By Cynthia Mbamalu
It has become a tradition to bemoan the state of the nation every Independence Anniversary. Well, we have the facts to confirm our mourning. I can imagine the chants of freedoms and dance of independence on the 1st of October, 1960; it must have been an amazing feeling.
53 years down the line, the freedom our parents and heroes danced about is another illusion we dream will become a reality one day. I want to take a survey from a cross section of Nigeria by asking; “What does freedom mean to you?”
I will quickly share my thoughts on what freedom means to me:
Some days back, while returning from work in a taxi, I observed the increase in the number of children running after cars to sell sachet water (pure water) and some struggling to clean the windscreen of cars held up in the traffic even to the blatant refusal of many drivers. This is not an alien sight to many Nigerians and some years back I would have been more empathetic to the plight of these young boys but today my empathy was mixed with fear.
Yes, great fear for the future, fear with the thought that these children pose a major threat to our security and future as a Nation. The fact that their innocence is susceptible to anything, anything at all and that one of them may just be a time bomb waiting to explode. The fact that they had no choice in choosing their socio-economic condition neither did they wrong their creator.
As I return home the news is that ASUU and Federal Government have once again hit a deadlock. And newspaper review goes on about the poor state of our universities. I mean I should know that, being a product of a Federal University. The problem was not just peculiar to the universities because we had falling standards in the education sector.
Unity Schools are no longer what they used to be and if you cannot manage the dilapidated condition then get ready to empty your account and probably go borrowing to send your child to a private school. The worse of all is the fact that we still have many out of school children, with UNICEF’s estimate putting it at 10.5 million children. My mind cannot fathom the great rick posed to our existence as a nation if we have a critical mass of young Nigerians without basic education.
Yes, we are independent but in our supposed unity, we find it difficult to trust the family next door because they are probably from a different ethnic group or religious orientation. If it is not a hate speech about one ethnic group, it is about a different religious denomination or about a different social class. We spread so much hate that I begin to wonder if independence means being continually fettered by limited sentiments.
While I watched the presidential media chat some days ago, I listened with keen interest not because the questions to be asked were new to me or that I expected the feeling of euphoria after the replies were given but because I have a right to hope for a glimmer of hope. So questions were asked on different issues; security, cost of governance, corruption, education-ASUU, employment, economy, citizen’s participation, elections, etc. I wanted answers but I think I got replies and easy maneuvers around the main issues.
Freedom to me means the faith in a government that really cares for the security and welfare of the people, the belief that my human rights are guaranteed and that someone is accountable when they are violated, the assurance that living amongst a people of different tribal, religious or economic background does not automatically make me a prey, the ability to rejoice in our independence without wondering if I jinxed my children’s future by being Nigerian.
I can define freedom in different expressions, but the more I do, the more I begin to doubt the truth in our independence.
Are we really a free people?
O God of creation, direct our noble cause… may we build a nation where peace and justice shall reign.
Happy Independence Day!
Cynthia Mbamalu is Research and Programs Manager of Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA).
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