Ours is a deeply divided country, most of the citizens know this. If you don’t know, then get this straight: it is no hard matter, it is a straight one, a very easy matter to know. In fact I want to add that it is the easiest matter to decode. If you don’t know and you want to know, forget scientific approach, at least for now. All you need to do is pick three Nigerian newspapers daily and read them for one week, you will come to this inevitable conclusion. If per chance that doesn’t give you what you want then take it a little higher, take a stroll on the internet, look up Nigeria and its current activities or events, observe the reactions and situate them within the context of ethnicity and religion. One conclusion would be inevitable that our country is deeply divided beyond the level that should be tolerated.
The development is becoming scary and many top citizens in different locations are indicating their withdrawal from public communication on account that the public space is becoming bereft of reason and sense. Blind sentiments, bothering on the pillars of ethnicity and religion, have taken over the public space. People no longer speak from the point of brilliance and patriotism; it is now about how the issues relate to tribe, religion and worst of them all, personal interests. These days, citizens add insult and even threats to what should be mere exchange of views and ideas. The ugly development is growing at lightning speed and as would be expected it is throwing up convolution into the entire system. It is pulling hard on the political and social fabric of the society and trying to cut off those things that hold us together.
Something is true in all of this: at no time did the citizens think that moving Nigeria from a country to a nation would be a piece of cake. No, not with our population and complex plurality, most citizens at independence knew that at certain stages of our development our diversity could be cause for concern, but they had equally thought that those challenges would be for a short while. But it would seem that was a misplaced optimism. For 59 years after independence, the challenge of ethnicity and religion are not just there, but they have grown so much in dimension that they are today a monster. That is a concern and a big one at that, but the biggest fear now rests in the knowledge that our leaders employ those variables as a means of either getting into power or sustaining themselves in power. They are gaining but the nation is losing. Their actions are becoming a stumbling block in the quest to develop a strong united Nigeria that will be a good example to other black countries.
Yesterday, our country kicked off the 2019 general elections with the presidential and national assembly polls. The expectations after 58 years of independence has been that by now most of the issues surrounding the pursuit of power should be built around ideas and programmes, but that is not what we are seeing. The focus seems to be about divisions: which group has done what and against which group. There are struggles over which of the tribes should take over public offices of the Federal Republic. The political class is not helping matters. Some of them have prepared campaign manifestos quite alright but none of them draws from it in their direct interactions with the people. They mount rostrums to make loud statements, signifying nothing. The citizens ought to be concerned about this and to demand a reversal. Yet we must realize that handing over that task to the citizens would amount to a wrong prescription, not because the people are incapable of doing so, after all like we say, they are the sovereignty, but the true state of things is by the reckless acts of the political class, the people are weakened and left very vulnerable by induced hunger and deprivation. It is difficult for a hungry man to pursue noble causes and sustain it. It is more so in an environment like ours made complex by the negative forces of narrow interests, ethnicity and religion.
Those are some of the challenges and they are not insurmountable. Taking from where we are, the challenge to produce change lies squarely with the elite particularly those on the political stage. The progressive groups within the class must begin to challenge the existing order. Like we have observed before, there is no doubt that nepotism is growing and the way it is going if not vigorously challenged it could become a state policy. Inside nepotism are the solid seeds of injustice; injustice does not contain elements that build a nation, all they do is to spin contradictions that over time destroy the whole. We want to stop the evil effects of tribalism and religion, indeed there is great strength in diversity, but that can only be harvested when there is a national resolve to do things appropriately and on the basis of pure conscience and national good.
We cannot relegate the negative effects of the factors mentioned by acting the way we do. The other day the president said the national security architecture of the country is in the hands of people from one section because he could not find competent men elsewhere. Such remarks should not come from our leaders, especially those at the commanding level of power and authority, rather what should be seen should be deliberate efforts and steps to create a balance which in turn will enhance the sense of belonging and create a peaceful atmosphere for sustainable development. It is time we began to talk about ideology for the country. How this can be pulled off is difficult to say, but what is certain is that our country has gotten to the point where those who want to lead must begin to talk to the people in terms of ideas and policies.
The Igbo man wants shelter as much as the Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Tiv, Efik, or the Ijaws. All of them are human beings and they want food, education for their children, affordable health care, power supply and efficient transportation system. Let those who can make it free say so and those who want to charge money hold their positions and tell us why. That is the way to go. We should talk of citizenship, if things are right, basic amenities available and the leadership class conduct themselves properly, primordial attachments would become less attractive, everyone would want to be proud citizens of one great proud Nigeria.