As we celebrate 56 years in the face of persisting vicissitude, I wish to remind Nigerians that we do not need to continue lying to ourselves about what some of our core problems are. It is most misanthropic to do so. This is a good time to remember that there are more things that hold us together than tear us apart.
“If we in Nigeria and Africa generally are to experience a true national transformation, we must purposefully begin a campaign for national reorientation.” ― Sunday Adelaja
On Saturday October 1, 2016, Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora gathered, with family and friends, to celebrate a day of historical significance for the country. It is a day we, 56 years ago, announced our separation from Great Britain, and our emergence as a federal constitutional republic to the world. The day also brings to mind sacrifices made by nationalists like the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Following the glorious footsteps after the much needed liberation, our Constitution was framed, in the order of democracy, to make it as difficult as possible for any person or group of persons to establish an authoritarian rule over the people of this country. Government was broken into three twigs: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, in order to separate power as broadly as possible. The legislative arm was further divided into two bodies: the Senate and the House of Representatives. But as partisanship and jockeying for electoral advantage became all-consuming, the three arms of government gave up on finding common ground to work together and eventually became a victim of partisan paralysis. Public opinion never holds sway on what actually gets decided in governance. And for many years, nepotism and corruption have thrived unabated.
Needless to say, we, obviously seem to have lost nationalism and metamorphosed into an abstruse people who are totally detached from the dreams of the founding fathers.
As a young boy growing up in Lagos, South Western Nigeria, I always joined other Nigerians to watch the Independence Day activities live in Tafawa Balewa Square. It was a beautiful event to witness. With a serving president and his cabinet present, the military and police force mount guard in a colorful ceremonial parade. With all the fervour and elation that can be mustered and standing next to each other, irrespective of difference in tribe or religion, we clapped and cheered zestfully and intermittently. Especially after the last line in the first stanza of the national anthem: “To serve with heart and might, one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity”. But that is not the case today.
In fact, the state of our union is frayed in all parts. It is sad to note that after 56 years, though widely denied, our wheels of governance and politicking system is still highly clogged by ethnic machinations and religious permutations. Power is still being jockeyed for on the basis of region or religion. Violence has, needlessly, turned most communities to necropolises. With the resolutions to engendering a united agenda moving in the opposite direction, it is hard to be optimistic about getting a lasting solution.
We must begin to strategically take on the arduous challenge of addressing core issues such as tribalism and religious bigotry. Again, this is because most acts of violence committed in the land could be traced back to a religious or an ethnic cause. In the words of Chinua Achebe “These are the things we should put behind us”.
Analysts and experts have, perennially, pointed out our failure to address the most divisive part of our checkered history, which have created the climate for the hostilities confronting our society today. The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s advice that “It is safer and wiser to cure unhealthy rivalry than to suppress it” was never heeded to. Nigeria has chosen to suppress rather than look for a cure to these rivalries. It is high time we ditch this pretentious of act denial.
In his 2016 independence speech, President Muhammadu Buhari pedantically outlined his resolute commitment to the continuous effort to re-strengthen our economy. He mentioned how the current fight against corruption is increasing our chances of re-engaging the rest of the world and attracting foreign investors. These are important issues. But focusing on them alone will not solve all our problems, especially those that lead to violence.
In his reaction to Nigeria’ first military coup in 1966, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, one of the leading figures of modern Nigerian nationalism and later president, said “Violence has never been an instrument used by us, as founding fathers of the Nigerian Republic, to solve political problems. In the British tradition, we talked the Colonial Office into accepting our challenges for the demerits and merits of our case for self-government”. Our journey to become one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity requires more than narratives of advancement. We must begin to strategically take on the arduous challenge of addressing core issues such as tribalism and religious bigotry. Again, this is because most acts of violence committed in the land could be traced back to a religious or an ethnic cause. In the words of Chinua Achebe “These are the things we should put behind us”.
As we celebrate 56 years in the face of persisting vicissitude, I wish to remind Nigerians that we do not need to continue lying to ourselves about what some of our core problems are. It is most misanthropic to do so. This is a good time to remember that there are more things that hold us together than tear us apart. We might not always agree when we conflate things, but we can always approach our differences with open minds and the willingness to listen to each other. Like the anonymous quotes goes: “Nations survive and advance with brains, wise policies, and manpower”. And just as President Muhammadu Buhari has said “There are no easy solutions, but there are solutions nonetheless and government is pursuing them in earnest.” The government has a job to do, and so do the citizens.
Happy Independence, Nigeria.
David Dimas, a author, blogger and inspirational speaker, writes from Laurel, Maryland, U.S.A. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dimas4real.