I remember years ago when I used to sit with my loving parents in front of the television to talk about the nation, corruption, development and politics. They told me everything they knew, and explained every single detail of issues that were broadcasted. They taught me to think carefully, and to judge rationally without bias. I was 12 years old then.
My father used to speak a lot about the nation to me, and sometimes to make his point more reliable, he reminisced some memories or events that happened before I was born so he could convince me about the root of certain issues such as the struggle for independence, the 1966 coup and the Nigerian civil war. He taught me almost everything, nourished my nationalist spirit and shaped me into a responsible citizen. My patriotic spirit grew naturally at home, without force from the authority and without formal learning in school.
Truthfully, parents play a vital role in growing the seeds of nationalism and patriotism in their children. It is more than merely reciting the national anthem and flying the national flag. It is also not enough to have the photographs of our founding fathers on our currency; we should fully understand what is meant by independence, the power of freedom, and the contribution of our forefathers in building this nation.
The generation of leaders that founded Nigeria, i.e Herbert Macaulay, Obafemi Awolowo, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alvan Ikoku, Anthony Enahoro, Egbert Udo Udoma and Ahmadu Bello were humble and modest leaders, who left a cherish legacy of patriotism and selflessness. They gave their lives to make us the independent, democratic nation we are today, and only good education can instill their ideologies in the minds of this generation and the upcoming ones.
As we celebrate our 56th year of independence, I am reminded of the paucity of information about the independence movement and the virtuous lifestyles of the martyrs. We should do more than running documentaries on the independence movement every 1st October and also go beyond just including the biographies and stories of our founding fathers in our social studies or history books. Most details about the independence movement and the involvement of several thousands of people from all parts of the country remain hazy in the minds of most Nigerians today.
To mark this year’s Independence Day, I visited the tomb of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first and only prime minister of independent Nigeria, located along Ajiya Adamu road in Bauchi state to pay tribute.
The rectangular building is curved, like a tunnel, beside it is a museum which showcases his life and times as well as some of his personal belongings and a library. In his commentary, the attendant that took me round explained that the dark tunnel which we entered through represents the toils of the independence struggle, early statehood, death and sacrifice of the great leader. The base where light glimpsed at us implied hope for the Nigerian nation while the various colours of tiles on the wall denote the various ethnic groups in the country. The open roof style of the grave represents the liberal and open system of government he operated while ruling.
His beautiful handwriting which I saw in one of his letters, his “golden” voice and display of oratory as he delivered the independence speech on 1st October 1960 were icing on the cake. I was indeed touched by his speech especially when he said:
“However, we were not to allow the selfish luxury of focusing our interest on our own homes………. Time will not permit the individual mention of all those friends, many of them Nigerians, whose selfless labours have contributed to our Independence. Some have not lived to see the fulfillment of their hopes, on them be peace, “but nevertheless they are remembered here, and the names of buildings and streets and roads and bridges throughout the country recall to our minds their achievements, some of them on a national scale. Others confined, perhaps, to a small area in one Division, are more humble but of equal value in the sum-total……… This is an occasion when our hearts are filled with conflicting emotions: we are, indeed, proud to have achieved our independence, and proud that our efforts contributed to this happy event. But do not mistake our pride for arrogance. It is tempered by feelings of sincere gratitude to all who have shared in the task of developing Nigeria politically, socially and economically.”
I left the tomb with the feeling that we have forgotten that generation of patriotic and selfless parents and leaders. I imagine a museum, not so much to politicise or idealise national heroes but to serve as a catalyst to create a new thought that will remind this generation and generations yet unborn about where we were, where we are and where we should be.
It is worth asking ourselves: why is there little sense of pride in the country about what our parents and grandparents managed to achieve against all odds? If anything, why is there a sense of derision about their positive contributions and sacrifices?
Happy 56th year independence.
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