Nigeria, a populous nation, prides itself as the giant of Africa that has multiple tribes with numerous ethnic languages—diversity that should be a source of strength, miscellany that should be cherished and celebrated. Instead, multiplicities of language and tribal leanings have created an environment that shuns synergy of ideas and experiences to address national issues. The environment breeds conflicting loyalty among the populace. Most importantly, the phenomenon has stifled the national identity and a shared sense of belonging to one Nigeria.
Regrettably, flagrantly absent in our home country is the national identity, intense patriotism, and a bonding that unites a people regardless of religion or ethnicity. So, it is particularly important to realize that all the national issues may have experienced brevity of success due to the country’s lack of strong national identity that could sustain a perennial accomplishments. The clamor for a national action on certain issues would have not have a sustained success in the absence of national identity. If people are not patriotic and do not have allegiance to the nation, they are less likely to work tirelessly for the interest of the country. In fact, they would rather work to undermine the national interest in order to protect their own selfish underpinnings.
Also, lacking commonality, Nigeria’s diversity has become a catalyst that diminished interconnectedness among the people. Nigerian people seem to think about the interest of their community first before the national interest. They seem to be more protective of their religion or tribe than the protection of the country. People look at every policy, decision or federal appointments through vintage religious and tribal lens. The division along tribal and religious lines is glaring and impeding national growth. Lack national sentiments—the absence of national bonding has left Nigeria gravely polarized with religious and tribal sentiments dictating the behavior and actions of the citizens.
In a country that lacks serious national identity, pressing national issues are never adequately addressed because of conflicting and entrenched interests that lack national sentiments. Since policymakers and political leaders are products of their environment, they seem to operate within a mindset that dictates pacifying their parochial groups first to the detriment of the national interest. Unfortunately, left to suffer have always been the potent national issues that demand immediate attention of the policymakers and federal government. For instance, the gamut of national issues may not receive the attention they deserve as it appears that our leaders are more preoccupied by their own venal interest. As a consequence, the country may stall in many spheres it appears that our leaders are more preoccupied by their own venal interest. Issues like insecurity and others that have the potential to destabilize Nigeria and send its nascent democracy to its unfortunate demise may continue to flourish unabated.
Deplorably, Nigerian leaders have cunningly used some of the hot button issues to undermine the discussions on poverty and hunger, poor healthcare system, high unemployment, pervasive corruption, poor economy, and a host other pertinent issues. While the western countries are eagerly monitoring the developments in Nigeria, many Nigerians are drawing a disappointing conclusion of the country call Nigeria because of a lack of patriotism and national identity. Many in the Diaspora contend that the federal government should come up with policies that bolster national identity.
We further contend that any clamor for war on corruption could be significantly compromised by apparent lack of national loyalty—an indispensable trust that would galvanize the populace to support the federal government’s policies. Nigerians would not trust their political leaders to carry out an objective war on sleaze if they fret over the dictates of religious and tribal sentiments, which seem to supersede the national interests.
Customarily, lack of national identity weakens the central government’s efforts in achieving substantive national objectives. Most often, policy pronouncements seem hallow due to the absence of highly integrated politically and socially entity called Nigeria. Fragmentation of Nigeria and lack of total allegiance to the country has led to the haphazard accomplishments in national goals.
It is now imperative for the federal government to begin to formulate actions that would foster national identity and strong patriotism among the citizens. All actions of the government must be geared toward building trust among its citizens and not perpetuating tribalism and religious fanaticism. Rather, the national image and spirit should be promoted at all levels of the educational system. The formation of national identity should start with the curriculum the children are exposed to at an early age, where they learn the history and national culture which will deemphasize the parochial sentiments.
To prosper as a nation and to build strong national consciousness, Nigeria should consider implementing robust and full residency rights that are devoid of indigene-settler dichotomy. Any policy or action that is short of full residency rights similar to what is obtainable in the United States will be veneer for appeasement to the entrenched hatemongers and religious fanatics.
In fact, any attempt to use of maintenance of culture or tradition for a limited action on the residency rights cannot cloak the real reason for ethnic violence— the total subjugation of a particular tribe, as well as Christians. Thus, in the absence of full residency rights to the Nigerian citizens, no matter where they live, ethnic and religious violence would continue to happen to the detriment of the formation of strong and lasting national identity. Therefore, to promote national identity, Nigeria must act now to abolish the “indigene-settler” concept and promulgate full residency rights in every corner of the country.