As we celebrate Nigeria’s 57 years of Independence, we look back on seven special moments that would make anyone proud to call this great nation home.
The Day We Ended Ebola – September 2014
The Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in Nigeria lasted for 64 days, and while the first 63 days of that period was filled with panic, pain and sorrow, the 64th day– that is, the day our country was declared Ebola-free, was one of pure joy. In the end, 8 people tragically lost their lives, but it could have been much worse, given that more than 28,500 people died in worse-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, whose combined population is not even up to a quarter of ours. This was thanks to the collective effort of everyone up and down the country, especially the late Dr Ameyo Adadevoh, who has been credited with playing the single most important role in containing the spread of the virus. No doubt, the way we defeated Ebola–fighting the fear with faith and facing the panic with collective resolve–was one of our finest moments as a people and as a nation.
Agbani Darego, November 2001
From time immemorial, we have known our country as the land of the beautiful, but it was extra special when the crown of the Miss World rested on the head of our own Agbani Darego in 2001. An 18 year old sophomore at the time, Agbani entered the running for Miss World as the reigning Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria. No one expected her, or any other black African, to go far in the competition, and her long-shot odds of 66-1 seemed to confirm this. Yet, the dark-skinned damsel defied the odds, as Nigerians always do, to become the first black African woman to claim the crown. It was a great moment of national, cultural and racial pride back home, one typified by Agbani’s victory declaration of “Black is beautiful!”
Return to Democracy, May 1999
After 19 years of uninterrupted military rule, Nigeria became a democracy once again in 1999; the feeling was beautiful. In many ways, the years of authoritarian rule had distilled the belief in the great potential of our country, but our return to democracy brought with it an amazing rebirth in optimism. Now, 19 years on, there’s no doubt that looking back, we could have done a lot better as a nation. Yet, at the same time, 1999 inspires us to look forward to a brighter future knowing that the dark days of military dictatorships are over for good.
Olympic Gold, Atlanta 1996
Perhaps one would have to go back to prehistoric times to find a moment greater than this, in our nation’s history. Not only did we become the first African country to win the Olympic Gold, we did so in grande style. First we unbelievably beat Brazil 5-3, after trailing 3-1 in the semi-finals and then we magically came from behind to win Argentina 3-2 in the finals. What’s more, from the Atlanta 96 dream team sprang our golden generation of footballers, among them Kanu “papilo” Nwankwo and Jay Jay Okocha, who was so good that they named him twice.
Wole Soyinka Nobel Laureate, October 1986
Wole Soyinka is arguably the greatest personification of our literary accomplishments, and no moment proves this better than his Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, whence he became the first African laureate. Soyinka was described by the Nobel Foundation as one of the finest poetical playwrights that have written in English, and at home his Nobel prize lifted the hearts and minds of every Nigerian who wielded a pen. His works, among them Dance of the Forests and Death and the King’s Horseman, thrill till this day, just as his ‘86 prize continues to inspire a new generation of literary geniuses to make us proud, as Soyinka always does.
Introduction of “Arise O Compatriots” 1978
This is one of the least known moments in our list, but it was a very special moment nonetheless. Our National Anthem right after independence had been “Nigeria We Hail Thee” which was not quite popular because it had been written by a foreigner. This perceived wrong was corrected 18 years later, when the late Benneth Odiase in collaboration with fiver other Nigerians created our present anthem, “Arise O Compatriot.” Since then, our anthem has been sung everywhere, from the platforms of our national events to the assembly grounds of all our schools, inspiring in the old and young the patriotism that continues to drive our nation forward.
Nigeria’s Independence, 1960
The very reason this article even exists. Our independence 57 years ago heralded the birth of a nation so richly blessed with every form of resources known to man. Since then we’ve fought, made up, toasted to successes, banded together to build institutions, quarreled some more and, most importantly, remained One Nigeria. Our nation is still very much a work in progress, but every day, through the individual successes of our country men and women, and the collective progress of our society, we continue to defy the odds and move towards fulfilling our great potential.