Today 60 years ago, Nigeria got its Independence as a Federal Republic of Nigeria and a sovereign nation born with fanfare and celebration by our founding fathers. A new nation blessed by God with everything any nation could wish for; proud, hardworking, industrious people, rich history, strong and rich traditions and cultures, large population, natural endowments in everything under the soil and on the soil. Drop any seed anywhere in Nigeria, it will germinate and grow! We have the best of the two spans from the semi Sahara to the Sea. We could not wish for more!
And to prepare us for the task ahead, our founding fathers coined in our National Anthem a stanza ‘though tribe and tongue may differ in Brotherhood (Sisterhood) we stand’ which means uniting around our humanity. It was an effort to capture more succinctly the complexities and intricacies they envisaged in our dual role as a nation and a leader of the Black race.
Barely six years into our journey of nation building, the dream of our founding fathers was shattered through a violent military coup culminating in a civil war where a brother was killing a brother! Only the resolve of leaders like late Awolowo, late Azikiwe, late Ukpabi Asika many and other nationalists to rally around Yakubu Gowon’s Federal Government saved the nation. Our soldiers on both side as brothers went through the agony of pointing guns on the head of each other, ironically Buhari too was there in the war to unite Nigeria!
Here we are today at 60, regional leaders in their late eighties and nineties like Edwin Clark a minister under Gowon, Ayo Adebanjo – Awolowos’ disciple – my brother Nwodo a Zikist, Gen Danjuma who fought for unity and Prof Ango northern elder, are now entertaining dividing the country which has been there for them to be what they are today. Even those born after independence like Mustapha champion of Northern group, Kanu of IPOB, Asari of Niger delta, Yinka of Afenifere are also nibbling the bait of division!
To compound the problem even leaders freely elected in government are confessing their failure. Is it not frightening to hear Osinbajo the number two in command talking about cracks and division under their watch? Or, Governor Zulum advising that we invite Chadians to defend and protect our sovereignty? And Buhari who fought as a soldier to unite Nigeria, now as president is to be our undertaker? What really is wrong with us or rather what went wrong?
Those of us in the penthouse (former or serving presidents, governors, captains of industry, Imams, clerics, university dons, technocrats and the entire elite family) should note that a united Nigeria has been there for us. What can we give Nigeria back so that others coming behind and even generations unborn can also actualize their dreams?
I grew in a village 72 years ago. My parents, my community, my leaders, formal and informal institutions and my country Nigeria were all there for me. In my adult life through my work places in Nigerian Railways in Zaria as pupil engineer, Nigerian Tobacco Co Ltd as quality controller and later salesman in the then North West and North East and AC Christlieb as marketing manager in Lagos, Nigeria was there for me. I have travelled from Lagos through Ijebu Ode to Ore Benin, Asaba, Uli, Ihiala, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo, Calabar, Itigidi up to Awka! I’ve been everywhere in the East, West and North. Wherever I travelled, I met fellow human beings, not Ibos, Yoruba, Kanuri, Munchi, Ijaws, Chakiri or Fulani nor Muslims, Christians or free thinkers. And in any community I was, there existed love and friendship such that I felt as safe and secure as in my village Bamaina.
Later in 1979 as a parliamentarian and member of the Federal House of Representatives in Lagos, it was the same spirit of comradeship. As parliamentarian tour work took me around the world, it made me appreciate Nigeria better. When I became minister of Foreign Affairs, my outlook was fully broadened, my instincts sharpened and I came to understand the role God destined Nigeria to play as leader of the Black race.
Nigeria commanded huge authority within the comity of Nations, Nigeria was respected world wide. In our sub-region and Africa, Nigeria was (is?) respected as ‘Senior Brother’ and to the Black race, Nigeria was inspirational and a reference point.
Please Nigeria do no break up!
Thank you Nigeria for being there for me, I cannot thank you enough!
Mr Lamido is a former governor of Jigawa State.