Nigeria: The delusions of hope and independence – Japheth J Omojuwa


Nigeria is not a free country and Nigerians are not a free people. If you need 53 years of history to sum up the realities of an independence that never was, all you need do is remember how grateful Nigerians were for October 1, 1960 and they showed this by celebrating and sharing in the love of a free nation. They were glad to finally have the chance to decide their own destiny. Whether we like it or not, 53 years later, Independence celebrations have only mattered to average Nigerians because they, at least, get a rest from doing jobs that pay little. For some even, it is a day to curse because it deprives them of a chance to make a living for another day, which may mean hunger for the days that follow. While the politicians and their cronies in the business world gather to celebrate this so-called Independence Day, the average Nigerian truly has nothing to celebrate. Have you not heard some of them say they wished the British never left? What do you think the millions of Nigerian students would rather do? They have been locked home for about three months, a reality of strikes that has since defined the phenomenon of passing through a public university in Nigeria. How then can we say this is an independent country?

Nigeria is that country where those in government and those who feed off them wonder why the rest of Nigerians can’t just see that, “we are going in the right direction.” Let us be fair to them, you’d think the world is going in the right direction if you are the one making a living off the evil and poverty that pervade it. You’d find a lot of them on the social media, Personal Assistants of state commissioners, Lilliputian contractors of government agencies and other little dogs who feed off the crumbs that fall from the table of the real guns who themselves can’t be bothered. As far as these ones are concerned, we are too blind to see the light right inside the tunnel. When we hear the “Commander-in-Chief” of the nation’s Armed Forces say, for instance, he does not know whether Nigeria’s most wanted man is dead or alive, they expect we understand that that is not a statement of incompetence but a statement of “he has tried.” We believe it is enough to judge the intentions of those who have ruled and ruined this nation rather than judge the results. Even Adolf Hitler had some good intentions, but we know what results the world got out of those.

While we leave the Almighty God to judge their intentions, we have the ability to see the results of such intentions and judge, based not only on what the statistics say but also what the realities we daily encounter show. Let us start from life itself and start from the very beginning; infant mortality. Nigeria’s under-five mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. In 2007, there were 138 deaths for every 1000 children and the numbers got worse in the following years as it increased to 158 in the 2011 reports released just months ago. These are, of course, just numbers to most people, but they mean pain and agony to those who have names and love behind these deaths. The mothers are not in a better position. There were 630 deaths out of every 100,000 live births in 2010. Nigeria currently accounts for 10 out of every 100 maternal related deaths in the world. This is just a glimpse from the everyday reality of some families in our independent Nigeria.

We allow cronies of government and their foot soldiers to fool us with, “we have a reason to celebrate, once there is life, there is hope,” even as the future they sold to us in 1960 remains a dream 53 years after. How can we say we live in an Independent nation when we have more poor Nigerians today than the total population of Nigeria in 1998 at the tail end of the military era? Many will blame the military for the failures of our nation, but we have had 14 years of uninterrupted civil rule since 1999 yet Nigerians are not more hopeful of a better future today than they were in 1999. In many cases, hopes have been dashed. While our fathers can even talk about dashed hopes, today things are worse. They could hope for a better tomorrow because of the promises the country showed. They had a lot of hope in the tomorrow they had not lived because they had better chances of getting basic education. Today, hopelessness has replaced hope.

Where is the hope for the 10.5 million Nigerian children who cannot get into school? Where is the hope for the one million children that get added to that number every year? Where in lies the hope for the graduates who managed to finish, who know that 80 per cent of those who finished before them remain jobless? How can those without education dream if those who have it still feed off their aged parents? What is the use of this Independence if 53 years after, Nigerians are oppressing fellow Nigerians worse than the British oppressed Nigerians? The British never ran a Nigerian economy that had 71.5 per cent of its population poor. More importantly, the British never ran an economy that experienced usual cycles of global oil boom. When these rich, fat government officials issue the press statements saying, “Happy Independence Day, Nigerians,” we had better understand that in that greeting lies the biggest lie ever told our people. There is no Independence for a land until its people are free and if you tell me Nigerians are free, why is it that over half a century after, they cannot be rich in a country whose economic realities have been defined by wealth and prosperity?

Fellow Nigerians, we have been fooled by different shades of governments over the past 53 years and as it is, we continue to be fooled. We believe that when a new government comes, things will be fine but we should know better. New governments have come and gone, things have only gotten worse. In fact, some argue things are the worse they have ever been and the numbers are not far from the truth. Nigeria has never been this insecure ever, save for the civil war years. If you were looking at the President for some hope, he delivered it on a hopeless plate when he said he didn’t know if the country’s most wanted terrorist is dead or alive. While we have these leaders to blame for the most of it, we have been our own downfall. We continue to look up to God to fix this country but even the United States that openly declares, “In God We Trust,” had to build itself through human minds and hands. You cannot build a nation on the powers of prayers and fasting alone, we must start by stepping out of our holes to demand that justice and accountability reign. We must ask our democracy questions we couldn’t ask the military. If this is a true democracy, we must get it to be true to our dreams and desires. For now, it is the scam of a few over the majority.

Japheth J Omojuwa is the Editor and can be reached at

Nigeria is a free country but the same may not be said for most Nigerians