The congratulatory messages that heralded the country’s attainment of self-rule were overwhelming as evident from the historic copy of the Nigerian Citizen Newspaper in my possession.
The excitement that heralded the granting of independence and the celebration of the hoisting of the new national flag and the lowering of the British union jack flag as captured by the tabloid was unprecedented!
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The paper itself existed for seventeen years altogether (twelve years before and five years after independence) before being transformed into the New Nigerian Newspaper, which itself today has almost gone into oblivion.
From the features in the 1960 Special edition of the Nigerian Citizen edition, one could deduce that it was indeed a joyous moment laden with hope and aspirations for the citizens of the newly born nation.
The editorial of the defunct Nigerian Citizen newspaper captures the mood of Nigerians and its leaders vividly when it remarks thus; ‘Today, a new nation is born!
Today, marks the end of more than a century of colonial rule in this country and the beginning of a new era of absolute freedom – freedom to rule ourselves as best as we can, to manage our main affairs in the best interests of our people’.
The Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s message to the citizens is worth noting: “I really am delighted to send this message to the Nigerian Citizen on the occasion of our Independence.
I will remember how, twelve years ago, when I was a member of the Board of Gaskiya Corporation, we decided to publish a paper in the English language as a companion to the famous Hausa newspaper, Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo, and how after a lot of deliberation, we chose as its name, The Nigerian Citizen.
For twelve years, there has been that one Citizen but today it is joined by thirty-five million additional Nigerian citizens”.
The Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, sees the independence as the most important event when he remarked, “The attainment of our national independence is the most important event in the political history of this country.
“I am most happy and proud; as every other Nigerian should be that we have reached this stage in peace, and hope that peace will continue to prevail throughout the life of our independent nation”.
The representative of the Queen of England, Princess Alexandra described her witnessing of the independence as a rare privilege.
In reply to a royal address presented to her on her arrival in Lagos by Oba Adeniji Adele, HRH Princess Alexandra said; “May I thank you with all my heart, for the welcome which you and the Chiefs and people of Lagos have given me on my arrival in your great country.
It is a matter of such pride to me that I have been appointed by the Queen to represent Her Majesty at this historic moment in the life of Nigeria and I shall not fail, on my return, to convey the affectionate messages with which you have entrusted me”.
Mallam Aminu Kano, the President General of NEPU, remarked: “On a historic occasion such as this, we, the people of Nigeria must first and foremost rededicate ourselves to God for sparing our lives to see the end of our struggle against colonialism”. Chief S.L Akintola, Premier of Western Nigeria remarked; “… All governments, local, regional and federal must regard themselves not only as co-ordinate but as integral parts of an indivisible whole.
They all owe it a duty to maintain in the Federation a stable, orderly and progressive society”.
Even the country’s then major entrepreneurs were not left out in the pleasantries and expectations of this great country.
The United Africa Company (UAC), have as its message; “the UAC is proud of its long and close association with Nigeria and shares the nation’s joy on the attainment of independence.
John Holt’s expectation on the new transition to self-rule was quite high as indicated in its goodwill message, which rather appears mouthful.
The British Petroleum (BP) in its goodwill message on the independence titled ‘Heralding the New Nigeria’, gave reassuring confidence when it wrote; ‘confidently, a young and proud Nigeria faces its future’.
Hercules Cycle Company posted a screaming goodwill message; Prosperity to Nigeria! Success to all her enterprises!
Happiness to all her Peoples! GB Ollivant asserted “The Flag of Independence, now flying proudly over Nigeria, marks a splendid record of Progress”.
The British Cotton Growing Association (BCGA) while congratulating the citizens also hinged its hopes on the unity that comes from common ties, which it expected will lead to the nation’s growth and prosperity.
During the period of independence, the cotton crop was one of the country’s most valuable exports and contributed substantially to the economic development of the country.
Other companies like CFAO, A G Ferrero, Taylor Woodrow Ltd, Mitchells, NTC, Gottschalck, The Nigerian Plastics Company (NIPOL), African Timber and Plywood, Total Oil Products, Messrs D’Alberto and Bogialla, 120 Moorgate Group, West African Drug Company, Bank of West Africa, British-French Bank among others all showered praises on the young country.
From all indications, most of the entrepreneurs were hopeful at the inauguration of ‘Self Rule’, so also were the citizens!
The vestige that the nation was earmarked for progress is evident!
The entrepreneurs who gave the reassuring messages at inception have lied low with some going into extinction.
Even the BCGA, which at inception boasted of thirteen cotton ginneries at Zaria, Funtua, Malumfashi, Gusau, Mai Inchi, Kontagora, Kuru, Misau, Gombe, Kumo, Lamurde, Lokoja and Oshogbo, have winded up.
It is incomprehensible, is it the successive policies that affected their growth?
What actually squeezed some of them out of businesses?
When did the nation lose a collective approach to developmental issues?
How come we appear to have lost out in most positive attributes and activities in comparison to other climes?
What happened to our schools?
Why did we become nomadic in nature suddenly flocking to other countries for greener pastures?
How did our land and environments become attractive to insurgents’ activities?
When did we embrace corruption to the extent that we loot uncontrollably?
The nation requires positive collaborative efforts by all and sundries to move it ahead.
All hands must be on deck to support the present administration in its efforts to reposition the economy.
Dr. Abdullahi Bala Isa, National President, Gamji Members’ Association