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National amnesia and historical strategy in Nigeria

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National Assembly

As I ponder on Nigeria’s diversity and the leadership disposition that can deliver its unity and prosperity, I have come to realise the leadership imperative of understanding the nation’s history, peoples and cultures as the foremost step in galvanizing them into prosperous nationhood. I have observed, for instance, a Netanyahu vividly describe his people, chronicle their history and pride on the progress they have made together towards greatness. Coming to mind also is a Kegame charting a roadmap for Rwanda’s development based on vivid historical memories and understanding of its peoples. Impressive is one of Africa’s leaders of thought, Prof. Patrick Lumumba transversing Africa’s history and socio-political terrain while proffering the leadership posturing that can salvage the continent and deliver its vast potentials.

While leaders recognise its centrality to national development, history must be acknowledged wholesomely for it to impact positively and significantly. It must be noted that when a people or nation does not own and tell their story, others will tell it as they please or perceive – its favourability is never guaranteed. Perhaps, this is why great nations invest heavily in history as much as they liberalise it. Rather than distort or erase discomforting stories, efforts should be made to avert their recurrence. The red spots of history – as undesirable and regrettable as they may be – should be highlighted as redlines for encouraging and enforcing civilised and patriotic behaviours. Sour stories should therefore end as important lessons used to reinforce or complement the green spots into historical frames displayed on the walls of governance and nationhood, reiterative of the strength and opportunities therein.

Understanding one another in Nigeria should be a product of decent interaction and learning among her peoples instead of relying on existing misleading stereotypes for divisive socio-political inferences and behaviours. From slavery to the Holocaust (or even apartheid), history itself reveals that most crises in human interaction is borne out of stereotypes which rob mankind of humanity, equality and dignity. However, the world has learnt that the human differences causative of such crises are rather artificial than existential in nature, hence the enactment of fundamental human rights which are based on universal human values. Heterogeneous nations that have adopted these values demonstrate the oneness of mankind – that all manner of people can and should co-exist peacefully.

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Those are historical lessons that the Nigeria people and leadership must learn and therefore demonstrate patriotism in giving up such historical prejudices and absurdities that hamper progress, as: the wrong notion of a people’s superiority over others; the vicious circle of self-inflicting vendettas by the parts of the same corporal entity; over-emphasis on the majority of three ethnic groups at the detriment of a multiplicity of neglected others; governance targeted at ethnicities instead of constitutionally recognised political units and citizens; the wrong notion that national unity is guaranteed by mere sovereignty instead of constant cultural integration, mutual respect and inclusiveness; the sustained blame game that trails such national calamities as civil and tribal wars, ethno-religious crises, coups d’etat which dot her checkered political history; etc.

It is at the backdrop of the foregoing that Nigeria’s leadership must equip itself with a comprehensive knowledge of the nation’s past, her peoples and cultures and develop a historical strategy for entrenching lasting peace and harmony – sine qua non for national development and progress. This strategy must take into account that: leaders must recognise, understand and synchronise the voices of its peoples; when leadership focuses only on one area, it tends to forget others; those who are forgotten or ignored may not likely follow the lead; one cannot successfully lead those who are not following, etc. This strategy must transcend the nation’s laws, policies and programmes.

To achieve prosperous nationhood in Nigeria therefore, its leadership must inspire an array of citizens who are willing to relate positively with their environment and history (good or bad) and take harmonious strides towards common national goals. These harmonious strides, while savouring the glamorous rainbow of diversity, must however, be mindful of its fragility and therefore apple caution, care, mutual respect, equality, equity and inclusiveness as guiding stars to sustainable peace and prosperity.

•Ikechukwu wrote from Lagos.

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