“Happy Independence Day!”
You may have heard this well-intentioned phrase once or twice today on this glorified Nigerian holiday. You may have seen your local grocery store setting up flags, your favorite retail store promoting holiday sales, and green, white and green displayed everywhere you turn. This country affectionally associates the First of October with the Federal Republic of Nigeria winning freedom from Great Britain, and although we use this holiday to recognize a momentous occasion in our country’s history, it still does not represent freedom nor independence for many people.
As I sit here enjoying this day off, preparing to indulge in the food and relaxation associated with this celebration, I can’t help but reflect on the true meaning of this day.
I can’t help but acknowledge that in 1960, this country became free, but all people did not.
There were entire races of people who were not free, even after this country declared its independence. This lack of true freedom in Nigeria has transcended the dimension of race throughout our history and into the present day, with the privilege of true freedom remaining reserved for only a few.
By truly free, I don’t simply mean the capacity to not be owned or enslaved. Rather, I mean the ability to walk on the Nigerian road without the fear of being killed or kidnapped by bandits and unknown gunmen. Talking about freedom, I mean the ability to walk in your truth without fear of judgement or negative impact of any kind from those who do not agree with or understand that truth. Freedom may still feel elusive to those individuals who do not identify with normative practices and characterization that are perpetuated in our society. Freedom may still feel out of reach to those who do not have the privilege of living without minimizing a part of their identities.
Movements such as #EndSars, #EndPoliceBrutality, and #EndASUUStrike are all clear examples of identity groups experiencing a lack of equity, and a lack of freedom, and choosing to voice their opinions around that disparity in an effort to create change. In most recent news, the current administration were begging members of ASUU to resume to classes instead of funding the educational sector properly. This is a prime example of freedom being stripped away. So, while we are enjoying time with friends and family, let us also recognize that freedom for all is seemingly becoming less attainable and we can’t continue like this.
I urge you to consider what it would look like if everyone you came across was able to enjoy the freedoms and independence that the separation from Great Britain was intended to signify.
If you feel as though you are currently able to actively celebrate this day because the identities you hold are in fact celebrated and affirmed by Nigerian norms, I would urge you to consider it a privilege and determine how you can use this privilege to create a difference.
During a FaceTime call with my friend in America last night she noted, “There’s so much going on in Nigeria. Why are we celebrating it?” This is a question I think we all can ponder and then work toward actionable, sustainable change for a brighter holiday in the years to come.