The Anambra State Government of Chief Willie Obiano declared last Monday, November 18, as a public holiday. It was, according to the government, to mark the birthday of the late doyen of Nigeria's politics, and first president of the country, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. A statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr James Eze, explained that the holiday would have held on his actual birthday which was Saturday, November 16, but had to be observed on Monday November 18, for what he described as obvious reasons.
The Government of Anambra State further stated that the declaration came on the heels of repeated appeals by Governor Obiano to the Federal Government to declare a national public holiday in honour of the great Zik as had been done for other illustrious leaders across the continent who led their respective countries from the shackles of colonial rule to independence.
The statement further stated that henceforth, November 16 had been set aside in Anambra State to commemorate the Right Hon Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, to celebrate his legacies and reflect on the ideals and values that the great statesman lived and died for.
Thus, on Monday, November 18, a work free day was observed by the state's workforce. Not just that, business and economic activities were grounded following the shutting down of major markets in the state, as we learnt, on the directives of the state Government.
We totally agree with the Anambra State Government on the need to give honour to Zik, being that he thoroughly deserved such, given his humongous contribution to the Independence of the country and his consistent efforts in preserving her oneness.
However, we are not very comfortable with the declaration of the day of Zik's birth as a public holiday. Our stand is based on the fact that the country already has more than her fair share of holidays; perhaps ranking among countries with the highest number of such.
Granted that some other countries may have been honouring their heroes with similar holidays; but we must not copy those countries in everything.
We believe that constant holidays as we have in the country, promote a culture of indolence and unproductivity. For instance, the country has 104 days lost to weekends out of the 365 days we have this year.
We have had 13 national public holiday declarations (the actual days of holiday are more than 13) and we will have 15 by the end of the year.
Now, given the dire strait of the country's economy, the country can clearly ill afford the luxury of such holidays.
Rather than luxuriate in unproductive holidays, the country, indeed, Anambra, in this very case, could have sought more productive ways of honouring Zik; which, we are certain, Zik himself would have preferred.
Such productive alternatives would be based on the propagation of the ideals for which Zik was known for. For instance, the State Government may consider building and funding a research institute named after Zik.
The Government could also think about setting up a Zik Foundation to fund scholarships.
Indeed, there are many ways to immortalize Zik. But moving a celebration of his birthday from the actual day (Saturday) to Monday, just so we can have a public holiday is not one of such many ways to immortalize Zik; after all, it is not as if Zik has not had his fair share of recognitions in the country.
We know that he has an airport, university and secondary schools, as well as roads and streets across the country named after him. He also has his image on one of the country's currency notes; the N500 Naira note.
There is also the annual Zik Lecture series at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. In fact, this was held on the very day of his birthday, November 16; something we feel should have sufficed. But going ahead to declare a public holiday two days after, at the beginning of a working week, is in our view, going a bit too far.
Shutting major markets also was just as bad as it connoted the use of power. It sadly looked like the action of a pro-Biafra group, Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, who has always been berated by Government for forcing people to shut down businesses once every year in remembrance of the Biafran dead. Thus, looking at both actions, one finds it difficult to make a difference.
The danger of such arbitrary declaration of public holidays, as in this case, to mark Zik's birthday, is that very soon, the birthdays of the late Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu; first senate President, Nwafor Orizu, and others, will equally be marked with public holidays. Possibly too, their death days may also be marked at some point with work free days.
We sincerely commend the Anambra State Government for its passion for Zik. We however urge that in future, care should be taken not to be influenced by sentiments in taking certain decisions. The country, nay Anambra State, can do with less public holidays.