Independence Day Keynote Speech:
The rebirth of a Nation: An insight into the dexterity of our founding fathers and their vision for Nigeria and the issue of nation-building.
By Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
To: Members of the Association of Nigerians community in Finland (ANCF)
Saturday, October 6, 2012
Thank you for that kind introduction.
I want to congratulate the President of the Association of the Nigerian community in Finland, Mr Fred Adun on planning such an impressive event to celebrate Nigeria’s Independence Day.
I want to also take a moment to express my deepest gratitude to the new executive members of this association borne out of the need for responsible governance in our community, and her esteemed members for this unique opportunity to discuss our beloved country Nigeria. Words are truly inexpressible to describe my humility that in our very first meeting commemorating our 52nd independence celebrations, you asked me to address you and I accept the honour pledging to do my best to meet your expectations.
It was just 52 years ago that this nation was born, Born or freed in a literary sense, yet as a young nation, we are still struggling to recover from the menace perpetrated by the Marauders and to re-orientate our politicians and citizens on a part to nation-building.
I know that we all can testify that, aside from the congratulatory handshakes and clapping of hands we usually do on our Independence Day celebration; the Nigeria of today is not the Nigeria of our Founding Fathers’ dream. I believe it is not our Dream Country either.
Every Nigerian here knows what our great country is passing through, without mincing words, we are witnesses to the level of insecurity everywhere, and high rate of youth unemployment, the near absence of acceptable infrastructure, and the list can go on and on. In a nutshell, there is a crisis of confidence in Nigeria.
So as patriotic Nigerians in Diaspora, we owe it to ourselves as a duty to come up with remedies to these teething problems, and that is why today, we have chosen this gathering as the best platform where we can discuss on a serious note how we can collectively contribute to our nation-building.
…..I have always believed that it is the Nigerians in Diaspora that will rescue our nation. (Please don’t get me wrong) This group is what I call the external within. Because I believe that they (I mean the Nigerians in Diaspora) have tasted both sides of the aisle, and are well-formed and informed to bring in their valuable experience and expertise to the Nigerians at home, the group I also referred to as the Internal within. This is because I have learnt from my experience and research that the sources of the success stories of China, Singapore, Malaysia and other successful developing countries have followed this external within mechanism; Where their citizen who had gone aboard to acquire skills and knowledge returned home in mass to help in the development of their countries
In essence, I strongly believe that the problem of our nation has a solution and each one of here has the capacity to solve our problem; that means that we don’t need any stranger to help us in clearing our mess.
Secondly, I must note that the Nigerians in Diaspora should realize that we have a rendezvous with destiny and that, the task of reshaping our individual and collective destinies is our sole responsibility and that, we owe the next generation a duty to craft a well-projected, practical and workable blueprint for Nation building.
This we must do by discarding the imperialist ideology of Nationhood that was transferred by the colonial masters to our unsuspecting founding fathers. Who was psyched at Pre-independence, Independence and Post-independence into believing that once the British flag was brought down and replaced by the Nigerian flag once the people mumbled through the hurriedly composed and learnt anthem and that once the British army matched past the newly elected black man in caricature military uniform and offered a half-baked salute; Behold, a Nation was born. They never thought that Nation building was not a destination, but a journey.
Our innocent founding fathers never suspected that the polarization of our country along the regional path by the colonial masters was deliberately targeted at dismantling our pre-colonial interdependency on one another’s commerce, distinct culture and traditions, which dates back prior to the amalgamation of the Northern and the Southern protectorates by Fredrick Lord Lugard of Abinger in 1914. They never realized that the colonial masters made sure that at Independence, We got only Togetherness and not Unity, Confidence and not strength.
At these defining moments in our National lives, We, Nigerians in Diaspora should be very conscious of the fact that despite our seemingly National challenges, what binds us together is far greater than what drives us apart and that it is about time we left our self-created comfort zones on a desperate search for a new and formidable National identity. We should note that, although our stories might differ from one person to the other and from one region to another, our common National destiny is shared and that it is now in our respective hands.
We need to start, as a matter of urgency, to replace the Imperialist administrative structure inherited by our founding fathers from the colonial masters which have thus far been recreated and promoted by some of us here in a foreign land. This is described as Dichotomy: Hausa/Yoruba dichotomy, Igbo/Edo dichotomy, Christian/Muslim dichotomy, and Majority/Minority, to mention but a few.
And from whichever perspective you look at Nigeria, this is what stares you in the face. This dichotomy has become a menace that characterizes our biggest National challenge and deters National growth. And by this dichotomy, none of us has been able to capture a bigger picture of Nigeria as a sovereign nation, rather than as a mere regional formation.
We should begin to uplift our political commitments above the ancestral political jingoism. That way, we will learn to still see and accept those who do not share our political ideologies and sentiments not as enemies, but as friends with different political views. We can start this process here. For example, let us begin today to talk about more positive things about Nigeria and ourselves. We can condemn our system of government and our leaders for their political failures, but let us not dwell on painting ourselves blacker than we are. Let us be our brother’s keeper and desist from backbiting one another or talking ill of one another. This, I believe, will terminate the ancient political deadlock embedded along tribal and religious lines.
At this crucial moment of National rebirth, We should be ready to contribute to nation-building. If you are not yet prepared, now is the right time you need to acquire skills and knowledge from the pool of opportunities our host country has provided us with. And for those of us who have expertise in different fields, we must be ready to go home and help rebuild our nation.
We must begin to demand transparency and question our democracy. We must bring with us the refined democracy we enjoyed here in a foreign land to our people at home. Now is the time, we must be bold enough to say that no matter what, Nigeria is my country and that, every government policies affect me directly and that, if my voice must be heard, then I need to invest my input into governance. Let us bear in mind that, in spite of the fact that we have been nourished by a generation of broken promises, we can still be able to cultivate a tradition based on the simple principle that, we have a stake in one another if National Interest is still seen as a tool for meaningful National development. Then we must not rest in our oars to fight for what we believe in.
As Nigerians in Diaspora, It is time we should see ourselves as political architects that would rather build into our National future than political archaeologists that will concentrate on digging from the relics of our past political failures.
Thus, the question before us is; how do we rise above ethnicity for the greater good? How do we see ourselves as Nigerians instead of bodies of ethnicity? How can we share a common bond as a people? How can we marshal our diversity to enhance our unity? And how can we affect change in our beloved country, Nigeria?
I believe we can effect change through direct participation; financial assistance to agents of change on the ground; positive contribution via the media and productive alliances with persons in Nigeria. We can effect change by how we represent our country here in Finland.
My fellow Nigerians, each one of us must play a crucial role in the re-engineering of our country. This is one responsibility we cannot punt away even if we have assumed citizenship of our host countries; let us not forget that we remain Nigerians at the end of the day. As we celebrate our 52nd Independence Day, let us seek to uplift Nigeria to its former glory, let us use our ethnic polarity to our advantage, but not at the expense of unity, probity and responsible governance. Let us convince ourselves that; if at this trying time in our history, we will collectively starve our doubts of a new Nigeria to death and regroup with a renewed mindset of rediscovering, recreating, redefining and rebranding Nigeria, then we can boldly explore a new National creed in Obama’s slogan: ‘Yes we can’.
God bless you. And God blesses the Federal Republic of Nigeria.