It is Independence Day in Nigeria, October 1, since 1960, in case you don’t remember. Growing up, we were wrongly spoon-fed information that we MUST celebrate our ‘independence’ from British dependence… laughable! Since then, we take weeks to practice and perfect our march past steps, so we could be faultless, marching past some government person, taking a salute, in kolo-nial style and fashion.
See, the British, who KOLO-nized us, relied heavily on religion and commerce in exploiting the welcoming spirit of our forbearers, even hoodwinked many into liaisons that wrote our Geography and History upside down.
By the time I was ready to listen and understand, the school system had been manipulated to teach me that one British man (I don’t want to remember his name), discovered the point in Lokoja, Kogi State, where two rivers, the Benue and Niger meet, in perpetual metaphysical communion. The tricky art of wrongfully claiming ownership of what was/is not, was pushed to such a point that even the real dwellers of this place were referred to in English authored books as “locals” and “natives”, to show that they were SUPERIOR acres of space between these British exploiters and the welcoming communal band of African people, who for centuries had dwelt there, even fending of enemies with their might and blood.
We were also taught that English language and the complications of syntax, segmental phonology et al, are ‘fitter’ than the lush, elegant slurs of acoustic indigenous languages, all around us. Our capacities to understand and speak these indigenous African languages were deliberately watered down and we became uneducated if we spoke our African languages and educated if our Hackneyed-accents made us sound like cockerels on rooftops, in the morning. Look around us, how often have we deliberately spoken our indigenous languages at home, to our children? They tell me it is no more a fad and I look on with a wry smile. Our indigenous languages, rich in proverbs for all situations and vivid in elucidations, leave us moral instructions as a compass. As we have over the years abandoned this compass, we are faltering.
What about this baptisim thing that came with their religion? We had to be baptized into their religion, given a new name, a ‘Christian name’, like they call it, because IWARA, a name like mine for instance, given to me at birth, with an instructive meaning, strong and original ties to my geneology, indeed my identity … is a pagan name; imagine the audacity!
But wait o, whoever sold our parents the idea that a child who ate an egg will always end up a thief? I am very bothered because one October Ist, several years ago, I was thoroughly flogged for sharing an egg with my cronies during one independence march past.
As the years wore on, my late father explained to me one day that my cronies and I were flogged because, we ought to have taken the money we got as a gift for taking part in the march past home, to our parents, instead of thread the long-throat path. It was instructive but that was in an era when a child/children were positively mentored by the whole community. The man who saw us munching the egg and reported to our parents was only carrying out a communal responsibility. He also reasoned that at such young ages, the ‘sweat’ of our collective labour should not immediately be put to the sword, buying things for vain pleasure.
Across Nigeria, governments at all levels celebrate October 1st with ceremonies maisoned through public funds that end up in private pockets. Cumulatively speaking, all of the finances devoted to celebrating NOTHING on October 1st, will have over the years, (if governance in Nigeria was deliberate), tackled the litany of failed/failing critical infrastructure all over the country. As we continue to carry the weight of this self inflicted schism, may the labours of our heroes never be in continuous vain.
It is not a season of laughter!
Iwara is the Editorial Lead, www.calitown.com
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