Analysis Holidays

Nigeria is divided, so why celebrate independence?

The national logo for this year's Independence Day in Nigeria.

Nsugbe, Anambra, NIGERIA – Citizens here celebrate Independence Day in commemoration of Nigeria’s freedom from British colonialism.

This special day, which is usually declared a public holiday, is marked by activities performed both nationally and privately in homes.

The once joyous annual Independence Day celebration is gradually becoming a day for remembering our tribal and religious differences and a day for silent wars between the federal government and various ethnic groups clambering for secession.

While plans are underway at the federal level to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary, two out of the three major ethnic groups that make up the country are calling for secession and have opted out of the celebration.

In years past, a formal ceremony in the Nigerian capital, Abuja marked Independence Day. The president delivered a hopeful message about Nigeria’s future and the value of democracy. This was followed by the simultaneous raising of the flag and the recitation of the national anthem.

The military officers then led a parade at the presidential villa, and a cake iced in the national  colors of green and white was cut in celebration of the country’s independence.

People on the streets were often dressed in green and white and schoolchildren organized in groups to perform marches. Cultural dance groups displayed their dance steps in major sport fields and stadiums around the country.

People look forward to Independence Day in Nigeria as a highly anticipated day of joy. The fact that it is a national holiday makes it even more fun as families see it as a day to spend time together. Artists showcase their skills using the national colors.

Those who are not able to leave their homes and Nigerians in the diaspora can watch a live broadcast of the celebration.

Beyond the joyous mood and loud celebrations, every October 1 is also the day Nigerians grapple to understand the nation’s journey towards development and try to fathom why they have not made as much progress like some other nations which achieved independence during the same period.

This year, with the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, more questions will be asked of our leaders. Analysts often describe Nigeria as a “failed nation” due to pervasive corruption, the poor state of basic infrastructure and senseless killings fueled by terrorism, inter-ethnic conflict, kidnapping and police brutality.

Calls for secessions in Nigeria’s southeast region coupled with agitations for a similar demand by the Oduduwa Republic in the southwest region only add more gloom to the depressing state of affairs.

Recently, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which is calling for a secession of the Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria’s southeast has urged residents of the region to boycott government-organized ceremonies.  The call comes after the Oduduwa Republic asked its members and residents in the country’s southwest to shun ceremonies organized to mark Independence Day.

Both the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Oduduwa Republic are asking for a referendum before Oct. 1, 2021. In a joint statement, they challenged the federal government to convene a referendum to enable Nigerians to freely make a democratic choice: whether they want to continue with Nigeria or seek their right to self-determination before the 2023 general elections.

What then is there to celebrate when the country has nothing to show after 60 years of existence, when the three regions joined to make a nation have refused to stay united as one country?  Schools, health facilities, roads and other infrastructure are lacking nationwide.

Misappropriation of public funds is commonplace as is a glaring lack of accountability and transparency in the management of public resources.

With one ethnic group accusing the other of marginalization, neglect and one-sided leadership; with the leadership of the country being controlled and dominated majorly by a particular ethnic group and others feeling cheated; with several inter-tribal wars and insurgency taking a better part of the country and citizens struggling to survive untold hardship and poverty even when the country has all it takes to succeed, I have to wonder what there really is to celebrate about Nigeria’s independence.

Blessing Udeobasi is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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