Nigeria at 50: Part 1

In a few weeks’ time Nigeria will come face to face with her 50th anniversary of independence. How do we mark this day?

Our leaders, for one, spent some $65,800,000 on the event. Maybe they think this will help to cloud the reality of these 50 years.

But in truth, there is very little to celebrate in terms of development and economic and social progress. The temptation to add to that a pile of narratives on failure is a strong one. That failure could end up driving the nation into chronic mass depression.

Some folks are trying to lighten up everyone by taking a humorous approach, but if this is the method of the message, then please, keep it short. I do not wish to read reams of fake manifestos which take me nowhere.

So I try to resist this by taking a slightly different approach: highlighting events from our history.

Apart from the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa by the former military dictator, Sani Abacha, probably the most devastating event in Nigeria’s history was the 1967 ‘civil war’ between Nigeria and Biafra.

Millions died in this war, including one million children and the elderly from starvation. Thousands of women were raped, soldiers, including children, were massacred.

The war, which Nigerians expected to end in a few weeks, lasted for three years, until Biafra leader Emeka Ojukwu surrendered. There has never been a closure on Biafra: those who died on both sides are not even remembered, as if it never happened. Nigeria doesn't want to talk about it and those of us who do are marginalized and accused of opening wounds or being set in time.

I keep asking myself one question: how much of a civil war was this, considering that the Nigerian nation was only in its infancy anyway? It could well have been a war between two countries, as Biafrans certainly did not feel they were part of the Nigeria project.    

The end of this war marked a turning point in Nigeria’s history. It led to the most ostentatious out-of-control period of hedonism and set the model for future government corruption.

And although the propaganda throughout the war was that the oil producing regions were part of the Federation, they too were simply forgotten or left to the unscrupulous multinational oil companies such as Shell, Chevron, Elf, Agip and their Nigerian partners.  

In those seven years, Nigeria experienced three enormous long-reaching events: independence from Britain, two bloody coups (one of which witnessed almost all Nigerian leadership of the time murdered), and a three-year-long civil war.

To be continued....

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