What Does Independence Mean to Nigerians? 

      Every October 1st since the 1960s and till year, 2006 dancing drums are rolled out in all local government areas to celebrate "Independence" of Nigeria. Usually these were days when you see school children in their best starched and ironed khaki pants marching like junior trained cadets to take salute from their Council Chairman. You can say they're sanguine children because of their high hopes for a better tomorrow. Under the canopies, you admire the outfit of the adults dressed in all manners of traditional costumes. At the State capitals, the concept is the same except for blazing sirens to announce the arrival of the henchmen- Commissioner of Police and His Excellency, the Governor. Oh! In Abuja, trust that tailor(s) must have been awarded contracts of huge sums of money in dollars to design "babarigas" for Mr. President and his running mate. All these functions with the movers and shakers of Nigeria in attendance were to mark a significant day in the history of Nigeria; a day the boundaries attained sovereignty. Guess what. No sooner have they finished such expensive and colorful celebrations than a presidential jet flies VP Atiku to Europe and America, and another plane from the fleet ferries Aso-Rock spokesman to the same part of the world. Both PDP (ruling party) bigwigs come abroad to commit calumny in a prattle manner at the expense of tax payers and of course oil revenue.

      By the actions of our leaders, Nigeria is abased in the comity of nations. The leaders are unable to comport themselves after their sharing formula of public funds (PTDF) failed. The consequences of their misconduct have resulted to the present consternation in Nigeria. It doesn't surprise this writer that the Judges who should be custodians of the rule of law, allowed these demagogues to destroy our legal system. Even when the Judges know something good, they don't have the confidence to broach after taking sacks of cash as bribe. Indeed, many Nigerians become blithe when some lawless courts make silly judgments. Thus, when an appeal court in Lagos is saying one thing, another appeal court in Abuja is saying a different thing on the same issue. First, you wonder if these Judges studied the same principles of law. Anyway, the result of their misrule is a looming anarchy for our country carved out by Lord Luggard and his brothers in Britain. Recently, one of Luggard's affiliates in the person of Mr. Brain Browne, Council General of US Consulate in Lagos said, "Nigeria is battling to define itself; Nigeria is fighting itself for its very soul." Of course, we've so much rubbed ourselves in the mud that the Caucasians will continue to disparage us. Part of the reasons for all these is our inability to manage ourselves. After all conflict is a normal aspect of human relationship, as such it comes with great ideas to benefit all stakeholders. It's common knowledge these days that when marriage couples invite outsiders to settle their disputes, they invariably exacerbate their problems. That's why Nigeria leaders must stop to take their internal affairs beyond the shores of Nigeria.

      In reality, why would VP Atiku conceive the idea of complaining to America over his quarrel with his boss, OBJ? What exactly does he want America's Congress to do, and what truly can America do? Does Atiku think that we are still in the days of imperialism? On the other hand, was there any need for OBJ to dispatch his spokesman to counter Atiku's accusations? On the other hand, if OBJ is sincere with his responsibilities he took oath to defend, why engage the costly services of Andrew Young, (foreigner) former Mayor of Atlanta, USA to sell his agenda to Washington? Shamefully, every now and then until February 2007, members of the National Assembly in Nigeria were in Houston and other cities in America to do what? Believe it; millions of dollars were squandered for nothing in this baseless trip to study the style of governance in America. Indeed a whopping amount sufficient to equip a medical center somewhere in the Niger Delta was wasted because we are unable to think for ourselves. All of these suggest to this writer that, the present presidency and the National Assembly are venal and timorous. In short, our leaders do not fully understand what Independence means. If they literally do, then, there is a disconnect between their mindset and their actions. It's an insult to the rest of Nigerians in Nigeria and across the globe when our leaders come abroad to seek administrative assistance. Perhaps the leaders are saying that management is tedious. It's a lie. Yes, management is a career, but there is no one best way to manage, so running to America and Europe for administrative assistance is absolute nonsense. What most people have refused to adopt is ethical principles, which are most important in managing unpredictable events and circumstances. Once these are inculcated into any leader, management becomes a discipline in continual evolution that centers on its concept: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. This writer strongly believes that management is easy. As a younger person and without the exposure and knowledge he now acquired in USA, he successfully managed a branch of a new generation bank in Nigeria without consulting his cooperate headquarters. When confidence is reposed in you, it means your person depicts a well articulated human being. Today, we can vouch for Dr. (Mrs) Dora Akunyilli and Dr. (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for jobs well done. Who or where do these great Ministers consult before making decisions? Definitely, nobody and nowhere. If these two women were President and VP, Nigeria would certainly have moved much more forward. Thus, managers are born not made, so the choice of who should be leaders in Nigeria is up to Nigerians to determine from available records, campaign manifestos, and the choice must be made without bias during the polls.

      Just look at the irony of life. Americans ingrained into their Constitution that Americans living overseas can cast their vote, yet the presidential candidates don't waste resources to campaign abroad. In Nigeria where votes abroad are irrelevant, presidential aspirants spend so much to campaign overseas. You wonder if these matured men ever sit down to think. No wonder, to them the management of human and natural resources are a big deal; as such, the words "sovereign nation" means nothing to them. Many thanks to Pa. Enahoro who moved the motion for Nigeria's Independence and the southern leaders that spearheaded the movement. It's obvious they never imagined that 46 years after Independence, Nigeria would still be spending huge amounts of money abroad to seek administrative help. It's irritating to read in the Internet, "why I reported OBJ to Washington," says VP Atiku, second in command in giant African country, Nigeria. You would imagine that if the advisers to these bigwigs in Aso-Rock Villa cannot think, their friends in America and Europe would assist. You're disappointed to note that their cronies in America help them to organize the fora for their numerous campaigns and complaints. Ben Stein, a renowned writer said, "the first step to getting the things you want out of life is this. Decide what you want." It seems that these leaders had nothing to offer before they took their various oath of office. They had no agenda. Who knows, the next presidency will invite America to settle quarrels between themselves and their many wives and concubines.

      No nation is isolated, but there must be cogent reasons to seek help from world powers. For example, Nigeria needed technological assistance to tap their natural resources-oil/gas, but the leaders should have been able to use common sense to supervise this industry. Annoyingly, what we see today is that the foreigners launched a strategy to exploit the nation. In the late 1980s, they suddenly increased oil workers pay to get their full cooperation to swindle the whole nation and derail the country's salary structure. When you attend the yearly Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), you will see that most of the limousines in Houston have been rented for Nigerian delegates. All to pamper them and make them blind to foreign exploitation of the nations resources and of course, those at the helm of affairs do not know what's going on. From another perception, misconduct from many Judges is causing problem. When Nigerians continue to lay emphasis on the rule of law, the understanding is that the Judges are upright in their profession. If Nigerians think that EFCC is doing selective investigation, it's wrong for the Judiciary to quash cases against corrupt officers. Rather, those with evidence(s) of corruption must be kept away from politics. Then with a change of government, when Mallam Ribadu (EFCC Chairman) leaves, the cronies of present government will be handled. It's not for the judiciary to reverse any good path already created for harmony, discipline, and corruption in governance.

      There can be no courage unless you're scared. Therefore, courage is doing what you're afraid to do. It's not enough that we do our best, though the people in Aso-rock have not done their best. However, they have to do what's required to make the rest of the world see Nigeria as a sovereign nation. Of course, you cannot say you're Independent when you run abroad very frequently to seek administrative assistance. By the way, Nigerians don't have the same beliefs and culture, so why does anyone think that foreign solutions would cure discords in Nigeria. Nigerians must learn to be different and develop the courage to have confidence in themselves and stop being diffident. 

Tosan Okotie

Lives in Texas, USA 

March 23, 2007