Mutallab Terrorist Incident as a Teachable Moment for Nigerians

by Paul I. Adujie

Some Nigerians, oftentimes, make pronouncements, as though they are temporary citizens of Nigeria

The failed attempt by Umaru Farouk Abdul Mutallab to bomb United Airlines flight 253 out of the air and the aftermath have managed to act as a reminder to those who pretend to be temporary citizens of Nigeria, that they are in fact still Nigerians, just like other 150 million of us, with shared destiny, warts and all!

Those Nigerians abroad or in the Diaspora, who are too often badmouthing Nigeria and are too quick to engage in ethnic, religious and regional jousting, claiming superiority, engaging in chauvinism, bigotries and flame-throwing, are now lumped with the rest of us. The rest of us, who have often pointed out that it is infinitely more beneficial to focus on tackling Nigeria’s national challenges and national issues, and refrain from the debilitating negative matters of ethnic, religious and regional difference or claimed superiority.

We have frequently argued that paucity and or complete absence of public infrastructure is not peculiar to a particular ethnic group, or region and religious group. National issues such as the downward spiral of our educational institutions, the absence equipment and medicines in hospitals are not unique to particular ethnic group.

The high rate of unemployment in Nigeria is a national phenomenon. The absence of clean drinking piper borne water is not an Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba issue, it is and remains a national issue. Neither is the absence of adequate power generation and transmission by NEPA or, PHCN

And now, the United States has just increased our burden, as the US lumped Nigeria together with nations which the US accuses of antagonizing it and having animus toward it and suddenly, 150 million Nigerians are once again, for better and for worse, inextricably bound and linked together, by reason of our national origin. Nigerians at home and abroad now have a choice in the matter resist the generalization against Nigerians and Nigeria, demand that the US remove us from the unsavory list or some Nigerians can continue to say that they are from Arewa, or Biafra or Oduduwa republics, or pretend to be from the moon or mars!

I take the position that Nigerians in unison, should protest and demand that our nation not be so labeled, castigated with current unfair generalizations; Or, Nigerians who so wish, can approach security agents at airports worldwide, and insist on introducing selves as citizens of Arewa,or Biafra or Oduduwa Republics and therefore, separate, apart and distinct from those of us Nigerians! There is a clear choice.

It is the case that when unwarranted attacks were directed at Nigeria, soon after the Mutallab incident in Detroit, Michigan in the United States, some Nigerians quickly engaged in their usual practice of finger pointing. These finger pointing were predicated and rooted in, the useless perfunctory distinctions in Mutallab’s religious faith, his ethnicity and the region of Nigeria from which his father hails. For these finger pointing Nigerians, it was not enough to just denounce the attempted criminal acts of Mutallab, it instead became quite important to some, to specify Mutallab’s religion, ethnicity and regional origins.

The truth is that Mutallab has lived more than half his life, until the incident, outside the shores of Nigeria, but he nevertheless remains a Nigerian for good and for evil, and in success and in failure. But some Nigerians sought to portray him as merely from that religion, that ethnic group and that region! The bitter truth is that, non-Nigerians are splendidly uninterested in our internal workings or arrangements and the schisms and family squabbles between the various political, ethnic and religious divisions in Nigeria. Those Nigerians bigots can engage in all the splitting hairs they want, to their heart content.

All Nigerians should see generalizations against Nigerians and Nigeria for what they generalizations are. All Nigerians should see discrimination against Nigerians and Nigeria for what discrimination is
We must see double standards and disparities in treatments reserved for Nigerians and Nigerian in comparison to all others for what such double standards and disparities really are.

Nigerians should stop accepting, explaining and justifying maltreatment of Nigerians and Nigeria by airlines or credit card companies and all other entities, be they nations or corporate entities. Nigerians must get away and get out from the mindsets which allow some Nigerians accept discrimination as something Nigerians and Nigeria have earned and deserves! Nigeria is as imperfect as other nations of the world. Nigerians must therefore using Nigeria’s internal imperfections as acceptable excuses as why nations and corporate entities must accept our money and our efforts and yet give us less that we deserve, because we have Nigerian origins and heritage!

There are internal frictions in Nigeria which are a result of plural and diverse nature of Nigeria. However, the benefits derivable from our diversity and being a plural society are quite tremendous and quite clearly outweighs the negatives. Furthermore, domestic issues or disagreements should be put in the back burner in the face of external threats and challenges

Nigeria is a plural society. In plural societies, it is not uncommon to have competition for space and resources. Resources are not infinite and as a consequence, resource allocation is liable to have tinges of competition between the multiple variables of imbued in a multi ethnic, multi religious, multi cultural and multi lingual and multi regional interests. This “competition” for resources, can often mean, competing and sometimes conflicting interests, but, such competing-conflicting interests, need not be violent or unfriendly. There is no necessity for violence or war and bitterness in the “competition” which ensues as a result resource sharing or resource allocation processes.

Unfortunately, there are too many Nigerians who have instead, become entrenched in bigotries, biases and prejudices against other Nigerians, too many Nigerians make negative pronouncements as if in auto response and almost reflexively about other Nigerians, other than members of their ethnic, religious, linguistic and regional group. There are too many Nigerians who are quick to describe fellow Nigerians of other ethnic, religious, regional and or linguistic groups in the most abrasive, base and most corrosive terms.

There are these Nigerians with romantic notions of distinct fictional entities to which these Nigerians owe superior loyalty, passion, commitment and dedication. There are too many Nigerians who expend, no, squander, is more appropriate a term, they squander wastefully, valuable time in dwelling in their infantile make-belief Arewa, or Biafra or Oduduwa republics. And as such, all debates of Nigerian national issues are too often mired and subsumed in ethnic, religious and regional lopsided perspectives based on parochial, myopic and ridiculously illogical prisms of being from the variously superior and holier than thou Arewa, or Biafra or Oduduwa republics. The Mutallab incident has be no exceptions.

Nigerians will do well from now on, to engage in the debate of issues affecting Nigerians and Nigeria, from the point of view of common national and strategic interests. Time is nigh for Nigerians of all ethnic, religious and regional background to rally around Nigeria. Nigerians need to engage in vigorous and vibrant debates regarding sundry national issues, proffer solutions, in efforts to amicably resolve Nigeria’s challenges. Nigerians must cease and desist from the not so beguiling self-defeating and energy sapping and energy dissipating fixations on ethnic, regional and religious distinctions and dichotomies

All Nigerians should concentrate on demonstrating our intellectual prowess and resilience, through problem solving which benefits every Nigerian and Nigeria. Nigeria is cur

rently bedeviled with myriad challenges and Nigerians are known worldwide, for astuteness and for intellectual acumen. It is time to deploy our prodigious and superb intellect on behalf of all Nigerians and Nigeria. Post independence Nigerians have been wedded together for fifty years, and time is nigh to make it stick! All Nigerians should quit pretending that there is a suitable alternative to the nationhood of Nigeria and our citizenship.

All Nigerians should stop pretending that our Nigerian-ness is some sorts of temporary arrangements. Nigerians are in this together and for good, it is time to settle down and make it work best for us. There are examples of multicultural, multi-ethnic and multilingual nations on earth with similar complexities such as we have in Nigeria.

There are more than a billion people each in China and India. Coincidentally, the economies of both China and India, are in the upsurge and in double digit growth, most of these advances are powered by Diaspora Chinese and Indians. Both China and India are similar to Nigeria in their multi ethnic, multi cultural and multi lingual compositions. Both China and India, have huge Diaspora populations, similar again, to the way Nigeria is today. And recently, a Chinese America chose returning to China to contribute to Chinese national development, over a ten million dollar opportunity offered to him in America where he currently conducts important research.

The European Economic Community/European Union now have a common continental currency, which competes, frequently out competes the US Dollar. The EEC/EU arrangements ensures a large market, mobility of labor, which have engendered higher standard of living for Europeans east and west. There is an identical strength, okay, potential political, economic and strategic strength in Nigeria’s numbers as currently composed, this is good for Nigeria, for West Africa, for the African continent and indeed, it is good for the whole world! Why would any Nigerian seek to change that?

Besides, it is quite foolhardy for any Nigerian who tries to convince any airport security agent around the world, that he is not Nigerian or that he is uniquely from Arewa, or Biafra or Oduduwa imaginary republics. Our Nigerian swagger will shine through and the security agents do not care about these unknown imaginary republics! Claiming to be from Arewa, or Biafra or Oduduwa makes you a fraudster and it would increase the heightened security odds against you!

In October 2010, Nigeria will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of her national political independence from Britain, a former colonizer and usurper of Nigeria’s political, economic and cultural powers. Nigerians should therefore focus on the business of making Nigeria a nation which is developed, advanced and great. We all must learn to focus on the big picture. Every nation is playing to win, it a is hostile race to the top, it is grueling and only the organized, efficient and focused survives.

Nigerians must focus on how to put Nigeria on international platforms and pedestals in the comity of nations of the world in the scheme of things, as the wheels of history continues to turn.

All Nigerians should focus on whatever it takes to attain Nigeria’s rightful place at the global table.

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