IN one of the classics early Wailing Wailers’ songs, ‘The World Is Changing,’Peter Tosh sang:
“Everyone near and far is seeking! What they are looking for I don’t know but if you find it, please would you tell me…? Now, every young folk throughout the land looking for someone to understand them, while all the older ones just spread their knees, talking about THE GOOD OLD DAYS that they miss… See how blind we’ve been, see how the world we live in is changing – all around us is prison cages, we better wake up or soon it will be too late… I guess what they (all) want is some peace of mind, which I guess is very hard to find… But they can borrow it from a friend of mine, who said peace of mind has got to come from within.”
Rather than the usual lamentation on the occasion of Nigeria’s Independence anniversaries, it is apt to share Peter Tosh’s deep philosophical lines to inspire readers that we are here saddled with a twin destiny: viz, the totality of our experiences anywhere we find ourselves are at the same time our own making, as they are the result of the social conditions imposed by society. Fulfilment, contentment and peace of mind are at once personal as they are socially conditioned. Coming to terms with this position is at once liberating and empowering.
In Nigeria, as in most of Africa, there have never been any GOOD OLD DAYS for as long as any discerning person can remember: things are only just getting worse! Before self-government, military rule and now “democracy” again, there was conquest by Europe, slavery and colonial rule for hundreds of years; and hundreds of years of feudalism, intra and inter-tribal wars, native conquest and slavery. The period immediately after so-called independence was suffused with crises, coup and counter-coup, civil war and military rule. All anyone needed to do was listen to the various“Fellow Nigerians..” coup announcements/speeches and the popular music of the 70s, 80s and 90s, especially the explicit music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. When not waxing praise or dance music, Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade, I.K. Dairo, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Ayinla Kollington, the reggae music of the 80s, up till Eedris Abdulkareem’s “Nigeria Jagajaga” and Falz’s recent “This Is Nigeria” all parade songs of anguish and lamentation.
From the 70s when shoeless kids trekking to school were warned not to pick coins found on the street, else they turn to goat as machinated by money ritualists, to “S’Ogund’Ogoji” scammers hanging around streets of cities with their fake magic machines for minting money; it is the same sad old story only miserably raised to the powers of hundred today. However, every individual with a correct appreciation of philosophy in the mould of Peter Tosh’s crooning has always found some room for personal fulfilment throughout the ages, living some contented life, and leaving worthwhile legacies and examples to be followed by future generation.
Especially since the Ibrahim Babangida years, Nigerians are exhorted to observe the Independence anniversary in SOBER REFLECTIONS as there was little that called for celebration by the masses. Today, there is almost nothing! It is a story of 500 years of trials and tribulations.
However, no bad times last forever. There are societies and nations that have introduced joyful social meanings to life, which they have made lovely in abundance for the majority to the extent that only the indolent and the criminally minded would miss out on it! Our challenge in Nigeria is the quality and orientation of our political and ruling elites. Without consideration for true independence of Nigeria politically and economically, and without regards for federalism or an egalitarian society, even the neo-liberal free enterprise system given to them to operate by their foreign task masters is completely messed up. Rather than apply themselves to the engagement of land and labour with capital for profit’s sake, they are selfishly preoccupied with primitive accumulation of wealth and the resurrection of dead and buried primordial conquest agenda! Only an insignificant minority of the elites are farsighted, modern and visionary, and they are overwhelmed by their majority venal classmates.
Gloomy as the prospects are in the midst of brilliant potentials, at 61, the future has defined itself for the people of Nigeria – they must strive to find personal fulfilment for themselves legitimately under the traumatizing circumstances while finding a formula for unity around liberating ideas and agenda. Unity will never come from the united elites that are dividing them with primordial sentiments. Freedom and prosperity will not come from the elites’ backwards, enslaving and impoverishing policies. The people must rally around their popular organisations and credible leadership to find their salvation.