Before Nigeria finally got her independence from Great Britain on October 1st, 1960, several unsuccessful attempts were made to lower the Union Jack on our soil. From the formation of the first political party – the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) in 1923 to the incorporation of the Daily Times Newspaper in 1925 before publishing its first title in 1926, our nationalists had always wanted to live in a free nation where their rights, liberty and pursuit of happiness are guaranteed.
I want to point out that the first newspaper was Iwe Irohin and it was established by Reverend Henry Townsend in 1859 in Abeokuta for missionary purposes. The point I want to make is the fact that Iwe Irohin was established before the historic amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates of January 1st, 1914. That’s why I used Daily Times because of the role it played during our independence struggles.
Recall that our founders who were part of the Pan-African Movement which spearheaded the struggle for the emancipation of the African Continent from colonialism envisioned an independent nation where no one will have to pay a bribe before starting a business, where their inalienable rights are respected and where lives and livelihoods matters and are protected.
However, in the cause of our journey to nationhood, many have had cause to ask if the dreams of our founders are still alive in our time. Certainly, we will be disappointed if we think or believe that the task of nation-building is the sole responsibility of one man or one political party as the case may be. This is because no man or single party has the answer to the challenge of nation-building in a developing country like ours. Instead, it is the collective responsibility of all citizens to make the country great and move it to enviable height.
It is a constant work in progress; leveraging on the foundation laid by our founders. It is the challenge of doing things right in the little corner of our rooms where no one is watching or camera recording.
Such deeds may not hit the front page of our national newspapers or grace pages in our history books, but it’s a matter of deriving satisfaction from our positive actions, believing that we have done something right in our own little way to make the nation better and greater.
This is the concept of patriotism. A concept that made our founders to sacrifice their time and energy to be at the forefront of our independence struggles before the Green-White-Green flag was finally mounted on our soil on October 1st, 1960.
Nonetheless, I’m quite sure that in all the expectations, dreams and visions our founders had for the new nation 60 years ago, they never anticipated that there would be a time when a plague like Coronavirus will distract their vision and the developmental foundation they laid for the nation.
They never envisioned a situation where handshake among their children would be a thing of the past; giving way for the new normal. However, in spite of the cries, pains, sorrows, loneliness and challenges brought about by Covid-19, we should embrace the challenge thrown at us by the dreaded pandemic with the resilient spirit of a nation that survived the Civil War, Ebola Virus Disease and other challenges we have passed through in the past by keeping safe and maintaining personal hygiene at all times.
Accordingly, we must continue to follow the guidelines and protocols laid out by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) because these non-pharmaceutical measures remain the surest and easiest ways of disrupting, dismantling, dislodging and defeating the scourge of Coronavirus in the country.
Therefore, celebrating our diamond anniversary in the year of Covid-19 has offered us the opportunity to once again lay our hands on the ark of history by taking personal responsibility in the ongoing fight against the virus.
Happy independence anniversary to all Nigerians!
––Comrade Edwin Uhara, UN-trained Negotiator, Abuja