“The passions may rage furiously like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may imagine all sorts of vain things, but judgment shall still have the last word in every argument and the casting vote in every decision” Charlotte Bronte: in Jane Eyre
With a rich population of about 160 Million and over 200 different languages, you are assured an amazing variety of species and characters in the physical and behavioral spectrum. Depending on perspective, this could be interpreted as diversity and therefore positive but from another perspective, diverse tongues cultures and characters could become an albatross impeding non-violent communications.
Among the vocal minority not a few are experts in argument and that few has an impeccable record of winning. But the world has moved jet-speed and life has turned massively empirical. So arguments do not carry the day unless backed by empirical evidence.
There are those who are swayed by religion. Their own is the best and anyone not their member is dispensable or non-existent or undeserving of life and liberty. But again, in today’s world, that school does not thrive. Nigeria is a secular state NOT a multi-religious state as these want us to believe. Their doctrine of forceful “persuasion” evidences the untenability of their beliefs. Religion must be voluntary or it is no longer religion.
To sentimentalists on the other hand, every issue is a matter of sentiment. They sometimes tag upon the religionists as well as the protagonists. So you have religious sentiments, tribal sentiments, racists sentiments, sentimental arguments etc The sentimentalists hold sway in certain aspects of life in the United States e.g. divorce but they have the obstacle of indigenous culture and other issues to deal with in Nigeria.
Therefore, if we observe that Nigeria was under a Military Dictatorship 1985 to 1993. That is a statement of historical fact. Never controverted or controvertible. To hit a home run one could even observe that the Govt of Nigeria 1985 to 1993 was an illegal unconstitutional Govt. This is also a correct statement of legal position. (McFoy Vs UAC; Lakanmi Vs Kikelomo Ola). But these are inconvenient truths to some. So they answer by asserting either that the dictatorship was democratic (a stupid contradiction in terms) or that there was no dictatorship only a government – something also senseless. Or simply that whatever it was was what Deity willed. (Religionists)
There are also Consultants – formal and informal. Some call them lobbyists. They are in it for what they get. That profession is largely unregulated. The danger is that sometimes Consultants conceal their brief and argue as if they were unbiased or objective third parties. They pretend to be altruistic. God help you if you ever fall into argument with such people because the get a bonus from their clients for each “victory”. Some media Practitioners (Journalists) and lawyers fall into this category.
Within the spectrum, there also exist people with hidden tribal agenda. Not able to see beyond their tribal nose, theirs is the most civilized, most industrious, most handsome/beautiful, most educated etc etc. When confronted with a simple historical fact especially in politics they quickly jump to accuse you of tribalism or just simply disagree if the historical fact is unpalatable.
So, it is beneficial to look closely at the person you engaged or are about to engage in argument or controversy so as to gauge or evaluate adequately the magnitude of the communications challenge. Needless to say, it is wise to process your thoughts before you open your mouth!
To a large extent however, the religionists, sentimentalists and the protagonists constitute only a minority of Nigeria’s large and diverse population. The vast majority have no formal education. They live in a world governed by indigenous tradition, primordial beliefs and superstition. Example: when sick they consult the herbalist or traditional medicine-man. Although inherently good (the African god cannot tolerate evil) they are sometimes taken advantage of by the elite. They only need be told or guided because the could be extremely loyal and faithful. Politicians enjoy them.
These are very delicate times in Nigeria. The challenge of another peaceful democratic transition through democratic elections early next year – 2011, stares us in the face. Although kudos must be given to the National Assembly for passing the Amended Constitution after 12 years there are lingering issues and gray areas like Sharia, Constitutional Authentication, Revenue Allocation and True Federalism, Corruption, Zoning, Ex-Military Dictators which are hot and highly divisive. Some protagonists insist “winning” at all costs. It is the duty of the elite and intelligentsia to positively intervene and contribute rather than stay aloof or “join the band-wagon”. To examine and re-examine propositions and be facilitators of non-violent communication and national understanding. To expose hidden fallacies and promote honest and truthful dialogue upon sound factual basis and with altruistic goals – peace justice progress and patriotism. Apply historical analysis as well as reconcile opposing perspectives.
Given these, an otherwise smart and intelligent people should not continue to repeatedly make the same mistakes resulting in mass poverty (including poverty of thought) for half a century. It is only through non-violent communications preceded by strategic thought distillation and purification as proposed above that the cycle of insanity can be broken and our people liberated. Consider these recent events: Nigeria recorded the highest number of deaths resulting from the Norwegian Cartoon. Perhaps the three year Civil War (1967-1970) could have been averted if care had been taken to identify fallacies and place progress and development rather than destructive competition and personal aggrandizement in the fore front.
The immense contribution of writers like Thomas Payne and Mark Twain to the growth of American Democratic tradition and thought remain indelible in the annals of that nation’s history. If Nigerian leaders and writers are themselves prejudiced (and blind to that fact) then we have a serious national challenge. A jaundiced stream of communication defeats the essence of our federalism and the national ideal of unity in diversity. It is also an inherent danger to democracy. We must bear in mind always that: “The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress” [Joseph Joubert Pensées] As Thomas Payne averred in his little book (of the same title) it is all a matter of “common sense”.