These Crowded 53 Years

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I WAS born in the last month of colonialism in Nigeria. I came into the world 25 days before the lowering of the Union Jack, in the early hours of September 5, 1960. My parents told me the final days of colonial rule were of hopeful expectations for a new country. I am very much a child of an independent African country and we were born in a world of changes, when Africans began to make their mark as equal citizens of the world.

We grew into early childhood in a country of promises and I entered school in my fifth year really, but by January 1966, I had my earliest recollection of a national event: the tragic killings of 1966. It was during Ramadan and I still recall how my uncle, Ahmadu, who also taught us the Qur’an, said our shield had been broken, because the Sardauna, Ahmadu Bello, had been killed in Kaduna!

These events formed the backdrop to our lives, as we went through primary schools, which, with hindsight today, appeared very well run. There were wheat meals and weekly drinks of milk to supplement the poor diets in many homes and learning just seemed to open our minds to the world around us and the changes, perceptible or intangible.

One of the roads of my childhood was the Oyo Bypass that became Ibrahim Taiwo Road in 1976. It had been substantially made motorable by Tiv prisoners from the uprising in the BenueProvince in the 1960s; we passed them in the morning as we attended UnitedSchool, Ilorin. They sang very sad but evocative Tiv songs. Most commuters on the very busy Ibrahim Taiwo Road in Ilorin today, won’t know their road owes a lot to prison labour of our compatriots from BenueState!

Just like Nigeria, we have endured very crowded 53 years, and much of what I have experienced, make me love Nigeria very passionately. My favourite Nigerian poet of the younger generation is Olu Oguibe. He wrote in one of his poems, that I am tied to this land by blood; that is very much the story of the crowded 53 years that I share with our beloved country!

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