Citizen is a column that explains how the government’s policies fucks citizens and how we can unfuck ourselves.
Today, Nigeria turns 60 as an independent nation. But how has the journey really been, especially for people who have been there from the start? We decided to ask a few older people to take us through Nigerian at inception and Nigeria now.
1. Funke, 60/Female
I was born in 1960, in Igbara-Oke, present-day Ondo state. Things were easy back then. Everything went smoothly, and there were no thieves. You could travel from Lagos to Abuja and nobody would waylay you. We didn’t have electricity then, but it didn’t matter.
There were few private schools, and the government fed students. On Independence Day, students would line up and they would be given many souvenirs like pencils, rulers and bottles. If you were resuming school, all you had to take along was your house wear and your pail for fetching water. The rest would be provided by the government. Once you graduated from school, you were guaranteed to get a job.
During the days of Gowon, the economy was going well. If you bought rice for one kobo, you wouldn’t be able to finish it. However, as the population increased, things got harder. Now, how much is rice?
2. Akin, 60/Male
When I was in primary school around 1970, things were not bad like this. There was not much proliferation of private schools and most schools were public and well funded.
On Independence Day like this, all the schools were given free food, rulers, notebooks and many other things that students would take home.
The economy was strong. Our leaders focused on agriculture. The healthcare system was also well funded, especially under the era of the Unity Party of Nigeria headed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
On this Independence Day, I just want to tell Nigeria to go back to the regional system. If we go back to the regional system of government, there would be competition among the regions to be better.
3. Emeka, 60/Male
As kids, 2 kobo was enough to feed us. However, things have drastically changed.
With regards to the transport sector, there were the usual danfos, taxis and molue in Lagos state. And the transport fare was like 20 kobo or 50 kobo.
During the days of Muritala Muhammed, if you bought something for ₦20, you couldn’t finish it. However, by the time it got to Abacha’s tenure, things were changing. Still, you cannot compare those days to now. The price of fuel has increased, and it has really changed things. The price of things has become more expensive.
The inter-state journey was much safer back then, too. If you had a fault with your car on the way, you could fix it on the road. However, these days, you cannot travel at night.
Right now, my prayer is that God changes the heart of Nigerian leaders.
4. Elizabeth, 60/Female
When I was born, Nigeria was peaceful. Healthcare was better. You could walk into a government hospital and get a stress-free consultation. The hospital staff did not intimidate patients. They were friendly.
You could rent a house for as low as ₦5. However, nowadays, if you don’t have more than ₦100,000, you cannot get a decent place to live. Transport, food and housing have become very expensive.
My opinion is that Nigeria has not gotten better in 60 years. I want to tell our leaders to have the fear of God and grow genuine love for the people. If they can imbibe these qualities, I think the country will get better.
5. Dele, 60/Male
Growing up, it was on one of Nigeria’s Independence Days that I drank Coke. It was so big I couldn’t finish it. That day was such a happy day for me and my friends.
However, things have drastically changed. In Divisional Teacher’s College, Oye-Ekiti where I attended, we were paid ₦80 naira, even as students. School fees were ₦50, and it was subsidised. We had good meals because there was adequate feeding for students.
On this occasion of Nigeria’s independence, my advice for the government is that they allow themselves to feel embarrassed. They should look at how things were before and how things are running in other countries and do the needful. The government must try to make Nigeria better.
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