My Father is Older than Nigeria: Nigeria at 50
On October 1, 1960, Nigeria achieved independence from Great Britain. Today marks Nigeria’s 50th Independence Day. Some Nigerians in Nigeria and in Diaspora will be celebrating. Other will be continuing the debate which has raged long before Nigeria gained independence: Is Nigeria a real state or just a geographical expression created by colonialists? Others will be asking a recent but related question; is Nigeria a failed state?
I can’t answer any of these questions. I’ve never even been to Nigeria. But the country has shaped me because that’s where my father lives and where I long to visit and see him.
My father is older than Nigeria. He’s in his sixties. Nigeria’s only 50.
When I think about my father, his potential, and how things fell apart for him I see parallels with Nigeria, all its potential, and how so much of it has been wasted and has left its citizens, including its youth, so bitter and disappointed. But I like to think that my father has made the best of a bad situation. He is loved by his neighbours, who respect him as an elder and call upon him for advice and to mediate disputes. These people took him to the hospital when he had a stroke two years ago, paid his medical bills, and called upon a traditional Ijaw healer to speed up his recovery. I am grateful to them for all this.
Nigeria is its people, who are diverse and divided. But this is only to be expected in a country with possibly about 514 different languages. Nigerians, even the poorest, like my father’s neighbours, know how to make the best out of bad situations. And I believe, although I am only an outsider, that Nigerians can make the most of the bad situation that is the Federal Republic of Nigeria, despite how badly things have fallen apart.
BBC Nigeria Country Profile available online
Nigeria at 50 BBC News Special Report
How Nigeria Has Affected the Rest of Africa (BBC NEWS article available online)