Going with the simple definition of a nation as “a community of people sharing a common history, language etc., and living in a particular territory under one government”. It was very clear, that Nigeria, by virtue of her varied composite nature and contemporary history, did not fit into this definition.
The absence or lack of political will to implement a true nation-building blue print was Nigeria’s major nemesis. Compounded by the fact that her past and present leadership have continued to pay merely lip service to the very important subject of nation building.
The senile political structure, and the attendant irrepressible ethno-political unrests could be traced to these short-comings. Sincerity to nation building implies that there should be a guiding blue-print, and a high sense of mission with which such a commitment will be pursued. For an endevour without a blue-print is equal to scaling the hurdles in a sporting competition with eyes blind-folded.
Forty-six years after her independence, Nigeria is still variously referred to as “a geographical expression”, validating the Late Chief Jeremiah Awolowo’s hypothesis. Equally, when these observations are extrapolated to the level of social dynamics on the ground, the results are not at variance.
For our ethnic diversity, the implication was to redirect every segment of the country towards common goals, aspirations, values etc., irrespective of the big divide in ethnicity, religion, mentality, culture, Intelligent quotient and all the draw-backs. A drive towards achieving these set of values would in essence, enthrone meritocracy, excellence and national advancement across the board.
I’m not suggesting that the federal-character provision in the constitution should be held in abeyance. The provision can still be fully implemented while giving individual competence the utmost consideration. A friend once told me that a country in the embryonic stage of nationhood as Nigeria, must be willing to articulate, acknowledge and exploit the glaring higher IQ levels of her citizens, especially the Southerners.
Take a look at Nigeria of today, and compare her with what she was 8 years ago. The positive indices are written all over. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, recently attested that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was the second best thing that happened to Nigeria after Obasanjo. Truly, he was being sincere. And God so love that country that there are so many Okonjo-Iwealas out there in different fields.
And, until we recognize and harness our respective endowments visàvis ingenuity, Nigeria will continue to loose the rare services of many of such Southern professionals to the West and the Gulf Arab states.
The contributions of Nigerian born geniuses, such as that of Prof. Peter Uchenna Nwangwu, would continue to elude Nigeria. Prof. Nwangwu is widely regarded as one of the top ten most educated pharmacists/pharmacologists in the world. Nwangwu invented a screening methodology for anti-arrhythmic drugs. The invention, which can identify drugs that can cure an irregular heartbeat, was created in 1976 as Nwangwu was studying for his dissertation. In 1981, Nwangwu also invented a methodology for identifying the myocardial infection, also known as a heart attack. Both methodologies are being used across the world. Nwangwu has also invented seven drugs used for correcting irregular heartbeats.
Prof Nwangwu is the first scientist in the world to document and publish the first in vivo Murine ventricular tachycardia in a single surface electrocardiogram lead. Scientists all over the world, including scientists at Harvard Medical School, quote Prof Nwangwu in their research publications in this area of medical research.
There was the need to wise up and eschew the enthronement of mediocrity in Nigeria. Federal character must reflect the best irrespective of ethnicity. While Nigeria trudges towards nation hood, her survival will depend on the frankness of those in leadership positions, ala real nation building.
NIGER-DELTA.– It is no gain saying that Niger delta should have long had a world class littoral city, in the league of Dubai or New-York. Such was long over due, after having offered the bulk of the total crude oil sales to the tune of over 500 billion dollars to the Nigerian government. This is where the question of sincerity comes in. Had the Niger Delta been in the North, or had the dominant ethnic stock of the North inhabited the Niger-delta, will the region be lying fallow as it has been, since the discovery of crude at Oloibiri? The answer is simply NO.
Evolution of a real nation would also mean equitable political participation in all leadership hierarchy including the presidency. After all, the population figures of the constituent ethnic groups of Nigeria has remained a classified knowledge. And, I’ll not be shocked if one of the ethnic groups in the Niger-delta spring surprises in a genuine national head count. Such that happened with the South African blacks, put at 12 million by the former white minority rulers, until their political freedom threw up a number thrice more.
Sincerity in building a true Nigerian nation will involve a sort tete-a-tete on the vexed issues of Nigerian citizenship, residency, indigene and settler-ship. Which must address and uphold the right of an Hausa resident in Onitsha, or an Igbo resident in Kano to be voted for in their places of domicile. From Britain, to South Africa, Ireland, USA and so on, we have heard about Nigerians born in Nigeria holding elective positions in those countries.
The pre independent spirit that made it possible for an Hausa-Fulani, Alhaji Altine, to clinch the mayoral seat of Enugu should be rekindled country-wide. The political sophistication showed by the Igbo in Asaba few years ago, when they voted a long time Yoruba resident of Cable-point, Mr. Shittu, to the state house of assembly should be emulated. There has to be a change in the individual perception of one another.
One of the attributes of the past military governments which happened to favour the act of nation building, was their ability to appoint military governors to states other than that of their origin. I am not calling for a military government. But I should think that a statutory amendment that will seek to mandate each of the Northern and Southern states to appoint at least three members of their Cabinet from the other divide, will favour a nation building effort.
Most political pundits would bet that leaders who had fought a war to keep a country together would be savvy in balancing the interests of her constituent parts. But alas, It has not been the case. Nigerian leaders intransigence also accounts for the reasons why Nigeria has always been on the precipice. To preside over a country where some major stake holders have been excluded, and yet expect to build a peaceful and thriving nation is not easily possible..
In respect of the Igbo cause, Pres. Obasanjo has done well in some areas, but visibly lacking in so many others which includes industrial and infrastructural development of Igboland. Building a nation with common values and aspirations meant that Pres.Obasanjo should have known by now, that the South-East has the largest indigenous international business travelers in the country, and therefore, deserve an International Airport, even as the unending preparations to dredge the Niger River has become a popular newspaper hype.
Abia and Imo states were recently excluded from the newly created oil producing “Coastal states”. The name “Coastal” notwithstanding, what binds the so-called states is not their littoral features, but rather their oil producing status.
Otherwise, Lagos and Ogun, being natural coastal states, should have been included in the union of “Coastal states”. Therefore, the exclusion of the two oil producing states of Abia and Imo is another affront on the Igbo. And another insincere effort towards nation-building.
Onitsha, more than any city in Nigeria today, needs a rail-link, particularly to the city of Lagos to facilitate the huge volume of commercial activities.
A Lagos-Onitsha rail-link will undoubtedly emerge one of the busiest commercial routes in West-Africa, and will attract revenues to the government through commercial haulage. It is baffling to see new rail links constructed in areas that could be best described as “cow-towns”, misplacing the economic priorities of an administration in search of new avenues of revenue generation. Such economically nonviable rail links only end up aiding the distribution of destitute nation wide; worsening the nuisance on Nigerian cities, and on the civil society in general.
Traveling down to Umuahia in person to mark this year’s 40th anniversary of Gen. Ironsi’s death would have shown Obasanjo as a true nation builder. Laying a wreath personally at the tomb of the man whom he served as a platoon commander in the Congo, wouldn’t have been too much for a former subordinate to a fallen superior. Had Obasanjo done that, It would have been very comforting to a disappointed widow who has seen “oga boys” turn callous leaders one after the other, forgotten the motherly care with which she treated them A to Z, at Dodan Barracks.
Obasanjo having sent his Minister of state for defense and the SFG to represent him at Gen. Ironsi’s anniversary, and only to appear the following day at Yaba Lagos, in a condolence visit to a fallen Yoruba gubernatorial aspirant, underscored the burgeoning ethnic gulf. I couldn’t have imagined Pres. George W. Bush excusing himself from an anniversary of the death of the Late U.S Pres., Dwight Eisenhower, who was of German descent. And only to show up the next 24 hours condoling the family of a slain political leader of Irish descent as him. Obasanjo’s indifference to Ironsi’s anniversary was another flawed example of nation building.
All things being equal, Gen. Ironsi deserved to have had one prominent national land mark named after him. The Niger bridge, whose completion by the French consortium Dumez, coincided with Ironsi’s death in 1966, should be renamed after him. This would adequately honour the foremost black African army general, and the first Supreme commander of the Nigerian army. Such a befitting national landmark will please many Nigerians and the poor widow.
It will be honorably recalled, that it was Major Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo’s financial magnanimity that saw Ironsi’s kids through school, some had to live with him in order to alleviate the burden on the helpless widow. Even as Gen. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu contributed immensely.
The continued killing of southerners in the North at the vaguest excuse, Igbos in particular, was detrimental to nation building. It has gotten to a stage where the federal government, in the interest of nation building, embark on a mass orientation campaign in the North. To be conducted in their cities and villages, with the objective of sensitizing the masses on civility, the respect for fellow citizens and the sanctity of human life.