Nigeria: 60 Questions On Independence Day

1 October 2020

What is your first memory of Independence Day? What do you remember about those days? Was it the parades? The excitement you saw on the richly vaselined faces of your classmates?

Your pressed uniforms with creases so sharp they caught the light? The excitement of seeing the governor or the president?

The chants as you waved little green and white flags and talked about the greatness of the country you are going to grow into?

Or was it the tooting of the Po Boy Ice cream seller who pushed his bicycle past you as you line the parade ground?

Do you remember the longing you had for that ice cream?

Do you remember how that ice cream melted in your mouth?

The slow crumbling sweetness that spread on your tongue, the delicious coldness slipping down your throat and into your stomach, and the sensation disappearing from your taste buds, like a promise?

Does that remind you of the promises thrown about during those parades, falling like petals around your feet?

About how you are the leader of tomorrow and you and your generation would inherit a beautiful, great country?

Did that promise last as long as the taste of that ice cream on your tongue?

Do you actually remember the names of those who made you those promises?

Do you remember how those promises made you feel?

When you think of Independence Day now, what exactly do you feel? Hope? Excitement? Despair? Or rage?

What exactly is making you feel the way you feel when you think about the things you think about?

Who do you think is responsible for the way you feel? For your present circumstance? For the circumstances your country, that country of promises, is in right now?

How many times have your hopes crescendoed and fallen?

Rising like waves on the ocean and falling flat like a wet sack?

Do you remember what it felt like after the civil war ended with "no victor, no vanquished?"

Or when General Murtala Muhammed ended Gowon's long, torpid reign that was heading nowhere?

Or when Shagari took over with democracy tucked in the wings of his white babban riga?

Or when General Buhari toppled Shagari to "end corruption" just as Nzeogwu had done to Balewa before him?

Or June 12 before the bust?

Or was it when Abacha died and you thought God, kind as ever, had given us, children of this country, the chance to start anew?

What do you think your children think of Independence Day?

If they were to sit you down on your sofa, or on a cushioned stool and ask you what does Independence Day really means what would you say?

Would you tell them of the rose tinted-promises of those early days, or those days after in which you were born to catch the twilight of those promises as they died?

Or would you fill their heads with the despair your country has unloaded on you far too often?

Would you tell them the truth about the part you played in ruining that dream?

Did you honestly think you are entirely free from blame over the state of this country?

Do you think only those corrupt soldiers and greedy politicians ruined it?

Do you think just because others bring a wrecking ball to the demolition party doesn't mean that those who bring diggers and chisel don't do damage, do you?

You really still think you have done nothing?

Well, how about that time during that exam when you scribbled answers on your thigh or under your sleeve, or on a scrap of paper you tossed to that friend of yours, who is now a doctor barely meriting the name?

How about the time that doctor you helped cheat in that exam gave the wrong diagnosis, or the wrong injection or the wrong drug to that little girl who could have grown to find a cure for cancer or engineer that dam that could have saved all those people washed away by the floods in Jigawa, in Kogi or Niger, in Bayelsa or Zamfara?

How about that time you bribed that policeman at the junction when he stopped you for driving without a headlight and he used that N20, 50, 100 perhaps, and the others he had collected, to drink ogogoro, which made him tipsy the time he pulled a trigger and killed that passenger who was travelling to see his sick mother who died from the shock of what that gunshot so far from her, yet so close to her heart, caused?

Or the time you took that file and tucked it under the rug, and demanded that jobseeker rob his poor mother blind to grease your palms before you gave him the job he was qualified for?

Or that time you gave that job to those who knew nothing about it but had the money to bribe you?

Or the time you failed that girl and ruined her life because she would not pleasure you and gave a good grade to that girl, who is your daughter's mate, who knew nothing about what you taught her but knew things about pleasuring you?

Or that time, in the witching hour, when you dug potholes in that freshly laid asphalt so that traffic would build-up, so you could sell biscuit and facemask to motorists who had to slow down to navigate those potholes?

Or that time you went to do maula at the foot of that government official from your village because your wife was having a baby, or your children have been driven from school over school fees, and you knew, sure as the sun is round, that the token he was giving you was not from his salary but from the money meant for the primary health care facility that could have saved the life of that pregnant woman down the road who died during childbirth?

Or that time you betrayed your country when you gave your vote to that corrupt politician in exchange for a loaf of bread?

Do I need to ask more?

So, now, when your children ask about Independence Day and the failed dream that your country is, would you show them where your chisel and hammer dented it?

Where your digger carved it? Where your wrecking ball smashed it?

What are you feeling right now? Anger? Rage? Or shame?

What are you going to do about it?

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