Not yet Uhuru: Nigerians and a journey towards national identity (1)



WHAT my knowledge and perspective of Nigeria were while growing up and the understanding I am getting after the country was ushered back into democracy after many years of military infringements appear to have no significant disparity. I become more strongly convinced that there is some feature regrettably missing within the polity. This feature is national identity. I doubt strongly if Nigerians possess national identity yet. If there is any professed one anywhere, then it must have been make-believe or perhaps something of a function of self-delusion, misapprehension and misinterpretation of concept. I make this obvious clarification both as a deliberate indictment of the political class, a justification for the argument against the self-colonizing culture of the post-independence Nigeria and to prescribe a therapy for a sense of a new Nigeria, especially as the country begins a new democratic journey. This is so because there is a wide gap between Nigeria identity and national identity as much as there is a wall of difference between a national and a patriot. What we currently identify with in the form of the national anthem, national pledge, national flag, national passport, system of government, and others, can only pass for Nigeria identity.

Similarly, the concept of patriotism as it concerns Nigeria can only be applicable within the context of ethnic overtone and/or tribal allegiance. Since the beginning of Nigeria existence, each ethnic group has had only to identify with their cultural identities without a deep sense of association with the nation. The reason for this objectionable custom and rebellious attitude against Nigeria cannot be far-fetched. My previous articles and opinion on ethnic suspicion and the ignoble nostalgia of the acclaimed ‘fraudulent amalgamation’ have explained these. However, there is another perspective to the entire gamut of this somewhat justifiable obnoxious insolence of refusing to identify with Nigeria.

Essentially, national identity consists in mental awareness that there is a unifying system, a system that integrates various peoples and ethnic nationalities into one, and, realising that without that system, I lack what is called an identity. National identity consists also in the capacity to be proud of the stuff of which my country is made. In other words, there should be an acceptance that I do not exist for myself but also for the nation from whose richly endowed resources I derive my living. In effect, without an understanding that I am by right a citizen of a country to the degree that I can identify with and grow in her consciousness, define, decipher and defend her definite vision, have a sense of belonging in her, and relate with other nationals within the purview of that which makes us her legitimate members, then I am just an ethnic patriot without any state identity. The lack thereof of national identity and collective national vision have given birth to a number of concerns in this current dispensation of Nigeria.

As we move on towards the realization of a corruption-free society, it is important to remind the government and the people of Nigeria that it is not yet Uhuru, and that national identity must as a matter of precedence go alongside the anti-corruption and democracy-deepening struggle. It is until we are able to conscientiously bring together these ethnically and linguistically differentiated peoples that we can say yes, there is a country whose identity Nigerians share.

Unarguably, the government of Nigeria hitherto from May 29, 2015 has been in charge of a man of merit and one who understands the enormity of literally shepherding a flock infected with variety of illnesses, prevalent among which are misconceived diversity, corruption, impunity, irresponsibility, mediocrity and insecurity. A man who does not mind whose ox is gored in the process of bringing about a changed country. He has shown himself a true leader who is not only tired of the mess of the rich but also of the cry of the poor. A man who belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody; a leader whose body language, resolve and readiness to fix Nigeria are beyond doubt.

The oil industry is, like never before, witnessing a new dawn, a dawn in which motorists are now being humbly beckoned upon and pleaded with by fuel station attendants for patronage; power supply like never before is approximately between 18-22 hours per day, fight against insurgency is yielding growing hope, while corruption is losing very rapidly its grip of the country’s economic growth. In sum, the last four months or so of Buhari-led administration has indicated some direction and hope for good days ahead. May we ask ourselves, ‘is this euphoria, or what some hecklers have described as IGG (an acronym for Initial Gra Gra) an end to the unproductive politics of propaganda, of character assassination, of image smearing and denting, of hate and hate remarks and of prebendalism that conspicuously dominate and characterise the political terrain of Nigeria? Could it also indicate an end to poverty in Nigeria? The answers are as accurate as asking whether Nigerian has ever produced a female president.

Conversely, would there be a bridge of the endless gap between, quoting Dr. Kayode Fayemi, ‘the mindlessly rich and the hopelessly poor?’ Again, the answer is as apt as asking if Muhammadu Buhari has ever ruled Nigeria before. But is the president’s sense of direction a right move towards uniting the country? Yes, but expediently somewhat.

The process of making Nigeria a one united country consists in bringing all the ethnic groups closer to one another. Besides the political and commercial scenes where every so often personal vendetta is given premium consideration over and above genuine interest in getting to know the other person and his culture, practical efforts must be made by the government to truly unite Nigerians.

The National Youth Service Corps scheme may be said pointblank to have achieved greatly much of the secondary cause for which it was established.

Contrariwise, the programme hitherto has achieved a drastically negligible share of the primary focus for which it was founded, which is to integrate Nigerians and make the dream of realising a united country possible. In fact, it appears to many that the scheme is more at home with national disintegration than integration. While it may be out of place suggesting its complete scrapping, government must engage more in, on the one hand, collective mental reorientation of the citizenry that exist within this Nigeria, and, on the other hand, the individual youths who are part of the scheme.

Furthermore, on the part of the educational sector, particularly, the in-coming education minister, there is need to mentally decolonise the youths through reintroduction and sufficient emphasis on vocational education which often focuses and is concerned with asking the relevant question: how much technical know-how and practical knowledge do you possess? Rather than, what is your grade in English Language? History has shown that the growth of most of the advanced countries during the 18th century industrial revolution and even now is attributable to the power of practical knowledge, which had little or nothing to do with linguistic proficiency. The government and indeed the educational sector must ensure that students are evaluated based on the amount of practical, technical and technological knowledge they have which can add value to the country.

• Alabi a poet, author and public affairs commentator and political analyst, works in Legal Blitz Limited., 08039696286.

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