So it is another October 1st, and Nigeria gets to mark its Independence Day anniversary, the day the British colonialists finally packed their loads with their Union Jack and gave us the reins of our country to hold. There will be lectures, church services and prayers at mosques, celebrations and a public holiday will be declared. But what is there to celebrate, many ask? Millions will miss the independence lectures on TV, because there is no electricity to enable them watch it. Thousands are scared of going to the celebrations for fears of bombings, a now common occurrence in Nigeria. We still lose people by the numbers either on our death traps called roads or abattoirs called hospitals. Corruption is still rife. Is this truly a country worth celebrating?
But for me, I choose to celebrate despite all these challenges. For me, I am not celebrating the country of Nigeria, but the Nigerian people. I am celebrating 150-million plus Nigerians whose tenacity and zest for life has defied the odds, whose vivacity has amazed the world, that despite all these challenges, we still remain very happy. Nigerians are the only people who I know that in the face of a national tragedy, will mourn today, and tomorrow, shall churn out jokes based on it.
I am celebrating the Nigerian entrepreneur, who despite the harsh business environment, slugs it out till he is able to provide for himself and his family. I am celebrating the Nigerian student, who through overcrowded classrooms, ill-equipped labs and workshops and reading via the candle light, goes abroad for his Masters and gives those from better educational systems a run for their money. All they know is determination and persistence; that no one gives you a prize for mere attempting, but sticking it to the end is what is defined as success.
I am celebrating the people with the 5th sexiest accent in the world (no be me talk am, na CNN), the rich culture and hospitality of 250 ethnic groups all in one territory. I am celebrating the confidence of a people which cannot be suppressed, that personality other African countries would kill to have, where even outside our borders, we stand out and in an outstanding way. I am celebrating the people who are 1 out of every 4 black persons in the world, who are ever present in each and every country, an integral part of their communities. I am celebrating their ability to make a buck wherever they are, the evidence of the saying that when life throws you lemons, you squeeze it to make lemon juice.
When the British gave us independence on October 1st, 1960, we did not just receive freedom from colonialism. We also received the power to decide where the country would head to; a future which we hoped and still hope shall be the promised land. We accepted the fact that our destiny was now in our hands, and no matter how long it would take, we would get there. It may be 5 years, 50 years or a century, but we would get there. Though derailment shall occur every now and then, we believed and still believe that this Nigerian Project shall never be abandoned, but we shall continue to keep our eyes on the goal and press on towards it.
When today I stand and smile at the independence celebrations, I am celebrating a nation of achievers, of kings and queens, of people who still dare to dream despite their present situation and experiences. I am celebrating the Nigerian spirit of hospitality, hard work and persistence. I am celebrating the Nigerian people.
Happy Independence Day!!