…Nothing Inspiring, Nothing So Re-assuring
Growing up, the zeal and the passion with which we looked forward to Nigeria’s Independence celebration was electrifying.
As a young boy desirous of a sane society where there is justice, equity, stability, and progress, we always felt on top of the world, moment our teachers hinted about another independence anniversary. With support from our parents, we would go all out to make sure our school uniform is intact (that’s whether it falls on week days or weekends – all for the special day in our national life.
And with rare zest for life, we were always proud to dress gorgeously and then file out on the D-Day with the famous Green-White-Green Flag and other insignia to celebrate the day.
With the benefit of hindsight, insight and foresight, however, all that has faded away, leaving us with the relics of our immediate past staring us rudely in the face with mountain of questions begging for attention.
Where have we missed the mark? Where have we derailed from the path – the landmark path our Heroes past laid for the maintenance and sustenance of our national life – a life that is devoid of bitterness, a life that eschew violence, lawlessness, hate, corruption, indiscipline; and a life basking in the euphoria of an egalitarian society where the sanctity of our collective existence and survival is of utmost importance to everyone irrespective of tribe, religion, economic or social standing.
In a clear sense, there have been no significant difference since Nigeria returned to democracy after many years of military interruptions. The fumbling and wobbling still continues till date. No thanks to lack of preparation for governance and a complete ineptitude on the part of the leadership. It is still clearly evident that the much-needed national tag, which every Nigerian should be proud of to either display or wear – all the time even in our sub-conscious state of mind – is neither here nor there. And that is OUR SENSE OF NATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS – which ideally should be the bedrock of being a patriotic citizen. This is more of mental awareness.
This goes beyond the make-believe sense of national tag usually professed by the government and their agents – the political jobbers. If there is any professed one anywhere, perhaps it is something of a function of self-delusion, misapprehension and misinterpretation of what the concept of ‘Sense of National Consciousness’ mean. What governments of the day have constantly dished out is the meaning and interpretation of their respective self-imposed national tag. Anything that won’t favour them will never be supported or promoted. Everything is based on their own terms and conditions, even when there are other better opinions. A popular saying goes thus: “Society grows when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”.
This, no doubt, can only happen where the leaders, backed by quality inner attributes and strong willingness to impact generations, and not to enrich or go all out for immediate gain or personal benefits – a thing that current leaders are known for. They only make and formulate laws that have direct benefits to them and their cronies. What a shame!
These unfortunate self-serving tendencies have gone for a long time unchecked, and sadly, they have impacted on the psyche of an average Nigerian. As such, the people are not to blame, even though there is a general belief that the type of leadership a nation parades at any given time is a reflection of the type of followership available in such country. This notion, under the grave scenario painted above, to me, does not hold waters – simply because Nigeria as a country is richly blessed with enough (even more than enough) human resources – that is apart from other natural resources.
It is worthy of note to say that our sense of national consciousness has gone down. It is at its very lowest. It is nothing to write home about. Mere displaying of national flag and other insignia, and wishing one another ‘happy independence anniversary’ are not enough to say things are in good shape. These public identifications are mere sign of identity and nothing more. Deep down, they do not elicit any sense of belonging. They are mere yearly rhetoric – to fulfill all righteousness. Nothing inspiring anymore; nothing assuring and re-assuring in them. National identity should not be juxtaposed for sense of national consciousness – something that is inherent; an inner trait, in-born instinct; and that people grow to live by it with natural aural, flair.
This clarification has become necessary both as a deliberate indictment of the ruling class, a justification for the argument against the self-colonizing culture of the post-independence Nigeria and to proffer a very potent solution for the myriad of problems dotting the length and breadth of Nigeria and instill a sense of a new Nigeria, especially in the light of the on-going clamours for restructuring, return to 1963 Constitution, secession, calls for regionalism and several other agitations.
One glaring fact here is the government of Nigeria cannot continue to pretend as if all is well. This is so because there is a wide gap between national identity and sense of national consciousness 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.
During President Muhammadu Buhari’s October 1st public speech, he did mention that he was disappointed in some S’South leaders over their disposition towards the IPOB issue. He needs to be reminded that his disappointment is immaterial when compared with the disappointment of the people over his government’s lackluster performance in the area of uniting the country better than he met it. It is sad to know that for the umpteenth time, they still have not been able to identify the root cause of the discordant tunes in the country – which is the apparent lopsidedness in the scheme of things: and a development that has given rise to various forms of agitation.
The leadership style is killing rather than motivating the entire population into believing in the Nigerian vision. Sadly too, those around him are not helping matters. All the sycophants are interested in is giving a bad name to a dog – all in a bid to nail it. For how long will they continue in such a macabre dance in the public square and expect better results?
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, there is the absence of what is called an identity.
National identity consists also in the capacity to be proud of the stuff of which one’s country is made. In other words, there should be an acceptance that one does not exist for oneself but also for the nation from whose richly endowed resources one derives his or her living. In effect, without an understanding that one by right a citizen of a country to the degree that one 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 one is 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.
But the truth is such acceptance and patriotic feelings cannot just fall on the people on a platter of gold without the ruling class clearly, deliberately and resiliently pursuing policies and programmes that promote unity across the nation’s entire landscape.
For instance, judging by the statement credited to President Buhari that those calling for war were probably not alive to witness Nigeria’s Civil War. The question is how does call for restructuring equate call for war? Even those calling for secession (though not encouraged) have only asked for referendum. How does that equate to calling for war too? With this and many other instances, Mr President and his handlers have only manage to expose their apparent out of touch with reality in the current set up and his disdainful attitude towards promoting a truly united Nigeria where every section of the country is guaranteed adequate representation and a sense of belonging.
Where these exist, the much desired huge sense of national consciousness would naturally flow through the veins and umbilical cords of the society. But firing brimstone to ward off oppositions to the apparent lopsidedness can only further unsettle the sensibility of the populace towards true national orientation.
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 our sense of national consciousness 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.
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