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The building blocks of nationhood: A blueprint for new Nigeria

By Tunde Bakare
28 October 2020   |   4:25 am
When our nation attained independence on October 1, 1960, it was with fervent faith in the possibilities of a great nation that our founding fathers lowered the British flag and hoisted the Green-White-Green.

[FILE PHOTO] Tunde Bakare

When our nation attained independence on October 1, 1960, it was with fervent faith in the possibilities of a great nation that our founding fathers lowered the British flag and hoisted the Green-White-Green. Their dream of a great nation was etched in the lyrics of our founding national anthem, the second stanza of which states.

In the past week, we witnessed with great sorrow the desecration of our nationhood as Nigeria’s armed forces stained the banner of our nationhood, the Nigerian flag, with the blood of our children, the Nigerian youth, to whom our founding fathers charged us to handover a banner without stain. It is, therefore, with a heavy heart over the current state of our nation, but with resilient hope in the possibilities of a New Nigeria, that I bring you this State of the Nation Broadcast originally intended to celebrate Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary. In this moment of despair and sobriety, I have titled my address ‘The Building Blocks of Nationhood: A Blueprint for the New Nigeria’ because this dark chapter of our history is not how Nigeria’s story ends.

The Birth Pangs of Nationhood
All across the nation, there is a wave of people movement. It is a wave of citizen engagement championed by the so-called ‘ordinary Nigerian’ who has proven in extraordinary terms to be by no means ordinary. It began in Edo State with an awakened and resolute electorate defying the political establishment to make their voices heard and their votes count. In the past couple of weeks, that wave has been transformed into a tsunami of people movement led by our young people who have had enough of the horrendous brutality of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). I believe that this wave of people movement is the physical manifestation of the birth pangs heralding the New Nigeria.

As I observed the EndSARS protests, I could not but conclude that we are witnessing the crescendo of an era and the beginning of another. Ten years ago, when we convened civil society organisations under the umbrella of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), our objective was not to be the voice of the people, but to restore the voices of the voiceless in a nation where social mobilisation had been frozen for too long at that time. Ten years later, the EndSARS protest has assured me that a generation of Nigerians has arisen, armed with clear and unmistakable voices, refusing to dim their lights or turn down the volume of their requests, because we have entered the era of ‘Soro Soke.’ I salute the courage of this unbreakable generation; I salute the resilience of every Nigerian youth, named and unnamed, who has stood up to be counted in this momentous era.

A Solemn Remembrance
We remember at this time the heartbreaking tales of extortion, torture, rape, and murder that drove our young people to the streets in the first place. We remember Linda Nkechi Igwetu who, in 2018, was reported to have been shot in a friend’s car by SARS operatives the day before her passing out parade, after serving her nation as a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Abuja. We remember Stella Ifeoma Abugu, another corps member, reported to have been raped and murdered while being unlawfully detained by SARS officials in Abuja.

Our hearts bleed at the memory of the peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate who were shot and killed on Tuesday, October 20, 2020,by the Armed Forces of the Nigerian state as they held up the Nigerian flag; young compatriotspledging allegiance to ‘one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity’as they sang our national anthem in their final moments.Let us observe a moment of silence for these Nigerians and many others, named and unnamed, who have been unjustly killed by agents of the Nigerian state. May their souls rest in peace and may God comfort their families.

In like manner, wealso remember those unsung heroes of the Nigeria Police Force who, despite being part of an institution that has the worst reputation for corruption and ineptitude in the Nigerian public sector, serve with remarkable professionalism and bravery, sometimes doing so at the cost of their lives.

Ultimately, the Government is Liable
Any misuse of that power by the police, especially to repress and oppress any citizen, is ultimately an abuse of the power conferred by the people on their government. This is why the widespread protests against police brutality are justified. I acknowledge the efforts made by the government to address the protesters’ demands, but the government must move from commitment to full compliance in the implementation of the 5-for-5 demands of the End SARS protesters and in overhauling our policing architecture. Above all, I strongly recommend that President Muhammadu Buhari should ensure that those who ordered armed soldiers to fire on innocent citizens are fished out and made to face the full weight of the law. The officers who carried out such wicked acts should also be prosecuted under international legal standards.

Unfortunately, the protests took a sad turn, from the attacks on protesters by thugs, to the infiltration of protests by hoodlums unleashing mayhem in cities and communities.

Furthermore, in the words of President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ): “The poor suffer twice at the rioter’s hands: First, when his destructive fury scars their neighbourhood; second, when the atmosphere of accommodation and consent is changed to one of hostility and resentment.”

Unfortunately, this is where peaceful protests hijacked by thugs and hoodlums have landed us. Be that as it may, governmentsat the federal and state levels credence to the conclusion of protesters that the government itself was behind these smokescreen tactics to discredit the protests. By its actions and inactions, the government has burned the bridge of trust. It is my hope that this address will help rebuild that bridge and resolve the issues in the interest of the Nigerian nation.

Apologies to a Generation
Before I proceed to unveil the building blocks of nationhood, permit me to address an issue that is heavy upon my heart, for we cannot proceed with laying the building blocks of a new nation without addressing the issue of how older generations of Nigerians have failed our youth. By the older generations, I refer to the so-called ‘Independence Generation,’ those who were born before and immediately after the independence of Nigeria. I refer to the parents and grandparents of the millennial generation.

One can understand why the younger generation would so heavily indict preceding generations. At independence, we inherited a promising nation, but we are bequeathing a predatory nation to the young generation.

We inherited a nation where a young graduate was guaranteed immediate employment with housing and a carloan, but we have bequeathed a nation in which our youth are largely underemployed, unemployed or Yahoo-employed.

We inherited a banner without stain, but we have introduced a new colour to our green-white-green: blood red. This is why there has been a definite generational spin to the protests.

To citizens of the young generation who are disappointed in the older generation; to those young freedom fighters who believe that the generation of their fathers and mothers has failed them; to those young Nigerians who have stood up to oppression; permit me to stand in the gap to apologise on behalf of my generation and the older generation for the undesirable state of the nation you were born into. Permit me to apologise on behalf of your parents and grandparents for the kind of country you have grown up in. We salute your courage, and we applaud your resilience. We hear you, we share your pain, we share your story, we share your dreams for a better nation; and, although you may not realise it, we did our best to fight for you.

The Pathway from Dream to Manifestation
The pathway from the present state of our nation to the Nigeria of our dreams is paved with transformational landmarks in four dimensions, namely: Culture, Structure, Infrastructure and Intra-Structure.

These are the four strong pillars around which the Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC) is built as a governmental, authoritative, powerful institution, generating solutions, influencing policy, and providing clarity; and these are the four building blocks from which a new nation can be forged.

1. Our National Culture
The first landmark in the journey from the status quo to the Nigeria of our dreams is the birth of a New Nigerianculture. The cultural dimension of nation-building is the value system or value superstructure upon which the nation must be built. It brings to focus what I call the 4 ‘IDs’ of our nationhood, namely the Nigerian Identity, the Nigerian Idiosyncrasy, the Nigerian Idiocy, and the Nigerian Ideal.

To address the current issues plaguing our nation and to make meaningful progress towards the Nigeria of our dreams, we must resolve certain unanswered questions that border on theNigerianIdentity. Who is a Nigerian? What is the irreducible minimum standard of decency below, which no Nigerian must fall? To find answers to this question, I recommend revisiting the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration [ii] which was unanimously passed by delegates to the 2014 National Conference.

Our conduct should at all times be moral, ethical and legal, moderated by the reality that there are no shortcuts in nation-building.
From protests to progress, we must now proceed to the next phase of citizen engagement. We must organise ourselves like the nation-builders who teamed up with Nehemiah to build the wall of the city. With one hand they built the wall, and with the other,they held a sword to defend themselves.[iii] In like manner, when this battle is won, we must defend our gains.

2. Our National Structure
Upon the foundation of a New Nigerian culture, we must revisit conversations around the structure of Nigeria. The EndSARS protests have once again brought to the fore the diversity of the challenges and aspirations of the Nigerian people across geopolitical zones.Let me at this juncture address those young people, particularly in the North,who have taken a different position and called for reforms, rather than the outright disbandment of SARS.[iv] I am referring to those who argue(d)that they need such tactical formations to combat their peculiar security challenges in the North. First of all, I say to these young Nigerians, you have the right to air your views, no matter how unpopular they may be. We hear you, too, because you are also Nigerians.

3. Our National Infrastructure
As ‘We the people’begin to take responsibility to shape the New Nigerian culture, the government must facilitate the right kind of infrastructure that can channel that culture into productive ventures. Our cities and communities must host affordable and decent housing units, functional education and health facilities, industrial facilities, sports and recreation facilities, all linked by efficient multimodal transportation networks and broadband technology, protected by intelligent security architecture, and powered by sustainable energy solutions. Such state-of-the-art infrastructure will facilitate the development of our young people, the incubation and growth of enterprise, and the drastic reduction in crime rates.

­At this juncture, I reiterate my recommendation that NYSC becomes an optional two-year programme with the first year spent on military training for our young people and the second year spent on agro-entrepreneurship. In addition, I recommend that a minimum of an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) obtained from a recognised polytechnic, or two years in a recognised university with a cumulative grade point average not lower than a second-class lower division, be among the prerequisites for admission into the Nigeria Police Academy. This will compel an upgrade of the Nigeria Police Academy to a degree-awarding tertiary institution affiliated with a Nigerian university, transform the Nigeria Police Force into a Nigeria Police Service, and further build the bridge between Nigerians and the Police.

4. Our National Intra-Structure
The intra-structure question is what, for years, has been referred to as the National Question. It is the quest for how best to coexist as a nation irrespective of our differences and diversities. The intra-structure question has remained unanswered since the era of our founding fathers, and it explains the various conflicts that define our nation, including inter-ethnic, interreligious, partisan, and, especially now, intergenerational conflicts. It explains the ethnic colouration wrongly applied to the destruction of lives and property in Lagos State, the South West, and other parts of the country by hoodlums who hijacked the End SARS protests.

Resolving the intra-structure question calls for a national redemption experience and an appropriate institutional framework. A national redemption experience is modelled in Revelation 5:8-10.

A national redemption experience entails forsaking a primordial attachment to ethnicity and tribalism and pledging allegiance to a higher national identity. An appropriate institutional framework for such an experience would be the Presidential Commission for National Reconciliation, Reintegration and Rebirth, which I have called for on various occasions.

This Commission must be charged with the mandate to address intra-structural issues, reconcile sectional interests, rebuild trust in the Nigerian State, and birth a truly integrated Nigeria. Furthermore, this Commission can serve as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where citizens can publicly narrate their ordeals with agents of the Nigerian State and find healing, compensation, justice, and reconciliation.

In conclusion, I appeal to the Nigerian youth whose patriotic spirits have been brutalised and traumatised by a repressive Nigerian state. I appeal to them not to lose hope in Nigeria. I encourage them to keep hope alive because the Nigeria of their dreams, the New Nigeria, is within reach. We will build this nation, not upon the altar of the blood of our young people, but on their visions and aspirations. Let us, therefore, arise to build a great nation, that all who have died in the quest for a new nation will not have died in vain, and that the Nigerian dream will become the Nigerian reality.
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•Bakare is the Serving Overseer, The Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC); Convener, Save Nigeria Group.

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