Why I won’t be celebrating Nigerian independence
'When you toast to independence, you are toasting ignorance and a culture of impunity,' writes Ade Onibada
And before you raise your glasses and toast to 54 years since we shook off our colonial oppressors, you may want to ask yourself: ‘is there really much to celebrate?’
In April, approximately 276 girls were kidnapped from a boarding school in the area of Chibok, Nigeria – an event that without a grassroots movement would have been silenced and swept under a proverbial rug. Five months later, they are yet to be returned.
When you toast to independence, you are toasting ignorance and a culture of impunity. Your celebration inadvertently implies that you are applauding a nation where, more recently, the failings surpass its successes.
The Nigeria population has been let down when resources as basic as consistent electricity current remain a rarity.
It is a nation sitting in the shadow cast by corrupt and self-serving political figures that pillage its resources like an all-you-can-eat buffet with a two-hour seating time.
The girls of Chibok were failed again when the hashtag #bringbackourgirls was hijacked and revamped as #BringBackJonathan2015 on posters hanging audaciously over the side of buildings to promote President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential campaign. They were only removed once international criticism began to mount; prompting Jonathan to make a statement that he had never endorsed them in the first place.
Rather than making toasts, throwing parties and tying gaudy geles, what this Independence Day should do is prompt critical thought about what 54 years of self-determination has produced.
In an article on the subject by acclaimed Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, he wrote: “If a people must survive, the reign of impunity must end.” This isn’t a critique on terrorism or on corruption; but a critique on ignorance.
Political figures control public resources and are in no genuine manner accountable. Under the fallacy of democracy, continued cultural conflicts have been allowed to divide a nation already historically fragile.
Nigeria is riddled with many inconvenient truths often blanketed by the cloak of patriotism.
The inconvenient truths would identify the number of public figures who manoeuvre and manipulate political circles for personal gain, including an investigation that unearthed and confirmed suspicions of Boko Haram financiers.
Among them, allegedly, is an individual working at the Nigerian Central Bank and another former governor and recent presidential travel companion.
I wonder how the girls of Chibok would have typically celebrated Independence Day; certainly this year would be starkly different to what they’re accustomed to.
If we are toast to anything this year, then let’s celebrate ourselves. Let’s celebrate the enduring nature of the Nigerian people but let’s stop enabling those who are failing the nation with complicit behaviour and premature celebrations.
The next time I celebrate Nigerian independence it will be when the girls of Chibok can celebrate alongside the rest of us and no longer facing a life in captivity, slavery or worse.
Ade Onibada is a freelance journalist, feminist and politics graduate. She is also a proud British Nigerian.