Alhaji Tafawa Balewa – 1948 • “Since 1914, the British Government have been trying to make Nigeria into one Country but the Nigerian people are historically different in their background, in their religious beliefs and customs, and do not show themselves any signs of willingness to unite …… Nigerian unity is only a British invention (imagination)”. Alhaji Tafawa Balewa became Nigeria’s first and ever Prime Minister and one of the leading icons of our independence
Chief Obafemi Awolowo “Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no “Nigerians” in the same sense as there are “English”, “Welsh”, or “French”. The word “Nigerian” is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish between those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not”. Chief Obafemi Awolowo became the first Premier of Western Region of Nigeria and a dominant political influence in the region and Nigeria. Nigeria; a nation founded on fear, doubt and mistrust.
A nation state is the progressive and evolutionary journey of the faith, vision, dream and values of their founding fathers. What Nigeria is today cannot be divorced from the faith and conviction of her founding leaders. The leading icons of our independence saw tribe, ethnicity and sectionalism but invariably did not see the possibility of a strong, virile and united nation.
What they saw of our differences was difficulties and complexities but missed the glorious picture of the limitless opportunities and promises of our diversities. They forged a nation they did not believe in and laid the foundation of a Nigerian state without a sovereign national will. In so doing, laid a national foundation based on sentiments, emotions and chance rather than principles and authoritative vision for national cohesion and transformation.
What our fathers had is what they gave the nation, perhaps given the time and circumstance. Our search for a true Nigerian state must begin from here. Our past is essential to determine why we are where we are. But what will decide our future is not what our fathers did or did not do. It is what our own generation determine to see, believe and fight for, especially at this defining moment of our history.
We cannot continue to see Nigeria from the selfish and narrow lenses of personal, ethnic, religious and sectional advantage and expect a glorious new era of national transformation and collective advancement. A new Nigeria defined by a common national spirit, character and vision is our responsibility. It is now or never.
America is an example of a heterogeneous society made up of the Irish Americans, Caucasians, Afro-Americans, Mexican Americans, Christians, Moslems, free thinkers. Yet united, advanced and made strong by a common and over-ridding national ideological values. They found both personal and collective meaning and strength in the timeless ideological truth of their collective equality and inalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
The root cause of our national challenge is not in our over exaggerated religious, tribal and ethnic affections but our selfishness and absolute lack of principles. There is a fundamental problem when we allow our parochial considerations assume and command our allegiances over our national consciousness. Whatever gives us undue advantage over others will never establish our collective faith, trust and hope. Our challenge is the penchant for undue reward and benefit of opportunism, mediocrity and nepotism. The resultant delusion is everyone seeking for a “one Nigeria” yet hardly is anyone willing to give up his or her allegiance and commitment to his or her religion, tribe, ethnicity and socio-cultural affiliations. We all desire a progressive nation yet no body is prepared to give up the destructive and unjust reward of nepotism and sectionalism for merit, honor and hard work. This is Nigeria’s dilemma.
No one fights for a nation he or she does not believe in. The foundation of every nation’s civilization, development and greatness is the content of what the people hold as sacrosanct. What is fundamental to a people is what defines and determines their collective character, motivation and resolve. This is what makes them a people and what gives character and authenticity to their developmental quest. It is what gives a soul to a nation and a sense of pride to the people. Nationalism is neither legislated nor a matter of mere national orientation. Nationalism is a product of personal love and passion for one’s nation inspired by genuine relationship, trust and faith based on personal conviction and experience. Life begets life.
In every generation the people have deep seated yearnings and aspirations which cry out for fulfillment. Today, what will determine Nigeria’s destiny is not mere promises of electricity, roads and houses (as important as they are) but identity and self meaning. The reason roads and houses are still an issue after 52 years of our independence is simply because we are yet to have a nation beyond a mere geographical expression.
What a new generation of Nigerians yearns for today is a nation they would call their own; a nation to live for and if possible die for. Today’s generation of Nigerians yearn for something to believe in and to aspire for. It is unarguable that a people’s sovereignty is not in the quantum of electricity, roads and houses but a right to self determination and realization. It takes identity and sense of birth right to establish a people’s fundamental essence and character.
The battle against mistrust, apathy, corruption, insecurity and indiscipline that currently bedevils Nigeria and Nigerians cannot be won by the Army or Police, EFCC or ICPC. But by our sense of fundamentality and inner security produced by our collective sense of heritage, belonging and faith. A people will not only fight and defend their birth right but live for and if possible die for the interest of a nation they believe in.
We are largely incapable of responsibility as a people, because devoid of inner force of life, we are without strength of character. For life to have meaning, standard and motivation a people must have a fundamental sense of self value and purpose. When life is motivated by what we believe in motivation becomes a matter of character. Nationalism is neither legislated nor wished, nationalism is a matter of experience, conviction and love for one’s nation.