The atmosphere was charged with unprecedented excitement. The people savoured the luxurious air of freedom, after decades of British imperialism. The first day in the month of October 1960 was no ordinary day, for it was the day that gave birth to the pride of the black race. It was a day of intense celebration and unparalleled joy, the dawn of a strong and independent Nigeria, full of potential and promise. Forty-three years down the road, Nigerians are asking if there exists a cause for laughter.
The pride of place, which this great nation held in the past, has unfortunately been beclouded by the bulwarks of corruption, inordinate tribal sentiments, violent conflicts and inadvertently, poverty for a significant segment of the populace. Like a wall ripped down by an invading army and left unrepaired, the ‘Giant of Africa’ has exuded vulnerability at global economic and political changes, attracted the ridicule and taunts of the international community for being passive while the world passes by and left it’s people despondent. The economic indicators label a resource-rich nation like ours as poor, our academic institutions serve as breeding grounds for various anti-social activities, our strong cultural values are being eroded on a daily basis and the virile youth, the hope and future of Nigeria, are disillusioned at what tomorrow holds for them.
This is the precarious reality of the state of the nation. It is not a palatable situation and has tested the resilience of the Nigerian spirit to the extreme. For the most part, the problems we face are self-inflicted and demand a solution that we as Nigerians must develop if we are to reach the seemingly evasive land of promise. The challenges against our collective destiny as a people are many. Fortunately, they are not insurmountable. Nigerians must come to this realization and have a deep burden for the holistic emancipation of Nigeria from debt and poverty, before we start the reconstruction of the Nigeria of our dreams with great urgency.
An old proverb says: “No one climbs a tree from the top”, so it would be only wise if we retrace our steps to the root of our current predicament before mapping a workable strategy for national development.
It is no secret that the disunity of individuals is precipitated by mutual distrust, which nurtures conflict. From the early years of independence, through the obnoxious years of military adventure into civil administration, the stench of tribal affiliation that separates numerous tribes has been pungent in our national life. The vice of tribalism is not the preserve of our ethnic constituents, as there exists even more lines of delineation within ethnic groupings that births conflict. Such conflict reveals that the problem is not a case of tribalism per se but an innate state of intolerance. For Nigerians to come together, it is imperative that we come together as one people, united in the spirit of brotherliness and determined to change our destiny for good. Each of us must compel ourselves and fellow tribesmen to tolerate the God-given differences of each other, shed any form of ambivalence towards anyone called a Nigerian and embrace each other in love and sincerity. We have stayed together as a people for too long, fought a civil war and come out beaten but not battered, laughed and suffered together, endured the hardship of tyrannical rule, built a veritable workforce, played major roles in bringing peace to other nations and witnessing the growth and dynamism of Nigerian entrepreneurship. All these, we have achieved collectively. Divided we fall, but united, we are guaranteed of standing strong.
In the spirit of unity, we would discover a passion for the resuscitation of our nation and indeed, the salvation of Africa. It is this passion for our motherland that demands our change of attitude in every facet. In whatever capacity we find ourselves, let us strive to preserve the sanctity of our nationhood by restraining ourselves from the madness of corrupt practices. Nigeria should be viewed as belonging to us all and to be exploited for our collective good. Corruption must be extinguished by instilling the strong cultural value of honesty into every Nigerian, starting from our young, on whose shoulders lie the future of the nation. Favouritism must be discouraged as it deprives many of their right to the ‘national cake’, in its stead, equity in the allocation of resources and positions should be effected on the honorable pedestal of merit. Families condemning members who engage in such practices should enunciate the role of the family as a moral institution, and extolling only acts of honesty and justice should be the norm.
A wise man once said, “Places do not make people, it is people that make places”. It is true that the developed nations have better standards of living, which may cause many Nigerians to emigrate in search of greener pastures; but all Nigerians must realize that our commitment to the success of the Nigerian project would create a ‘greener’ Nigeria, which would cause others to come to bask in our ‘locally-made’ prosperity. The Nigerian nirvana would be born when we take responsibility for our lives and decide to become self-reliant. The modern economy guarantees the prosperity of producers and the poverty of consumers. For Nigeria to take its rightful place in the comity of nations, we must develop a culture of production. A paradigm shift in the handling of our finances must start with we all engaging in simple forms of production and subsequently migrating to more complex forms of production. This form of economic empowerment can only occur when we relieve ourselves from the inferiority complex that portrays locally produced commodities as low quality. Nigerians must develop economic responsibility and exhibit patriotism by patronizing everything Nigerian, starting from our ever-vibrant real sector and investing in the growing capital market. This is our economy; to be supported by us, to generate our prosperity and not that of any other nation.
The development of our great country would be actualised through great sacrifice. The future of the largest black nation on earth would require the resilience of Nigerians more than ever and demand commitment in all endeavours. The habit of lackluster performance of duties should be discarded in favour of a disciplined approach to duty. Success is earned and we must justify our right to greatness by individually engaging in productive activity with a sense of responsibility, dedication and zeal.
In the face of declining moral values globally and the ills it brings to society, it behoves on all Nigerians to hang on to the strong cultural values that have sustained us for generations. We must extol the principles of respect for elders, preserving the dignity of our womenfolk, taking responsibility for our actions, engaging in communal gatherings to deliberate on issues affecting our host communities and not necessarily our hometowns, nurturing the younger generation to understand and appreciate the dictates of family values and hard work, imbibing in all Nigerians a sense of belonging and mutual respect for each other; and consolidating brotherliness through inter-ethnic interactions, particularly marriage. The sustenance of these values would keep alive the needed passion for bringing positive change to Nigeria. It would also serve as a veritable pedestal for the grooming of future leaders who would be mindful of how their decisions influence the collective.
Nigerians are renowned for their affinity to the divine and their belief in a supernatural God. However, this religious nature has not been converted moral soundness by many. It is widely expected that a God fearing personality would be adroit at managing the resource base of the nation and provide quality leadership if circumstances permit it. It is this form of leadership the country needs that would give form to the aspirations of the people. It is this form of leadership that must be instilled in us all, for we are indeed leaders wherever we find ourselves. It is this leadership that Nigerians desire and deserve. Leadership rooted in reverence for the Almighty and passion for the people. Therefore, individually we must change from a complacent form of religion and engage in sincere communion with our creator to draw strength for the journey towards national development.
As we join hands in unity, determined to change our attitudes in the various facets of national life; we all shall become one people, one nation, living under God in a prosperous Nigeria where peace and justice reigns.