Nigeria-First is a mindset. It is a frame of mind where you sleep and dream of your nation and get passionate to the point of being willing and ready to lay down your life for her. Nigerians are capable of having this mental set, if not for our greedy and selfish leaders in the last half a decade or thereabouts. Up until the early eighties, many Nigerians went abroad in search of the Golden Fleece (GF) and rushed back to get good jobs where they used their expertise to benefit the nation. If our Leaders who got us our Independence from Britain never went abroad for the Golden Fleece, maybe we would not have become independent when we did! The search for the GF has today metamorphosed into searches for the Greener Pastures (GP) even by the same people who went for and came back home with the GF!
In these days of economic strangulation and deliberate economic impoverishment of the masses by our leaders, our best of brains have been drained out to other lands. It is amazing that the search for Golden Fleece has become moribund and it has given way to searches for greener pastures by all levels and categories of professionals. All of a sudden those who got the Golden Fleece, are shocked to see that the grass in their homeland has changed colour to Brown! Many of these people have had to flee Nigeria and since returned to those strange lands where the grass has not changed their color from green! Today there are millions of Nigerians in the Diaspora (other lands) using their expertise to benefit these other lands. Nigeria’s loss has become their gain!
Gone are the days when Nigeria was reported to be the happiest country on earth and Nigerians were said to be the most friendly and amiable people! We have lost those attributes today. We have been turned into a nation of 419, yahoo yahoo, fantastically corrupt, bankrupt leadership, greedy, selfish, unfriendly and hungry nation. What a shame! Brain drain is on the increase and there are no jobs for the teeming youths. Unfortunately, the people in authority are turning blind eyes as if it does not matter! Corruption and looting have become the order of the day. People no longer serve or help one another. It has become ‘me-myself-and-I’, you are on your own selfish outlook to life. Our old social order of caring for one another has been distorted, transformed and eroded. We have ceased from becoming one another’s keepers. Alas Nigerians have been dehumanized by their selfish and greedy leaders!
What went wrong? Where did we go wrong? When did we go wrong? It is not difficult to answer these three questions since some of those involved in the dirty political game are still here with us. The ones who fought to get us Independence from Britain are almost all gone. Many of those who took over after Independence especially the late sixties and early seventies are still here. This was the time the problems of corruption, extravagance and ostentatious lifestyles started.
Can we blame God for giving us oil? Definitely NO. The blessing of oil boom is the answer to the first question – ‘What went wrong?’ We got over excited, arrogant and became unguarded in our actions and utterances. The second question – ‘Where did we go wrong?’, can be answered by two quick reactions and responses to the oil boom. We had so much money and told the world that our problem was not ‘money’ as it was how to spend it! We went ahead with FESTAC ‘77 and lavished so much money on importing deities that left us with curses hunting us till today. If the extravagancies of FESTAC had been wisely invested on other meaningful legacies then, we would have been capable of enjoying the facilities or returns on Investments for many generations. The third question – When did we go wrong? This has been answered by the first two questions. We discovered and explored oil, made so much money and lavished the money without thinking of the rainy days ahead.
The events of the sixties and seventies serve as the genesis for the way we are as Nigerians today. We have damaged the crucial fabrics of our wellbeing. We lost the humility and the omoluabi in us and we stopped being one another’s keepers. Everybody started the chop-n-chop, selfish, greedy, grabbing attributes and our leaders started the long process of impoverishing the populace and turning Nigeria into a rich nation with poor citizenry.
As the control got into the hands of the military in the late sixties and seventies, the citizenry had to inevitably succumb to the power-coercive style of governance and the people were victims of gross misrule from military to civilian. The question now is, can we get back to the old omoluabi living styles? Can we start or chart a new social order? Can we establish appropriate Institutions to guarantee equality, fairness, justice for all Nigerians? Can we eliminate class from the Nigerian society? Can Nigerians be detribalized? Can religion be taken out of our thinking and behavior as a secular state? If as citizens of the same nation we can find solutions and Institutions to answer these questions, then we would have arrived, ready and able to imbibe and demonstrate the enviable culture of Nigeria-First.
National Interests should be paramount in our minds. We should think ‘Nigeria’ instead of Who? Which? Where? When? How much? We must re-engineer our minds. The architecture of our minds must be recrafted and our horizons widened beyond the parochial limits. It is after these transformations that Nigeria can develop and make progress. We have been stagnated (dormant) for a long time. We are not living to the full extent of our potential. Things must change so that we can take giant leaps. As long as the culture of religion, tribal belonging, nepotism, class, political party belonging does not change, or get erased from our memories, Nigeria will remain stagnated and unproductive. Henceforth it is expedient that issues like tribal belonging, ‘State of Origin’ be replaced with ‘State of Residence’ in official data base, and Religious faith be expunged from the system. To my mind, establishing new Institutions will bring about new social order and make for better/desirable coexistence among the people of Nigeria. It will increase the trust and confidence we have in one another and peace will reign in our land. This is how to make Nigeria ONE and think Nigeria-First.
The need to put Nigeria-First on our agenda, manifestos, and to-do-list in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Any nation where citizens will not put their nation first and as top priority is doomed. Putting our nation in the right social order should be the first important issue on our national agenda. Do we even have any national agenda? The spirit of patriotism and nationalism should be in our subconscious and should dominate our thoughts as Nigerians at all times. It should actually be integrated into our DNA. We should be daily energized to produce and develop our nation as we strive daily to be good ambassadors of our great nation. Simply put, Nigeria-First is loyalty to one’s nation. How many Nigerians want to die for Nigeria? I am sure the response will be shocking to us as Nigerians. The pertinent question after this shock is WHY NOT?
The ‘why not’ question can be answered by our governments and how they treat, bless, or impoverish the citizenry. In a nation like Nigeria where the security and protection of citizens are not guaranteed, the people lose faith in government. In a nation where fairness is not guaranteed and justice is delayed or denied the people lose confidence in government. In a nation where the basic necessities of life such as Electricity, and public pipe-borne drinking water is not available, the people feel betrayed by governments. In a country where nepotism and tribalism are the stock in trade, the people condemn their government. Patriotism and nationalism will be absent in the hearts and minds of citizens who feel that government is up to no good for them in terms of their security, protection and social welfare needs. Where the government is a let-down, insincere and of no benefit to citizens, it suffers disloyalty from its people. It becomes extremely difficult for any citizen to be ready to die for his/her country. One hopes that the Nigerian governments at all levels will rise up to the needs of the people and change the social order and make the people happy and loyal to make the culture of Nigeria-First a reality.
The issue of Nigeria-First is one that is not negotiable. It must be worked into our system by all means and at all costs to Governments. The curricular at all levels must have elements of Nigeria-First entrenched as an essential component. All Nigerians must be made to live and dream Nigeria. We must all be proud of our great nation everywhere and every time as compatriots.
Good as all these may sound, the cost to government is very enormous and the task is gargantuan. The sacrifice to cultivate the Nigeria-First is also incalculable to all citizens of Nigeria. Our determination must be strong. On the part of government, citizens must be guaranteed the basic necessities of life such as light, water, health, education, security, protection of lives and properties, justice, fairness, peace and general social welfare imperatives etc. It is because these basic needs of the Americans are assured that J.F. Kennedy was able to pronounce in his inaugural speech in 1961, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” In the United Kingdom as another example, the Social Welfare System works for all citizens and guarantees that their basic needs are met. Governments of these nations are interested in the peoples’ lives at all times regardless of age, sex, race, colour, religion, tribe, class, etc. All these needs being met by government are the prerequisites for true nationalism and patriotism. If the Nigerian Leaders (Governments) will guarantee citizens the basic welfare needs, Nigeria-First will then be a reality and not a myth. Where do we go from here?