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Five key resolutions for Nigerian progress

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Buhari<br />Photo: Twitter/MBuhari

This week started with bad news from Plateau State. In response, the federal government has “condemned”, “sympathised” and “directed” in the usual script. Chances are, we will be back here in a few months, if not weeks.

It seems some things will not change. But we cannot continue like this without risking total disintegration in the long run.

Still, change will not come without increased consciousness of our dysfunctional situation and a reassessment of the attitudes that hinder socio-political growth.

This is not just a task for the government—especially when the government as currently structured is useless for the majority of Nigerians—but a duty we all have to bear.

And so, if we seek progress, here is a list of key socio-political resolutions for Nigeria.

1. Start giving more value to Nigerian lives: Personally, I am unmoved by geographical nationalism.

Misguided patriotism often plays into the hands of those who seek to limit human movement and progress by geography.

I believe, instead, that all life is valuable, irrespective of nationality.

Unfortunately, the world operates under an international law that prefers to deal with individuals through national identities.

As some 180 million of us are stuck with our Nigerian identity, no other country is going to protect or value our lives.

Rather, the value of our lives will be determined by how we ourselves treat it. And so, if citizens are killed violently and we simply move past it, then that indifference is the value of our lives.

And we cannot expect the best from our citizens when their lives have no value.

Forget the Buhari government’s “Change Begins With Me” jingoism and its ersatz patriotism: there is no value to being a Nigerian if being a Nigerian is no protection against anything.

2. Start developing the people, and not just the cities: Our Nigerian governments spend money.

We spend money on infrastructure, on vehicles, on computers, on building a website. But we do not struggle as much to spend money on people.

We build schools, but we degrade teachers. We buy fancy police vehicles but put the officers on minimum wage.

We build hospitals, but we disregard doctors. We build shopping malls, and we chase hawkers and vendors.

We spend on “things” but we care little for people.

By law, our government controls all resources and licenses major sectors of the economy, but our budget has no provision for universal healthcare, disability, and unemployment funding.

We admire cities in Europe and, instead of studying the process of social development, we simply want to copy and paste the end product. This cannot work. Build the people, and the people will build the cities.

3. Start respecting the rights of women, children, and every sexual minorities: It is a heterosexual man’s world only because men have been writing the rules of ownership for a very long time.

And we conflate colonial culture with universal culture. Africa has never been perfect, but it had many pre-colonial societies where men, women and children were accorded their dignity as humans.

In many of these societies, everyone—irrespective of age, gender, or sexual orientation—had roles to play in society and government.

Unfortunately, political and religious colonialism has replaced this history with a false culture where men are alleged to be superior, and women and young people are required to be submissive.

Today, women and youths have little or no independent roles in society and governance. We justify this under “our” colonially developed culture.

We need to introspect. We need to rediscover our original society of tolerance, equal opportunities, and respect for all.

Yoruba ideology calls this Omoluabi. In South Africa, they call it Ubuntu.

4. Stop treating democracy as a tyranny of the majority: Because our politicians only care about elections, they have only taught us the “numbers” aspect of democracy.

That is, majority wins. But democracy is much more than vote counting.

A mob action is not a democratic decision even though it involves a majority. The difference between democracy and mobbing is the protection of minorities.

In a democracy, numbers only matter in issues of public opinion (should we build schools or buy aircraft) not in issues of individual rights (should some sexualities be tolerated or not).

If you find yourself voting against the rights of a minority, you are doing democracy wrong.

5. Start treating religion as an opinion: Religion continues to be a problem in Nigeria because we cannot stop ourselves from externalising our religious beliefs.

There is nothing wrong with having a religion and observing it. It becomes odious only when it is rubbed in other people’s faces.

This externalisation can be done directly through legally approved or illegal force, or indirectly through social norms and practices.

When the head of a public agency issues a dress code for women, this is externalised religion.

When a man is arrested for blasphemy, this is externalized religion. When a church service routinely spills into highway traffic, this is externalised religion.

We have to start treating religion as a matter of individual preference and opinion.

Also, barring individual and cultural variants, the religion most of us practice is dependent on our proximity to either importation through the sea or through the desert.

If our leaders argue that imported productivity is capable of destroying the local economy, then we should be able to see how imported religious philosophies—when externalised—can damage local cohesion.


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