Nigeria and the search for nationhood (2)
Continued from yesterday
FLOWING from the preceding paragraph, it was astonishing to see the effusive enthusiasm with which a lot of citizens embraced the new administration apparently rejecting the immediate past government for its vexatious mannerisms especially on the floundering economy and its inability to rein in the worsening security situation. The people demonstrated that despite the socio-political and ethno-religious animosities prevalent within the system, they could rise up to challenge the status quo and effect a momentous change. If the desire for a departure from the worn out systems of mediocrity, corruption and cronyism sunk deep into them, then it predisposes that the people will be willing to give the government the maximum cooperation it requires to carry out the much needed change it vaunted during the electioneering period. Every new government deserves its periods of honeymoon when it is supposed to first clean the Augean stable and then set the agenda for rapid renewal through the conceptualisation of clear policies and processes that brings positive change in every sphere of our national life.
For any nation to experience genuine growth, a national rebirth must necessarily take place. There is a chilling agreement that something fundamental is wrong with the Nigerian state as presently constituted, not only in terms of perceived political marginalisations but also in terms of socio-economic exclusion and ensuring justice in all spheres. Few, there are, who maintain that nothing is wrong with Nigeria and all that is required is attitudinal change on the part of the political and ethnic leadership. For many, Nigeria simply needs a rebirth, a fundamental rebirth. While there appears to be widespread consensus about the need for a rebirth, there is a lack of consensus on the type of rebirth and the process of bringing about the desired change.
Genuine and abiding change is not just about the transfer of power from one political party to another or from an ethnic group to another; it is brought about by ensuring a system that gives the people both the political and economic control of society. For the people to gain this poignant control, some form of revolution is needed! There are antecedents of revolution-propelled national rebirth which led to sustainable development. Revolution could be the people’s revolt. Some are ideologically driven and effected through the ballot box and some occur by the extreme ideas of a leader who desires real change. In Nigeria’s case, people have said the people only need to sit down to address the challenges via a national dialogue. Indeed there have been many national conferences but none had sovereign powers; which proponents claim may just be the only way out. But why has none of the conferences or several reforms resolved the national question?
The existential reality is that Nigerians do not trust themselves and that is why everyone recedes into his ethnic and religious cocoons once the pan-Nigerian question arises. We no longer have national heroes; the few bright lights among us prefer to be ethnic champions. Nigerians need to start seeing the nation in the larger perspective. The American citizen is first an American before his identity as a Red Indian, a Hispanic, African-American, Mexican or any other tribe. They see the good of the nation before that of their local affiliations. National rebirth starts when we see Nigeria as our primary constituency. Not until the Hausas, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulanis, Ijaws and all other ethnic nationalities see Nigeria as a big local community to which they all belong, the much needed national unity and integration will be continually elusive.
Historians allude to the fact that the 1914 forced amalgamation is the ‘fons et origo’ (the source and origin) of the identity crisis that has hobbled the attainment of true nationhood. Notwithstanding this overstated fact, Nigeria must move forward as a nation. National rebirth takes place when there is genuine national healing and reconciliation – which stimulates trust and trust itself, is the foundation for national integration where people put the country first, support their leaders and have shared aspirations in a communal living devoid of sectional schisms. These new realities entail that, leaders and followers alike will stop to pursue narrow and parochial interests. In the new paradigm, everyone shall break from his ethnic, religious and political confines and together nurture and protect the fast evolving democratic culture of the Nigerian state.
The wave of change that blew in the recent elections, which eventuated the change of power at the federal level and other locations in the country, has not only brought a national optimism but it offers a unique opportunity for national rebirth. The politicians will continue to create an atmosphere that is suggestive of an unstable polity; especially when they cast aspersions on themselves and heat up the system. But in reality, what percentage are the political class and their cheerleaders?
It is the masses that need to continually and vigorously challenge the establishment not only in the demand of accountability and fulfilment of electoral promises but much more in nudging them to pursue the ideals that promote national reconciliation, integration, socio-economic prosperity and justice for all. When this is realised, it will no longer become a divisive issue who is taking what position or from which ethnic group the President comes, his religion and political affiliation because the system will naturally conscript such a leader to do the right things at all times. This is when genuine progress and true nationhood is achieved.
Adeniji is a Communications Consultant.