Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Of Independence Days

Every country’s Independence Day is a special event.  A time to celebrate the birth of the nation and the freedom obtained.  This is especially true for countries that were colonized at one point or the other, which is pretty much most countries of the world.  In Africa for example only Ethiopia and Liberia were never colonized.  I wonder what they mark as their independence or national day.  Anyway, for countries that were colonized the quest for independence was pursued vigorously.  Sometimes it was a peaceful transition but mostly it was bloody because the colonizer didn’t want to let go while the colonized wanted freedom.  Freedom: the universal cry of the human soul.

For the United States independence came by way of war and the declaration of independence from their British colonialists on July 4, 1776.  One statement I love from the Declaration of Independence is “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Nigeria was to follow suit over two hundred years later when it also obtained independence from the same British on October 1, 1960 after several years of activism and demands by nationalists like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Tafawa Balewa and others.  Although no war was fought it was still hard won.
At the time of the declaration of independence the U.S. had thirteen colonies with 2.5 million people but today it is a country of fifty states and 313.9 million people.  Nigeria which started with three regions and a population of tens of millions today has thirty six states and a population of 167 million.

While in both countries the day is observed as a national holiday its celebration is more subdued in Nigeria with the government being the principal driving force.  In the U.S. on the other hand July 4 is celebrated with pomp and pageantry and the citizens are usually fully involved.  People all over the country organize fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, picnics, concerts, family reunions, and political activities.

The July 4 fireworks displays are particularly popular and they range from modest to the spectacular.  There are even foods that are usually prepared for the day.  They include hamburgers, fried chicken, potato salad, lemonade, and apple pie.  Much like the jollof/fried rice and chicken that is popular during Christmas or Eid celebrations in Nigeria.

Every Independence Day also presents an opportunity to remember those who fought for it and to renew a commitment to sustain and build on “the labors of our heroes past.”