By Churchill Okonkwo
A British theologian, William Ralph Inge once remarked that ‘A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by a common hatred of its neighbors. In Nigeria, we love our neighbors, but we have miserably failed to develop a conscientious approach in resolving conflicts and mutual distrust between groups. This has produced multiple dragons with wild roving eyes like the Avengers, OPC Boys, AREWA Youths, IPOB, MASSOB, and farmer-herdsmen bloodbath. The resulting bloody conflicts had torn the land and its people apart.
Before descending down this steep slope of long drawn battle with insanity, Nigeria used to have a small face, yet, intensely pretty. From the green coast of Lagos to the dry desert of Sokoto; from the deltas of Yenegua to the Chad basin in Maiduguri, Nigeria was a peaceful nation. That was when we used to hail Nigeria, when we stood in brotherhood, notwithstanding our mother tongue.
Now, the future looks blurred, the burden too big and the flowers once bright have all turned black. Yet, there is no external enemy. If anything, the enemies are within: nationalism and xenophobia, ethnic and religious fanatics, stalled economies, institutionalized and democratized corruption. This has left the ship, Nigeria in a terrible state @57.
The situation calls for an urgent reassessment of our nationhood. But what are we doing as Nigerians? We turned our backs to the rising sun. Soothing our anger, shedding a few tears, we turned to social media critics. We started making sketches of black spots on the fractured country. Then, we throw ashes on the corrupt men on agbada camouflaging as our flag bearers. The insult felt good. But we are still crawling backward as a nation @57.
It is evident that from the last three decades, Nigeria has become a frail fellow. Now, She is meticulously unkempt, with battered shoes and faded attire; dangerously corrupt money bags as lawmakers and governors; poverty-ridden masses; refineries that have failed to refine our crude oil. This is our Nigeria, moving closer to the end of a steep cliff with her eyes wide open.
To prevent utter dissatisfaction, the Nigerian government should address the concern of every section of the country that feels alienated from the system. Also, ethnic nationalities should devise means of ensuring judicious utilization of the monies accruing to their nation. This is not possible under the present arrangement – a system that has made everyone much dependent on Abuja.
One of the keys to a stable Nigeria is decentralization as is currently being clamored for by different groups. If power and resources are decentralized, the corrupt reps at the national assembly worshiping the Senate President or the cliques holding Mr. President captive will move closer to their people. Whether the Nigerian government will take the bull by the horn remains to be seen.
Presently, the deep valleys between mountains act as troughs to channel charged wind of ethnoreligious disharmony to the leaky ears of lonely, depressed and (un)employed Nigerians. The results; Odi massacre, Boko Haram, outrageous Shia killings in Zaria, senselessness in Aguta, brutality in the suburbs of Umuahia, and many more in the making.
The center may still be strong, but things are falling apart. Our unity is fragile. Our moon is no longer reflecting the rays of the sun because it has been covered by the tears of the suffering masses. Nigeria has been devoured and daily life is becoming increasingly nasty. Will anarchy be loosened upon the nation?
The death of Yugoslavia was much a matter of cultural mistrust as it was of economic and political failure. I hope President Buhari and the opponents of restructuring are listening. We don’t want another civil war, but the creation of a new and united Nigeria is a task that should be courageously confronted. It is very clear that the ship (Nigeria) is leaking. But it is not hopeless.
@57, a multiethnic nation like Nigeria can reconcile unity and diversity only if it does not confuse unity with uniformity. It should, therefore, evolve its unity out of its diversity by encouraging its ethnic nationalities to evolve a plural national culture that both reflects and transcends them.
@57, Nigeria is still lying on her back like a few days old baby, guarded on both sides by our resolve not to experience another civil war. Since there can be no stability in imperfection, our bodies changed from imperfection (at birth) to maturity. So, we learned how to sit, crawl, stand, and then how to walk and run. This is a lesson that should have been replicated by Nigeria @57
To be sitting @57, we should stop feeling wounded and confused. We should consistently demand good governance and accountability. To crawl forward to manhood @57, we need equity and justice for local people, starting with a restructuring that includes a democratic decentralization of governance and natural resources to the local people.
This is the catalyst we are hanging our hopes on to transform the adult Nigeria @57 from four limbs to two legs – quasi-federalism to true federalism. To be standing and walking @57, we should be entrenching democracy through, security of lives and properties, free and fair election, peaceful coexistence and then, building a viable and sustainable economy. Unfortunately, @57, the devourers of Nigeria are still after the crackers – the ravaged and unkempt motherland.
As we stand on the threshold of another birthday, I closed my eyes and saw the sun battling with the dark rain clouds. Strange voices from the distant world, I heard; re-echoing incoherent words from our founding fathers; reminding me of the distant past. Grandpa said the gods were angry, that we should prepare for burnt sacrifice. Father said I should ignore the old man and get ready for all-night prayers.
But even in my state of confusion, I can still see the poor masses grieving and gnashing their teeth just like Nigeria @57. They were promised change, but they are still receiving the same discordant tune. They stretched out their hands for roses but received rods. Their dreams, frozen. Eyes, looking fearfully unhappy. Their faces, white and haggard, with embarrassed misery on every line.
The writing is on the wall. The country is fractured, the holes of weakness, disunity and distrust are widening. We can only rise up to the occasion by looking inwards for some cementing materials like equity and fair play. We should also be asking and answering some tough questions.
@57, the questions on the mind of motherland Nigerians are; are you stubbornly opposed to restructuring even at the risk of destroying the entire structure? Are you an agent of destruction or one of the devourers that have kept Nigeria ravaged and untidy @57?
Happy Birthday, Nigeria.
You can email Churchill at Churchill.firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @churchillnnobi
By Churchill Okonkwo