The Nigerian nation is dead. It has lost its hibiscus. The rose in it, vanished. There is no Gardner to tend its overgrown grass. The whole gamut, -spirit, soul and body- smoked. Skeleton and mice-infested casket is left in its tomb. Its body, decomposed. And there is no one to tend its tendrils. There is no one to bury its dead and pick up its baton from its last lap. Nigerian nationhood is already in oblivion.
Catholically speaking, death occurs when a soul exits the body. If the soul departs from the body, the body in turn begins decomposition process. And the remnants of the body are skeletons. The same step applies to a nation. If the soul of a nation departs, other things disintegrate and dismantle.
Pat Buchanan, in his latest book “State of Emergency” describes patriotism as the soul of a nation. According to him, “patriotism is the soul of a nation. It is what keeps a nation alive. When patriotism dies, when a nation loses the love and loyalty of its people, the nation dies and begins to decompose”. He went on to posit that “patriotism is not nation-worship”, but a “passionate attachment to one’s own country-its land, its people, its past, its heroes, literature, language, traditions, culture, and customs”.
If Buchanan’s definition of patriotism jells, then Nigeria is gone forever! For where is our patriotism as enunciated above? We, collectively and individually, have lost almost all condiments and coloration of patriotism. We have marred and jailed the essence and presence of oneness and nuptials. Nigeria has lost its virginity to stupidity of our leaders.
Come to think of it, do we still have passion for our land, people, past, heroes, literature, language, traditions, culture and customs? Do we? Coming home to the banal, do we respect our Green-White-Green and take salute to our anthem? Should we even think our anthem and flag-symbols of our nationhood- are common?
To my mind, we have taken this perilous part of history because our marriage was coerced. It was a false matrimony in the first instance. The presiding priest, in the name of Fredrick Lugard, didn’t understand where we were coming from. He came from the blues, accomplished his mission and boarded his boat (was there a plane at that time?). But let us not flourish and lavish in this leeway. Whatever he, Lugard, did, he did it on his masters bidding. And it will be foolhardy for acclaimed and accomplished people like us to continue to drool and weep over that. True we must recall the past to forge ahead with the future. But we should not remain in that sour past and soil our tomorrow.
Nigeria is the dream our fathers had. Pre-independence Nigeria was more like a nation, with its soul intact, than post-War Nigeria. After 1970, “things”, according to Chinua Achebe, “fall apart”. Azikiwe, Abubakar and Awolowo, were great Nigerians. They were marvelous heroes and outstanding leaders. But since their exit, “the center cannot hold”.
What we have today is a bunch of men who steal from our coffers to crown themselves kings and patriots. They give themselves accolades and national honors instead of “the people” recognizing, emulating and praising their leadership qualities. We have a soulless Nigeria. We have a Nigeria where the leaders themselves are neither patriotic nor Nigerians but reckless, egocentric and power-maniac. They are economic marauders and political impoverishers. From top to bottom in the leadership ladder are un-patriotic packs. They care less about the unity and oneness of Nigeria. They have no passion for patriotism. They have sold our soul- the reason for our existence- to foreigners. On a constant gear, they have expatriated and exploited Nigeria. Take a quick but careful ocular view of what is happening now in so many states of the federation; selfish actualization of political goals VS the will of the people. This 4th Republic seems the worst. This bunch of street politicians has done colossal and collateral damage to our image. And if we survive this period we will survive forever.
The contemporary Nigerians have no love but lust for her nation. A good percentage of Nigerians have no loyalty either to the Nigerian nation or Nigeria. All we have are glorified Nigerians who sap the vast resources of the country for personal satisfaction. If you take a roll call of all Nigerian affluent men and gauge how they acquired their wealth, the result will be abysmal. Most of them rose from motor-park touts to palaces. Others shot up from political thugs to personal assistants. Yet some other groups rose from petty suppliers to state house contractors. Not that they work harder than you and I (because I don’t envy anyone whose wealth come as a result of hard work and devotion of time to his/her calling but I loathe those whose wealth come from the public purse and vault and collective resource). Indeed the sources of their gains remain suspect and questionable.
Taking Charles de Gaulle’s view of a nation as “defined not by institutions or borders but by language, religion, and high culture”, Nigeria has lost all.
Maybe we need to take our next leaders for some refresher courses on civics and history of Nigeria. Most of them (I don’t want to call them dunces) are base in their brain. A good number of them do not know why Nigeria exists as Nigeria or why we still have to be Nigeria. This is one of the reasons we are having turmoil in so many parts of the federation. But other reasons like ethnic abandonment, unfairness in sharing the national cake, parochialism, and heavy bent on birthright to governance counts. Above all, most of those in office do not know our history or are simply ignorant of it.
Most office holders in Nigeria see our nationhood as being “creedal”. They see Nigeria from Cokie Roberts view: “We have nothing binding us together as a nation- no common ethnicity, history, religion, or even language- except the Constitution and the institutions it created.” This is how so many Nigerians see Nigeria today. We have forgotten that, according to Arthur M. Schlesinger, “our values are not matters of whim and happenstance. History has given them to us.”
This creedal construct resides in the basement of many office holders and politicians minds who parade themselves as patriots in Nigeria of today. Their minds are corrupt with and seized by this thinking that we don’t have a common blood, history, religion or even language. It’s amazing they way their minds work.
If we must continue to exist as a nation, we must do away with this myopic mind of ours and begin to see ourselves as “brethren dwelling together.” The pleasantness will reflect in a more common purpose and unity. We must cast out ethnic demons in us and wash ourselves “seven times” in River Nineveh. Nigerians should stop casting aspersions and seat on reparation table. We must talk about the past, bring it to what time it is, and push it further to tomorrow. By this I mean we have to have a sincere consensus building talks, as South Africans had (which was why Oputa Panel was set up), reach a common ground and take it from there. And let me quickly point out that all those classified documents should be declassified and made public so that Nigerians can see where we went wrong and how we can forge ahead as one. Public money was used to assemble all those think-tank groups, as such the public demands to know what the findings of these select groups were.
Four key things must hold us together as a nation: language, faith, culture and memory, and not greed, selfishness, parochialism and division.
What we need do now is restart the engine and vision of our fathers who made no apologies with what they believed in and diligently pursued. We need to resurrect those ideals and missions rooted in culture, tradition, language, literature, religion and history sought after by our fathers. It is a giant task. But we must take the giant strides.
This must start with Nigerians at home. Why? To me, majority of them at home do not have a stake in
the system and thus no loyalty. They see the country as “come and chop”. They really see themselves as having nothing to gain or loose if they denounce their membership of the country, thus yielding to massive exodus of our best. Those who fall into this category are the youths and largely unemployed. They are the future of Nigeria, especially the unemployed graduates. These people don’t seem to care about their country because those who gained from their country (remember when companies employ Nigeria graduates straight from school and give them accommodation and cars) have turned against the same hand that fed them. Unemployed youths see themselves as been used by the chiefs and kings and politicians to pay their bills in other places. This group needs to reawaken their faith in the country. Even the employed few do not know when a redundancy letter will be handed over to them and that ends his/her rosy dreams. There is no job-security because the companies can hire and fire at any time. And there is silence from the government. And how can we correct all these anomalies: by providing for the unemployed and making legislation barring the multi-national corporations from hiring and firing at will. The government has to find ways of making these young men and women more productive and independent and also integrate them into the system. No one should be left behind.
Apart from the unemployed youths, the Nigerian elitist society needs to do away with their greed and selfishness. They are the ones stirring the fire from behind the curtains. They are the ones ruining the future of Nigeria. They are the ones destroying our nation and country. Nigerian elites have not done much to change the attitude of the larger percentage of the country because their own attitude is vague. They don’t have the moral courage to do so. Unless the elites begin to realize the essence and rehearse the history of Nigeria in their hearts and minds like poetic recitation there will be no head-way.
Having started the charity at home we can then move a little further out of home. It is here that Diaspora Nigerians will come in. Nigerians in foreign lands will have to re-affirm their faith in their nation. They must begin to teach their children the history of Nigeria and tell them more about Nigerian culture/s and language/s. Nigerians abroad should begin to speak native language to their children. They should imbibe in them the awareness that they are foreigners and not landowners. Let these kids know that they are not only from Africa (because the notion here is that every black man is from Africa, not many whites knows the difference between Nigeria and Ghana for instance) but from a country called Nigeria. Most of our (Nigerian) kids are lost in this conflict. We all need to change our attitude to our country. All hope is not lost.
If we don’t take these giant strides on time, time shall come when these un-patriotic and self-imposed “Nigerian Patriots” will face the music of the people. Quintessential is the current Bangladesh’s revolt. It might not take long if these so many wrongs moping on us are not righted now. One thing they should be aware of is: Nigerians are wiser. The political consciousness of the people awakes each day they see these “naughty professors of politics.” Their extra-sensory lobes ignite with fury when they hear political jingles hitting airwaves with “promises upon promises.” And it is time to shout: enough is enough.