Just one year away from being sixty, Nigeria has been, is and will always be, the land that God made for peace and laughter, the land He blessed abundantly. From the swampy marshlands of the south, to the arid semi-desert of the north, from the rich forests of the middle belt to the rolling grasslands of the north-central, from the mountains and high places that dot both east, west and the plateau, the whole country, yes, every inch of this land of Nigeria, is a treasure, a wonder, a living miracle, a blessed land, a fortune of great value. A haven of green, a land of abundance, she yields a king’s ransom in produce year after year, her waters full of life, her forests full of medicines, her people; strong, vital, virile, compelling, entrepreneurial and capable of greatness. Her earth, filled with an array of mineral wealth. Who can want anything more? What is it she lacks? Where is she deficient?

Fifty-nine years and counting from Independence, we are still waiting for real independence…still expecting to be free, still bound, still imprisoned, still captive, still devoid of true freedom. We are still in the struggle for true independence from want, from corruption, from nepotism, from greed, from mediocrity, from violence, from tribalism. We are still bound by the same ‘devils’ that replaced the Colonists, still held captive by a cruel and unrelenting evil. Some even wish the British could come back; I hear this tossed around and wonder, was Independence a mistake? Some wish they had never come; that our political systems, which were in place before we were a colony worked better than what we have now. Was development a mistake? Some wish the military were back; they feel politicians have failed woefully and the only thing Nigerians can respect is a brutal military regime. Was democracy a mistake? Some feel it is the fact that we are one country that is our downfall; we need to split up according to tribes, is unity a mistake?

Who has failed Nigeria? Who has made the most promising country in 1960 a sad shadow of what she should have been? The blame can only be placed squarely on the shoulders of Nigerians themselves, past and present. Yes, it was and is Nigerians that have and are failing Nigeria. Simple. Why are we sabotaging ourselves? It is a question that should lie heavily in every Nigerian heart, for if we are truthful to ourselves, we should realize that we cannot blame anyone else for what is now our reality. We have no right to lay the blame for what our country looks like today at anyone’s doorstep. We are culpable, we are responsible. Let the truth be told; we made Nigeria look like this.

We refused to believe the beautiful dream that the Almighty dreamt for us. He gave us everything to accomplish His dream; a strong, competent, wealthy, competitive, disciplined, fruitful, upright, innovative and inclusive nation with a diversity that stands out and a future that is assured. The truth is that we chose not to believe that dream, we decided to dream something else, something that looks like what we have now. To not take responsibility for where we are now is disingenuous, 59 years is a long time to be tramping around, going nowhere, with little to show for the number of resources, human and material that has been consumed. In 59 years there is so much that could have been accomplished. In 59 years, Nigeria should not look like it looks, sounds like it sounds or act like it acts. If we ask the famous United Arab Emirates what can be achieved in 59 years, they would smile and show us an improved version of Dubai, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and so on. And it would look nothing like Nigeria.

It would be so easy to blame leadership, which is what we do constantly. It is they who are bad; it is they who have failed. That is just another way we refuse to take responsibility. No. It is everybody’s responsibility to build a nation, it is everybody’s fault that our country is like this. The moment we all realize that we have played a part in ruining our development that is the moment we will start getting it right. We want 21st-century infrastructure without paying taxes, we want clean environments yet we make our communities and cities garbage dumps. We want first-class education, but demand that it be free. We insist on first-class healthcare, but won’t use public hospitals or pay the bills. We want great leaders but refuse to train people for leadership. We want free and fair elections, but rig the polls and become thugs. We want peace and unity but hate our neighbours and discriminate. We break every law we make, want continuous concessions, refuse any sacrifice for our country and beg foreigners to come and develop our country for us. It never happens that way.

A country is developed by its citizens being diligent, honest, selfless, law-abiding, loyal, uncompromising, sacrificial, inclusive…I could go on and on, but that will suffice. A country is not developed by foreigners, not by aliens, not by religiosity, not by platitudes, not by sabotage, not by fraud, not by running away to other peoples’ developed countries and then fighting from there. It’s hard work building a modern country; just ask Singapore or Malaysia, or any developed country. It takes so much sacrifice, especially on the part of those who are doing the building. It takes so much discipline, especially on the part of the citizens. When we are ready to build a modern Nigeria, we will take responsibility for its mess; we will jettison all our differences and put our country first. That is when we will build the Nigeria that God dreams of, a land that He made for peace and laughter, a land that is blessed abundantly. A land where the green and white mingle beautifully and where unity, faith peace, and progress lives. Happy birthday dear Nigeria! One day you will be everything God dreams you to be.

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