The perpetual question of whether Nigeria is a nation or a conglomerate of nations is one that has always caused a large furore wherever the issues of our polity are being discussed. Fingers have been pointed at the forceful amalgamation of 1914 by Lord Lugard, others have pointed at religious bigotry and jingoism, others at the ethno-linguistic structure, some others have pointed at different things, but one constant factor in whatever reason anyone brings up is the conspicuous fact of laying the blame at the feet of another and the sheer withdrawal from responsibility.
On the 29th of May 1999, the military government gave way to a civilian regime; democracy was then considered the best way through which leaders are elected since the military government brought a lot of ‘bad blood’. Since then, the 29th of May has been engraved into our history and placed in our archives since it marks the ‘glorious’ transition to a representative government. It has become for us Nigerians, a yearly national holiday.
However, with the widespread corruption and mismanagement, with the economic downslide, with the decaying infrastructure, with the gross national insecurity, can one say that we are reaping the dividends of democracy? Since the kick off of democracy in Nigeria, successive administrations have paid lip service to the needs of the people; our leaders have been interested only in enriching themselves hence sacrificing national service on the altar of selfish interests. A cursory look at the Nigerian leadership structure will reveal that it is a mere recycle bin with nothing to write home about, where dirty politicians push buttons and have their way at the expense of the populace. It is in line with this that Prof. Jega once said that “there is no civility, hardly any decorum, too much crudity with an unfathomable aggression and violence in the arena of Nigerian politics”. As a result of these anomalies, Nigeria is a country divided against itself, ethnic and religious dichotomy remains the basis upon which most actions are taken. We have more differences than similarities and the Civil War is a proof to that, so is the Niger-Delta crisis and the recent threat to Nigeria- Boko Haram is the biggest of all proofs.
Permit me to highlight some very important periods on Nigeria’s path to apathy: the genesis of it all was January 1914, when the amalgamation took place to satisfy selfish economic interests of our colonial masters- Britain. How justifiable is the amalgamation of two protectorates with entirely different norms and beliefs without their consent? Another important period was October 1, 1960- the independence day. Our pseudo- nationalists could not see beyond their noses, they never laid solid foundations for the continuity of unity and the advancement of national development, hence, the subsequent coups which continued like a chain reaction. Let’s not also forget the 29th of May, 1999 – Handover to an administration brought about by an incredible election process. More recently, the Niger Delta crisis came to the front burner, even though it has now been calmed. It is important to note here that prior to the grant of amnesty to the Niger Delta militants, the Niger Delta area was a place funding the whole country but suffering the most, a place “whose squalor is a fall out from its splendour and whose poverty is a product of its wealth”. The commencement of a generation of agitation by its youths was probably justifiable. The most recent threat to our national security is the Boko Haram, a political tool disguised as a religious sect. This is just a handful of the problems Nigeria face as a country, how about the epileptic power supply? How about the bad roads that have become death traps? How about the massive unemployment?
What is the way forward? There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is in a mess right now but what can we do? As Nigerian students in the University of Nigeria, we can actually do something, we can individually distinguish ourselves in our day-to-day activities, being upright in all our endeavours, working based on merit and not fear or favour. If we imbibe this attitude, we will one day be heard and the call for change will become inevitable and irresistible. Just like John Fitzgerald Kennedy, I will advise that you do not always think of what your country can do for you but also think of what you can do for your country. Do not neglect this call, unless you are ready to see your loved ones blown away by bombs, unless you are contented with the state of things. Make no mistakes, despite the corruption by the powers that be, power still lies with the people and if we painstakingly persevere, we shall prevail for only then shall the restoration of the dignity of man be complete. Do not think that you are insignificant and that whatever you do cannot change the course of the country. You are the solution to Nigeria’s problem. Please let us as lions (the kings of the jungle) be at the vanguard of this movement for change.
Finally, I will like to borrow the words of the Ikemba of Nnewi when he said that “a Nigerian is and must always be a Nigerian, as Nigerian as every other Nigerian in the concept of Nigeria.
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