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Born on Nigeria’s Independence Day: A Photographer’s Perspective

A photographer, Deborah Afelogun, who was born on October 1, 1960, shares her experiences and expectations with FATTEH HAMID

Can you confirm your date of birth? My name is Deborah Afelogun. I’m from Abeokuta, Ogun State, and I was born on October 1, 1960, the same day Nigeria gained independence.

How does it feel to share the same birthday, month, and year with Nigeria? As a child of God, the Bible tells us that in everything, we should be thankful. When I remember, I’m always filled with gratitude. When my parents gave birth to me, I didn’t know the changes that occurred in Nigeria till the point I started growing, and that made us happy. However, because I was born in Christ, I thank God that I’m in His freedom. I do not dwell on Nigeria’s independence because Nigeria has not given us anything that one can be thankful for but because Jesus liberated me, made me alive and healthy till this point, and I thank Him.

How would you describe Nigeria when you were growing up? When I was young, I enjoyed free education from the late Chief (Obafemi) Awolowo and some other great things but now, you realize that everything has changed. At the moment, I can’t point to something that I can say is okay with Nigeria as a nation.

Did your parents share the feeling that came with your birth, knowing that Nigeria was handed her independence by the British colonial rulers on your birthday? As I learned, the day they gave birth to me was a beautiful story to my family. My dad told me that he was surprised with my birth because he went out for the independence event on that day and before he returned, my mum had given birth to me without going to the hospital or having a midwife. My mum was said to be working inside the house and she was delivered by the least expected person there in the house with complete ease. My birth was a miracle as they mentioned and I think the same grace was extended to me because since I started having children, their delivery has always been easy. However, my dad told me that he was very happy on that day because he returned to happiness.

What was your ambition growing up? When I was growing up, my family was financially stable, so it didn’t give me the privilege of doing certain things. I wasn’t privileged to have an education. I wanted to really go to school but there was no one to help me in terms of funding. However, in the long run in my journey of life, I just noticed that things started making sense and getting better for me. I decided to become an apprentice at a point in my life. So, I went to Ibadan (in Oyo State) and I excelled. I came back to Lagos and rented a shop. However, because I lacked education, I made up my mind that all my children were going to be educated and I worked hard for that. Today, I have five of my children who are graduates and it is because of strong will and determination, because here in Nigeria, should you want to succeed, you have to be very determined and also have God with whom nothing is impossible.

How would you rate Nigeria, your equal in age? The Bible says that we should pray for the land of Jerusalem, and the inhabitants shall witness goodness. Nigeria is my Jerusalem and I’m here already. When it is not time to do something greater, one cannot angrily leave the country. We will continue to pray and thank God. It is this same Nigeria where people are kidnapped and killed that some of us are surviving; what we need is to be more thankful. Also, Nigeria is a good country but the people in it are the terrible ones. We are so blessed in Nigeria, Nigeria is a land filled with honey, milk, and sugar, but because our leaders lack the fear of God, it seems as if Nigeria is hard. There are so many things that we are meant to enjoy but we lack good leaders, and that is why we suffer. However, the only thing we can do is to pray that God starts directing our leaders; there is nothing else we can do. Even those who decided to japa are returning to Nigeria, some of them aren’t having it easy. Nigeria will always be home to all of us and we have a collective responsibility to make it better.

You’re 63 today. How will you measure your achievements now compared to your ambitions when you were a little girl? I’m happy and glad because God made all my efforts, dreams, and hard work when I was younger happen. I got married to a husband and we both worked hard together to help our children succeed and I didn’t lose Christ. There’s no way one won’t face challenges in life but I thank God because I faced a lot of things. However, at 63, I thank God that all my problems are now like a river that flows away. A lot of my mates are dead, and some are in prison, but here I am, in my own house with my husband and I have no missing child. Just this (Wednesday) morning, I sang God’s praises because I faced a lot but I scaled through because there are times that you’ll think this was the way but God will tell you that He has other plans for you. When I was about 40, those problems mounted but today at 63, they are nowhere to be found; the problems are all gone. I am not wealthy but with hard work and prayers, things are getting better. It’s sad but Nigeria, I believe will be great again.

Were you assured by political leaders that the country would be better? That is what we will say till we will all die, except God intervenes in Nigeria. People migrating out of Nigeria are spending a lot of money to do that. What would they be looking for elsewhere if the country is good? They could have used that money for something far better to improve the country and create employment for others.

Do you think Nigeria has lived up to expectations, 63 years after it became independent? No, we haven’t gotten to where we are meant to be as a country. When we were growing up, sometimes, it seemed as if Nigeria was getting to where it ought to be before it retrogressed. Again, it is because of bad leadership. If people like Awolowo were still leading us, we would have gone far as a nation. There was also a military head of state we had at a particular time, (the late) Gen Murtala Muhammed, who spent six months in office. At that time, I was learning a trade in Ibadan. During the regime of Murtala, things were good in Nigeria. The cost of goods went down, we felt at ease in the country throughout that time and Nigeria was on the path to success until he was assassinated and everything became difficult again. It’s not that the country does not want to progress but we have leaders who are merciless, dishonest, and wicked. They do not allow the spirit of God to lead them.

In what ways do you think the country can be made better? Let sufficient funding be provided for education, security, healthcare, and infrastructure. If we ensure that the people who handle projects do the right thing, there

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