Today Nigeria marks her 58th Independence Anniversary. Nothing seemed to be happening around me. I did not feel the familiar thrill of excitement neither the au fait buzz of excitement in the air. No celebration, no festivity, no carnival nothing!
In my younger days, Independence and Children’s day were marked with carnivals, entertainments, funfairs and Galas nights in government house. The whole country celebrated with ecstatic blast and the euphoric atmosphere was contagious.
Children woke up knowing the day would be funfair all the way. We were at our best; impeccably ironed uniforms, socks super clean or new, our shoes spotlessly polished. We were as flawless as we could afford to be. We trooped to the various stadia for March past or parade if you like to call it that. The police or military band hastening our steps to watch breathtaking displays of marching soldiers and police. We enjoyed the acrobatic displays of the ensemble drummers with special attention on the parade commander and his one arm long sword or swift blade. We were told that the long sword could NEVER fall from his hand, a feat we attributed then to mysticism rather than mastery. Our hearts would thump in excitement rhyming with the sounding bass of the band enjoying every display subconsciously imprinting in us a desire to be in the military someday. Nobody wanted to be left out of the excitement of the moment and preparations were with all sense of patriotism.
Nigeria we hail thee, our own dear native land…
It was an opportunity to see other pupils and students of various institutions one heard of but never saw. It was an occasion to intermingle with other students aside your school. The teachers were not left out; they turned en masse chaperoning their students. It was a prospect to see dignitaries, an opportunity to see emirs, and above all a possibility to see the number one citizen of the state, the military Governor. The governor would arrive with his entourage causing a stir on his path as excited pupils and students jostled to catch a glimpse of the very important dignitary. The Governor, with aura of authority, the symbolic meaning of independence or Children’s day, interpreted by the way he took his task so seriously one thought him, Independence and Nigeria were one entity.
Nigeria had meaning then.
Every school felt special or the best. The deciding factor of that feeling was on the parade ground. The march past was the decisive dynamics that sets a relatively unknown school above the most expensive school if they got the first feet right. The euphoric feeling of clinching the cup at the end of the day was incomparable. Pupils and students thereafter trooped out of the parade ground feeling accomplished, excitement followed everyone home or back to their various schools.
While I was in Federal Government Girls College Bida, it was an opportunity for us to see the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Umoru Shehu Sanda Ndayako (I hope I got the name right, not sure of the Shehu) with cheery shouts of “bagadoushi” (I hope I got it right again) renting the air. Magnificent and colourful entrance of Etsu Nupe was heralded by spectacular display of horse riders in mini durbars. It was opportunity for those of us from different backgrounds to have a prevue of the rich culture of our host. We had so much fun even though we were not in the state capital Minna. After some years in Bida, I began to think and feel Nupe.
Though tribes and tongue may differ in brotherhood we stand.
Today our children do not enjoy such privileges; they do not understand the meaning of independence other than it being a public holiday. So how can a youth understand patriotism when the symbiotic tutelary is missing?