They Told Us Independence Would Set Us Free But Now We Feel Disappointed –Senior Citizens Who Witnessed October 1, 1960

We were happy; we had rallies and our expectations were high. But after the military coup of 1966, all the expectations just disappeared.

It was not the preparation and the celebration of the independence that were important to us, it was what we hoped to achieve after the colonialists left Nigeria. The celebration was not the most important thing, but what the country should achieve after the independence. But have we achieved what we were supposed to achieve as a country? Are there differences between the colonialists that granted independence to Nigeria and the crops of leaders we have been having since then? If you want to know this, then go to the archive and find out. Have we achieved any of those things we hoped to achieve, in spite of our high expectations? Has there been an improvement in governance? That is the issue. Whether they went to Tafawa Balewa Square and all that for the independence celebrations was not our concerned then, but the question is that have the leaders given us the expected good governance?

Chief Ebenezer Obey

The feeling of change was in all the parties in Lagos then

The independence celebration of 1960 was so colourful and it is a day to remember most especially for those of us who were in Lagos then. Everybody wanted to taste freedom even though we did not know what it would look like. There was the general awareness that Nigeria was going to be free from the rule of the colonial masters. The excitement that Nigerians would become their own rulers was thick in the air and you could see everyone eagerly looking towards that. Everybody was happy and expectant that we were going to be free at last. I was with Fatai Rolling Dollars then and we played for a club somewhere in Lagos. The feelings of change were present at all the parties held in Lagos then. You know, not everybody could be allowed entry at the Federal Palace Hotel where there was an official party then for the occasion. But everywhere was in celebration mood. The youths were happy that we would then do away with the flag and anthem of the British colonial masters and change to our own. Everybody was happy that we were getting freedom in every aspect of our lives. But when I look back 56 years later, I feel very sad that all what we were expecting to change after the celebrations in 1960 have remained with us till date. Our leaders who were supposed to drive the change agenda have not lived up to expectation and the led too have not fared better. Even now, a baby from its mother’s womb has become corrupted. There is no aspect where we can say we have made the maximum use of our God-given resources; we don’t eat what we grow, thus losing our agricultural freedom. All of us have our eyes trained on oil and forget about other resources that are beneficial to our well being. Dr. Tunji Abayomi (SAN)

On October 1, 1960, when Nigeria got independence, I was in Primary 4 in St. George’s Anglican Primary School in my village, Oke-Agbe Akoko, Ondo State. The day was a day of great celebration for us pupils. We were ecstatic; we were served rice and Nigerian flag. It was a very memorable day. The day was full of joy, drumming, dancing, eating and rejoicing. On that occasion generally, there was a great expectation for the country. As of that time, Nigeria was seen as one of the leading future nations in the world. Of course, Chief Obafemi Awolowo was a dominant name and the most prominent politician in Ondo Province then. But let me quickly say this. It was in 1962 that the principal of my secondary school came to Nigeria. His name is Guy Gargiulo, a son of an Italian general, and he studied in Cambridge, which is one of the leading universities in the world. He came to Nigeria, principally because the country carried at that time the vision of greatness. But when I asked him a few years ago what was his view now looking at Nigeria, comparing it to the time he came, he said the great future of Nigeria as seen by the world then appeared to have disappeared. I think that is a statement that every honest Nigerian would agree with and reflect on. The disappearance of the future of Nigeria is caused by our leaders. Unfortunately, one cannot bring back hopes of yesterday. That is exactly what happened to Nigeria. The leaders are preoccupied not with efforts that will make the country great, but with their own selfishness. The result is that after independence, Nigeria was placed on three twisted pivots, which are ethnicity, region and religion. The political elite, military elite and the traditional elite conspired against the greatness of Nigeria and they are using these to tear the nation apart from the hope of the people and that of the world. Because of their conspiracy, they were united in corruption, which is today the nation’s greatest neurosis. That is why we are where we are today, in a bad shape. Chief Tola Adeniyi

On October 1, 1960, I was dancing round Ago- Iwoye, my home town ,as a secondary school young man and celebrating with my girlfriend. We were dancing round from house to house, street to street, from hall to hall, we were enjoying, we were just merry making. We were dancing Bonsue, I K Dairo’s ‘Salome’. It was music all day, all night, from dusk to dawn, no curfew, no harassment, no armed robbery, nothing, And we were very high in spirit; we thought that heavens had fallen, that the day of Glory had come. At last, this is freedom. So we thought especially with the assurances from our leaders. We thought it was a new dawn that Nigeria was on the path of greatness. When I look back now, I feel disappointed, disillusioned. I feel cheated, I feel deceived, I feel shortchanged. Years later on maturity, by the time we were leaving secondary school, we knew that it was an ‘arrangee’ independence and that those who amalgamated Nigeria in 1914 did not actually mean to give us freedom because we knew that the North was not ready and it was their intention to give a freedom so that they would plant a bomb that would explode thereafter. I am blaming the colonial masters that gave independence, using wrong population figures, using wrong delineation figures , creating a lopsided federation ,with a marriage between one husband and two wives making it so huge and big and coming as far as Ilorin and taking Ajaokuta , Lokeoja, (Lokoja) which are Yoruba towns and putting such towns in the North.

The answer is more than restructuring, the answer is to first of all eliminate internal colonialism ,what we have had since 1960 is home based colonialism .The rest of Nigerians have been seriously colonised by a cabal .The colonisers are those that are taking 90 per cent of the resources in Nigeria and giving the rest 10 per cent to the rest of the country. So we have colonial masters ,who are just acting the script written for them by the British colonisers and you must also add that unfortunately the rest of the country have become so timid and they are almost on the verge of being unable to remove themselves from the shackles of internal colonization.

Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN)

It is a mix of happiness and sadness for me in the sense that I was in primary school at the time Nigeria attained independence. In the West in those days, we believed that the sky was not even the limit for us. As young primary school pupils, we were singing rendering the National Anthem in both English and Yoruba. I still remember the Yoruba version- Nigeria o go re po lola ati ola (Nigeria, your glory is immense). I can still remember; I still remember how the government of the western region gave us all the assurances in this world that we would make it, not minding our backgrounds. In my hometown in Ikere-Ekiti, three hours’ drive from Ibadan, we felt the presence of government as young as we were. We went to public primary and secondary schools and we were not inferior to anybody; and I mean anybody in any part of the world. You can go to Cambridge in England or anywhere, it was not our business because we had sound education.

Mr. Jimoh Balogun (Retiree)

I was in Primary 4 at the Local Authority Primary School, Igbatoro, about 25 kilometres from Owo, Ondo State.

On the morning of the Independence Day, we had match pass organised for us by our head teacher after which we were served akara (bean cake) and the new green-white-green Nigerian flag as part of the celebrations. That very day, the Union Jack was lowered and the green-white-green Nigerian flag was raised in our school.

There was no formal lecture delivered, but we were told that the independence was meant to free us (Nigerians) from “slavery.” We were also told that the attainment of independence would give Nigerians the opportunity to have their own government and rule themselves. They told us that we would no longer be ruled by anybody outside the country. They also told us to have faith in the leaders that took over from the colonialists. In all honesty, we were expecting the best in terms of good governance from leaders that have been ruling the country since then. We looked forward to a great future as young as we were then.

But unfortunately, the best, especially governance and the development of the country that we were told would accompany the attainment of independence has yet to be achieved.


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