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The fifth line of the first stanza of our national anthem reads, ‘The Labours of our heroes past, shall never be in vain!”. However, this evokes different thoughts in the mind of Nigerians when they sing this line of our anthem. Despite the setbacks of post-independence Nigeria, it’s important to recount some of the “labours of our heroes” in order to appreciate their efforts towards Nigeria’s independence.
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Nigeria is blessed with committed nationalists such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Malam Aminu Kano, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dennis Osadebey and Michael Imoudu. Fumilayo Ransome-Kuti and Margeret Ekpo among other women featured prominently during the nationalist struggle. They opposed British colonial rule and imperialism, sometimes at great personal risks and imprisonment, and obtained independence for Nigeria.  For them, Nigeria’s independence was a significant victory for Africa. As the largest collection of Blacks in the world, Nigeria would serve as a beacon of leadership for the rest of the continent and indeed for the entire Black race.  Also, realizing that political liberation without mental and psychological liberation would be incomplete, the post-independence nationalists promoted the value of education as a vital instrument of political and social-economic emancipation. Therefore, they established schools and encouraged education in Nigeria. Nigeria’s first-generation post-independence leaders were exemplary in this regard. Chief Obafemi Awolowo introduced free education in the Western region, Nnamdi Azikiwe ensured the founding of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. They provided scholarships and incentives for advanced overseas training for their citizens. From only one University College in Ibadan at independence, the Nigerian university system has today grown to about 70 federal, state and private-owned universities, in addition to numerous polytechnics and colleges of education dotted across the country.
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No doubt these Nigerian leaders had emulative virtues. They led the people by personal example and were motivated by selflessness and remarkable self-discipline. Convinced of their historic mission and the enormous responsibilities that Providence had placed upon them to chart a good course for Africa, they diligently pursued their vision without distraction, emphasizing creativity and self-reliance. Unfortunately, the subsequent generations of Nigeria’s political leadership became rulers rather than leaders. Known for their plunder rather than the development of the country’s resources, they inexorably set the nation’s clock backward for many decades now. But the question remains, shall we allow the labours of our well respected, disciplined and patriotic fathers, who put their life on the line to obtain the independence, safety, freedom and good life that we enjoy today, to be in vain? If not, then we all must be ready to contribute our own quota to national development by being hardworking, self-disciplined, responsible citizens and patriotic. This way only can we secure the future for the generations yet unborn. Featured image source: BBC
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This article was first published on 7th February 2022


I am a writer, an editor, and a political analyst. I love singing and playing football.

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