week that it supports the October 1 ‘IPOB’s sit-at-home call to honour victims of terrorists, herdsmen, and bandits.’ Ohanaeze National Publicity Secretary, Barr.

Uche Achi Okpaga, reportedly said that there was nothing wrong for a people to sit at home provided they are not violating the laws of the land. “If IPOB said so, we are supporting it.

They are our children. We are supporting it since it is not against the law and so far as it is not a violent act. It is obtainable everywhere in the world. So, we are totally in support of it,” he said The YOV, presently in 176 countries across six continents, is the umbrella group of over 300 groups of Yoruba descendants in the world.

Its Director of Communications, Mr. Zacheaus Somorin, said today’s Oodua Republic sensitisation rally “is to sensitise the world on the need to liberate Yoruba race from the shackles of bondage. We have made our position known to our people in Nigeria.

The reason for seeking self-determination as the best means and alternative is to save the nation from impending implosion.” He continued: “Nigeria has failed.

The country is failing by the day. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said it recently, Prof. Wole Soyinka also said it, even the Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Adams, has raised the alarm severally that the country is drifting.

“Similarly, the revered former Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Onaiyekan, now Archbishop Emeritus, didn’t mince words recently in an interview where he said Nigeria can break up even before 2023, if we continue to be irresponsible and reckless.

“In Nigeria today, life is of no value. There is raging insecurity, electoral rigging, corruption, nepotism and cruel misgovernance. Nigerians at home are mostly affected.

There is need for us to rise against political enslavement by a section of the country. “Nigeria will be 60 by October 1 (today) and the truth is that there is nothing to show for it.

Nothing except senseless killings, kidnapping, corruption, election rigging occasioned by bad leadership.

So, we need to change the narratives. We need to fight against this lawlessness and huge misappropriation of national fortune.”

Do these separatists have support of majority of Nigerians? Has Nigeria failed? Is Nigeria failing? Are there causes for celebration as Nigeria marks 60 years of nationhood? Can Nigeria return to the growth and development velocity it took off with in 1960? Why did the regions excel? Can Nigeria return to the 1960-66 growth trajectory?

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