As a child, Independence Day celebrations were always one to look out for. There was a mid-term break, holiday lessons and then there was an Independence Day party.
We loved Independence Day party the best! For us, it was time for ironing your best uniform – yes, don’t deny it. Everybody had that one good uniform reserved for special days. We would learn new songs and practise them daily until we could recite the lines in our sleep. The eloquent ‘talkatives’ would form debate groups; hoping to convince a panel of external judges that monogamy is better than polygamy. Had it been me on that panel, they’d just have to say Akpu is better than Amala. They would have gotten all my marks.
The activity that really took the shine was the inter-school march past. Ah! It was military-style drills but with fashion pageantry and some traditionalism, as the respectful children that we were. We had kings and queens, princes and princesses. It was more competition for who had the fanciest salute than who could do the ‘eyes right’ correctly. Or was it the about-turn? I never could figure that one out.
As a child, October 1st and the Independence festivities was the best day of the year; better than my birthday.
But I am grown up in Lagos and have come to realise that nobody cares anymore. Even those hawkers in traffic are not bothered. Usually, they would have cute little flag stands; the ones with those suction cups that you can attach to your desk or car dashboard. They even used to have hats, full-sized flags and all kinds of green-white-green paraphernalia.
You would see them selling them happily to customers that were happy to celebrate Independence Day. But not anymore.
It feels a little sad. I want very much for the old days to come back. The days when Lagos was the envy of other states because people would gather at either Onikan Stadium or National Theatre, Iganmu; wearing the Nigerian colours and being Nigerian.
The days when Danfo bus drivers would attach huge waving flags to their bus windows and speed down Third Mainland Bridge, honking loudly because freedom is sweet.
But now, nobody seems to care. October 1st is just another day when everybody; including bankers can sleep for more than five hours at a stretch.
So, what happened to us? What changed?