The unforgettable South African legend, Nelson Mandela in his autobiography ‘A Long Walk To Freedom’ described his life story from childhood to his full-fledge adulthood. The piece described his crooked experiences in his early life, his coming of age, education and 27 years in prison and at the end, his gradual process and progress to victory.
The keyword derived from the Mandela analogy is growth and development. One cannot attain a perfect position in a blink of an eye, there have to be a process of continual growth and development. Development will only be assured with a reasonable measure and deliberate input of consistency and clear direction in every aspect.
This is the lesson learnt from the life of Mandela and now, it is not only that his freedom was achieved, but he, even at the expense of his life, regained freedom and liberty for his people from the pressure of apartheid and racial discrimination. The history of South Africa is now seen as incomplete without the inclusion of his efforts.
When we aim to write the story of Nigeria, we need to follow the order of its growth and development, then, we shall make an attempt to unravel the stage(s) where we had a pause in growth. The birth of Nigeria was not actually in the 1960’s when she gained her independence and republic respectively, it was in the 1884 Berlin Conference when the Europeans did their selfish partitioning of the African nations. It was then they got into our reasoning faculty as Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba and made us think like we have something in common. They told us we have geographical proximity, cultural correlation and virtually the same trading and governing methods. Even though all the given similarities are for their prebendal gains and forceful exploitation, Nigeria as at then has began to have an imaginary growth.
In 1914, Nigeria was christianed through the suggestion of Flora Shaw and this marked our true adoption as a baby whom in his absolute naivity, needs a parent to cater for all his needs. The British imperialists as the available parents at that time, took up our affairs, fed us with our food and sent the rest abroad (of course, a baby does not need too much food so the feeder has to wriggle the rest into his tummy with a ‘mi o le wa ku’ spectacle.)
As a baby, we had no clear recognition of who we were, our capabilities and even our worth. We were almost very grateful to the whites for the nurturing, for giving us a joint language and at the same time, sending cargoes of many of our matured ones to their hometown for further inhumane nurturing.
Our coming of age began when we begin to have a sense of inclusion into our own political matters. Although at first when we were considered to be given a chance of representation, we were denied a voice and a reasonable proportion of our men. At this time, our education had begun too. We had begun to develop a mentality that our adopters are toiling with our peace and resources. We had embraced some of their values- language, corporate dressing, fried and crispy foods, political structures etc- and we had learnt how to determine the value of our resources.
During the period of our education, some of our men have built intellect, they have figured out the itching and aching side of the white men’s goodwill. Some of them in their twenties and thirties have had a sense of right, freedom and liberty over what belonged to them. There was a movement for a nationalistic revolution by our able men and women. All these saw Nigeria to the gaining of independence and republic respectively from the shackles of the whites, at the same time, it marked the beginning of our adulthood.
Our independence was suppose to be our period of absolute freedom from the white oppressors or adopters- nicely called. Alas! It was a push into a self made shackles. Those that fought for our independence were tireless nationalists who by themselves experienced the pains of colonialism, they were not told the story of apartheid, racial discrimination and abject marginalization; they saw it with their eyes and felt it with their bodies even on their own land. It is now a pity that those who received the seat of governance since then are not like the South African political ancestor- Nelson Mandela- whose sufferings in the prison, walked his people into freedom.
Instead, they made a launch of another era of imprisonment and neocolonialism which is hard to fight and overcome. Nigeria has since her independence been grappling with conditions that are causing constant wreckage to her image, some of such conditions are corruption, administrative deficiency, impunity of leaders, internal strife, declining economy, ethnic and religious crises, over-dependence on a single resources (crude oil) among others. This is where as a nation, we have lost the compass that is meant to point us to our Canaan. This is the point we need to begin a strategic restrategization and take a consideration to come back to the Road Not Taken- apology to Robert Frost.
It is obviously noticed that if there is a road that leads to absolute liberty, peace in totality and ever-bearing freedom, Nigeria is not on it and yet has not decided to walk on it. There has been a digression of purpose for which our independence was gained. With our democratic structure, we ought to have a nation that does not only welcome citizenry involvement but allows the citizens to enjoy the dividends of their involvement. We ought to walk together through the same path- the path where justice is prevailing above ethnic favoritism, where fairness reigns over corruption, where language is not a mark of inferiority, where every location is home to all and where the love of one another is a principal thing.
We have missed the road to freedom right from the same time we gained the freedom. We have not sufficiently walked according to the dream of our restless nationalistic warriors, whose visions are to change the Nigeria’s story of wretchedness and hunger into a flourishing land, which will in a very short time from independence, become to the white masters, a centre of economic and political intimidation. Because we have failed in self governance, the whites are now taking some of our affairs while in their own corridors. They refine our oil and resell to us at a stupendous sum; they construct our bridges and major roads and channel our waterways. While all these are done, our men are subjected to hard labour under the white contractors without any respect for their indigenous status.
The colonialists too had also played a nice card in their process of grooming us. They understood that the problem of blacks is that they can learn anything as fast as possible but they cannot use their own intuition to create an invention. Having known this, they limited their teachings to what they want us to know and they denied us some basic inventive knowledge such as engineering. That is why we have hundreds of thousands of graduates springing from mechanical, civil, computer, chemical and other forms of engineering discipline every year and they could not build up any significant thing.
Also, the neocolonialism process is reflected in a situation where those who are running the affairs of our country could not trust the educational and medical sectors they are spearheading for educational and medical competence, they have their various preferences abroad where they are excessively extorted and taxed by the same whites who have ones lashed them with venomous whips. More to this is the fact that our leaders are unconscious or rather ignorant of the need for self esteem, this is why they will steal at home and stuck the proceeds of their theft in foreign accounts to boost the economy of their ex-oppressors and in return, get bruised with insults and mockery.
Let us at this point as a nation, have a rethink about our wrong steps and align ourselves on the right path. There is a need for reconstruction and restructuring in our leadership means. Like Mandela, leaders should long to serve and be an inspirational tool to all. In his autobiography, Mandela writes “Democracy meant all men to be heard, and decision was taken together as a people. Majority rule was a foreign notion. A minority was not to be clashed by a majority.” This implies that the true road to freedom is running a government that totally neglects the designs and models of the colonialists. It is having a nation where the voice of the majority is loud and heard.
The point is that Nigeria cannot be replicating the same leadership ideology and design since 1960 and expect that we will have a changed condition. Like Frost, we need to have a submission that there is a problem with our present path and consider taking the other road now and not later. This would have made a difference!
An undergraduate of Mass Communication,
Yaba College of Technology.