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NIGERIA’S IMAGE BEFORE INDEPENDENCE –60 YEARS AGO — OCCURRENCES THAT SHOULD BE EMULATED TO SHAPE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE IDEAL

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Anybody born after 1966 and who has not made extra conscious efforts to read the history off modern political development in Nigeria is apparently uninformed about how our dear nation was born and the patriotic efforts of our past political leaders who fought brilliantly to free Nigeria from colonial rule.  Whoever would claim to understand how the first republic crashed must be at least ten (10) years old when those unfortunate political developments occurred. Therefore, many people have a faint idea of political struggles and emancipation and Nigeria’s contributions to peace and political freedom in Africa.

STANDARDS: Below are excerpts from the Hansard (Record of Proceedings on the consideration of the Bill for Nigeria’s Independence on the Floor of the British Parliament in 1960) Between that golden era and now, there are enough reasons to ask why! and why!! and why!!!. If we as citizens of Federal Republic of Nigeria find it difficult to improve on the records handed down to us in various spheres of human endeavour (not only political governance) we should at least strive to maintain the enviable standards. What has happened to the culture of reading and preparing for the future? Older concerned Nigerians complain every so often that the reading culture today is very horrible. In fact, majority no longer read. Those in positions of leadership don’t read. That is the truth. And if you don’t read, then how do you broaden your horizon and develop your faculties? Regrettable, nobody reads any longer. The reading culture is poor.

WARM DISPOSITION: Read what British Parliamentarian, Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay) said about Nigeria and Nigerians during the 1960 Debates on the Bill for Nigeria’s Independence as recorded in the Hansard: ‘’First, one finds probably as strongly in Nigeria as anywhere else in Africa a rare political maturity and sense of dignity which are not always to be found elsewhere. There are no chips on any shoulders, racially or otherwise, in Nigeria. That is one of the first features that one finds so pleasant when visiting that country.Another factor to which we should pay tribute is that in Nigeria, although there is respect for good government and law and order, there are no signs at all of any of the autocratic trends which have distressed some of us in other places. ‘’Last year, it was my privilege to attend the celebrations of Northern Nigerian independence. ‘’I recall one small incident which illustrates why I have a special feeling for the Nigerians.

NIGERIANS AS HONEST PEOPLE: ‘’I was driving back from Kaduna to Kano at three o’clock one morning when the car in which I was being driven ran out of petrol miles from anywhere in the bush, somewhere short of Kano. ‘’I was in a state of despair. ‘’There was very little traffic about and I knew that my aeroplane, the only one for a week, was leaving in an hour or two. ‘’Out of the blue—or perhaps I should say out of the black—there arrived a small Volkswagen, packed to the brim with Nigerians returning from the celebrations with their luggage, which was substantial. There were six of them in the car. They expressed an immediate wish to help me, but it was obvious that it was physically impossible for me to get into their car. ‘’Two of them volunteered to get out and find their own way back—at that hour of the morning. I was bundled in and taken to the airport just in time to catch my plane. They were not rich men, but although I tried to give them some payment they refused, saying that that was the way that Nigerians always tried to behave to guests in their country. ‘’I apologise for inflicting that story on the House, but I think that it shows better than any other way why so many of us feel affection for Nigeria and join in wishing so especially well to a great part of the Commonwealth’’ – British Parliamentarian,Mr. F. M. Bennett (Torquay)

 THE NEED FOR VIGOROUS OPPOSITION: Nigeria wishes to be independent, but she wishes also to be democratic. She not only willingly accepted a Parliamentary system with reasonable and natural adaptations to her own traditions, but she has decided to call her Federal Legislature a Parliament. We can be very pleased about that. She has also cheerfully accepted what we all regard—I know that the Colonial Secretary so regards it, because he said so on a previous occasion—as an essential part of Parliamentary democracy that there should be a vigorous Opposition, freely and fully entitled to express their point of view and to criticise Ministers. – Mr. H. A. Marquand (Middlesbrough, East)

 ZEAL FOR EDUCATION: ‘’Most of all, I am sure that the success of all this experiment in the creation of a Western-type democracy in an African country is due to the Nigerian people themselves. Their zeal for education is well known and they have taken great advantage of the opportunities before them of learning about institutions of this modern twentieth-century type while not abandoning their own traditions. ‘’We have greatly admired their zeal for education, the way in which such large numbers of Nigerians have constantly come to this country and gone to other European countries to learn the practice of public administration and the practice of democratic self-government.’’

GOOD GOVERNANCE: No modern twentieth-century democracy can be stable and peaceful and democratic without good administration. As the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech, administration has been well built up in Nigeria and the Nigerian people have themselves set to work to build up a cadre of well-trained, well informed expert administrators. But, nevertheless, outside aid is still needed in this matter of administration.

SACRIFICE BY FIRST REPUBLIC POLITICIANS: It recognises the difficulties of the Federal and Regional Governments of Nigeria. It says: We have always understood the political social and other considerations that have prevented Nigerian Ministers from increasing our emoluments to the world market level, and we have no quarrel with them. Their dealings with us have been marked by candour, and we appreciate their difficulties. Those of us who have remained at our posts have, there for, not done so for mercenary reasons, but, until recently, we did hope that the Secretary of State would somehow find ways to meet the reasonable financial obligations of Her Majesty’s Government towards its Overseas Civil Service. I hope that something will be done to put that right.– Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

 NOBODY BOTHERS ABOUT READING ANY LONGER: Our youths now misdirect their efforts at acquisition of knowledge to areas like soft news talking about divorce, how to make love, blue films and incursive programmes on cable networks that cannot be controlled. This factor is one of the reasons why we have a high prevalence of low morals and culture of violence in societies all over the world. This is one of the reasons why the younger elements now prefer some ways of life that were alien to our culture, soft publications conveying news about sex, infidelity and blue films to those that could educate them on development generally. The invasion of our airwaves by Western cable networks has inflicted terrible harm on our values and virtues.

The situation is still redeemable thought some religious beliefs argue that these are signs of the end time. But there is a lot that could still be done if Jesus Christ tarries. The responsibility belongs to five groups who must collaborate; to wit:

  • Governments: That must provide the enabling environment
  • Parents who are the vehicles for bringing children into the world
  • Organizations with parental responsibilities like places of religious worship, and institutions of learning,
  • Civil Society Organizations, associations and professional bodies
  • The civil society

LASTLY, WE END WITH A FEW THOUGHT-PROVOKING QUOTES

‘’I think our job as parents is to give our kids roots to grow and wings to fly.’’ — Deborah Norville

‘’The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.’’ —   Gilbert K. Chesterton

‘’Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you’’ — H. Jackson Brown Jr.

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