Today is Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration! Nigeria is 55 years today; the country, now known as Nigeria, has been through a whole lot of growth process–the good, the bad, the happy times, the sad times. There had been predictions by local and international political analysts that Nigeria was going to break up and blow up in flames. This hasn’t happened! Oh, Nigeria will be no more after the 2015 General Elections. We are still here, though. Shame on analysts wearing the garb of false prophets, marabouts and travelling preachers. Nigeria has been through thick and thin and has emerged strong(-er).
So, to celebrate Nigeria’s Independence Day; here are 10 moments in Nigeria’s history you must never forget:
This was how it all began…in 1914. The joining of the Northern and Southern protectorates to become one nation. Yes, some say it was done for political reasons to favour the ‘white’ man who invaded our land, stole our wealth and left us impoverished. Lord Frederick Lugard did to ensure Britain’s hold on our economy, you might say. But, see how things worked out?
Aba Women’s Riots (Women’s War)
This singular effort by women from Calabar and Owerri signaled the first Human Rights Movement and Women’s Rights Movement. 1929. The women displayed character, strength and belief in their worth as they marched against an oppressive colonial administration who attempted to relegate them to the backseat and still charge them ‘equally’ with taxes. Nigerian women still go through the sticks of patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, violence against women, rape/sexual abuse…but in their present fight for equality/equity they can draw strength from these women; unfortunately, over 50 of them died in these demonstrations.
Yes, you must never forget this day, this moment. On October 1 1960, Nigeria gained Independence from our colonial masters, Britain. “The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.” We must strive to honour Nigeria’s nationalists from Herbert Macaulay to Nnamdi Azikwe to Tafawa Balewa to Eyo Ita to Obafemi Awolowo to Ahmadu Bello. Independence could have happened 3 years earlier or even 22 years earlier; we should honour the efforts of these heroes in our bid to make this country great–in our honesty, diligence, integrity, national pride.
First Military Coup
They were called the ‘January Boys’. January 15, 1966. Soldiers led by Major Chukwuma ‘Kaduna’ Nzeogwu, Commonwealth gold medalist Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna and co-conspirators stormed the seat of power overthrowing the Sir Abubakar Balewa government, killing him, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Ladoke Akintola, Festus Okotie-Eboh, others. This coup later became known as the ‘Igbo Coup’ and it triggered moments in Nigeria’s history that must never be forgotten; ranging from mistrust between parts of the country, nepotism, tribalism and tribal wars.
Nigerian Civil War
The spiral effect of the January 1966 coup led to a counter-coup 3 months later resulting in the death of Head of State, General Aguiyi Ironsi and Lt-Col Adekunle Fajuyi in Ibadan. The counter-coup led by later Head of State Murtala Muhammed was seen as a ‘Northern Coup’ to correct the first coup; whose plotters were mostly of Igbo origin and killed mostly Northern political and military leaders, and went unpunished by the Ironsi-administration. The growing discord between the North and East was evident in the October pogroms in the North where a reported 30,000 Igbos were killed and millions made to flee. This spiraled into the secession of the Eastern region on 30th May 1967 by Colonel Emeka Ojukwu from the Gowon-led Nigeria. The war lasted almost 3 years with an estimated 3 million killed. The human loss. The economic loss. The economic loss post-war initiated by the Federal Government.
Wole Soyinka’s Nobel Prize
1986 was the year. Nigeria was still struggling to breathe economically and politically under the arms of the military. This singular event was a bright sky to her gloomy days. The first African to win the highest and most prestigious honour in Literature, in the Art. Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka. Playwright. Poet. Essayist. Activist. In-and-out of jail. Political Critic.
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Niger-Delta Activism, Gruesome Murder and Ogoni Nine
Th Ogoni-born activist, poet, satirist, novelist found a disturbing trend where his people, though provided the meal of Nigeria’s economy, were left behind in development; with their lands left unproductive by the Federal Government and multi-national companies’ exploration and exploitation. He fought under the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, but was executed on fictitious charges by the Abacha regime. The 8 others: Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine. They were killed on November 10, 1995 despite outcry within and outside the country. This got Nigeria suspended from the Commonwealth and out of the 1996 Nations Cup hosted by South Africa.
Victory at Atlanta ’96
What better way to shut-up a despotic era but to show that the Nigerian pride still existed…
Return to Democracy
1999. Nigeria had gone through over 30 years of military rule, with the junta’s choke-hold almost snuffing out our lives, hopes and dreams. Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar heeded public outcry and handed over power to a democratically elected government.
Killing of Yusuf Mohammed and the Boko Haram Menace
July 30, 2009. Jama’tu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad. The extra-judicial killing of the Boko Haram founder and spiritual leader has left Nigeria in the pains of insurgency and terrorism. An estimated 15,000 persons killed and over 3 million Internally Displaced Persons resulting in a crisis situation in the North-East spreading to the Nation’s capital, Abuja.
We all should remember these moments with reflections on the good and bad…and strive for a greater, prosperous Nigeria. According to Funmi Adams: Nigeria, My Beloved Country! Veno Marioghae: Nigeria Go Survive!
Happy Independence Day Celebration!
See Also: 12 Easy Ways Of Identifying A Nigerian
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