Listening to, and probing deeper into the sentiments of Nigerians, one comes away with the uneasy feeling that something is ominous and it’s the fact that there are yet very deep cracks within the notion of Nigeria’s nationhood.
The ethnic sentiments often couched in speeches or responses to national issues, captured in the body language and emotional sensibilities of well-placed and common Nigerians, provide a gauge to touch and feel where we are in the march to becoming a nation.
Are we a nation? We have yet to be!
Forty five years after the civil war, here lies at the centre of Nigeria’s psyche, a choreographed prototype of nationalism that is patently false. It’s clearly a foisted idealism to pronounce we are “One Nigeria”.
Native wisdom is there to guide any adult who has lived in Nigeria, since independence, that indeed the best way to be a “Nigerian” is to first be your tribe, and that keen sense of self-awareness, resonates even more loudly with our leaders, who have been at the forefront in promoting ethnicity and the nepotic mindset both in their appointments and distribution of strategic national assets.
The notion of Nigeria’s nationhood seems to draw its traction from the narrative of tribal supremacy, one tribe, poised with all schemes and machinations available to it, to promote the welfare of its own kind, while intently working against even the mere survivability of the other tribes.
Ndigbo and the other minority tribes in Nigeria have since been the feudal tenants of a brutal Nigeria lord.
It will be a boring gist to dwell again on the historical misfortune of Nigeria’s amalgamation of 1914, which artificially brought together intrinsically disparate peoples who are almost, always, divided on issues of religion and ethnicity.
To overlook these overarching differences, concealed under the false notion of nationalism, poses a mortal danger to the idea of nationhood itself.
President Muhammadu Buhari inherited a nation that has not made much progress in resolving such underlining historical issues.
For instance, why is it a requirement for a Nigerian to identify their tribe of origin before they have eligibility to work outside their native place of origin, in public or private institutions and organisations? The federal character or quota system was schemed into our national life for no other reason than to offer gratis to some parts of the country that never had the aptitude, learning or skills to compete on the pitch of national merit.
Northern Nigeria and its leaders might have been the brains behind the quota system and the Federal Character Commission, a ploy meant to assert the inclusions of the north in strategic national undertakings.
The idea of putting one’s tribe of origin ahead of one’s nationality imposes on people the obsessive awareness of their tribe rather than their sovereign sense of Nigeria — nationalism.
The resurrection of ethnic consciousness and strife within the last 20 years is a livid expression of irritations and frustrations within a nation that is falsely constituted.
A prominent northern leader was once reported to have said: “An Igbo man will never rule Nigeria again”. He obviously threw courtesy and gravitas to the wind, and his kinsmen applauded his laudatory speech.
We can plough deeper into the formal theatre of Nigeria’s rein.
What constitutes Nigeria’s demographics in true terms? Do we have an ethically correct and well-corroborated census records? What do Nigeria’s political and economic demographics depict? A thriving, well-run federation?
Buhari’s challenge, and the biggest one for that matter, would well be the opportunity to bring Nigerians into an honest dialogue, where Nigeria’s seemingly intractable problems, cleverly camouflaged as “no-go-areas”, simply because they are feared to be capable of upsetting the irrational but dubious tendencies of Nigeria’s ruling elite, are finely thrashed out and creative, pragmatic solutions proffered. Being a nation transcends the geographic parameters that define, or accord legitimacy to the 180 million people living in the carved-up space called Nigeria. It cuts deeper into the social, cultural and spiritual consciousness that binds the people inextricably as one people, who are aspiring to a solid, common, yet intangible vision of national greatness and glory.
At the moment, Nigeria is devoid of any such genuine collective aspirations; only occasionally do we espouse such unity, and for it to soon splinter in collision with the impregnable wall of ethnicity.
Buhari may well build Nigeria’s economy to become the best and biggest in the world, if he could, and make corruption a thing of the past.
It’s only when we are a nation, live as one people, and think as one nation, would these achievements and legacies truly endure.