One of my lecturers during my days in the tertiary institution, Dr Alimi, told me, immediately after the 2015 presidential election that “nothing would change in Nigeria if we still hold on to our primordial sentiments of ethnic jingoism, religious extremism and personal egoism”.
I thought the lecturer was not happy with the change of government, I never knew he was doing what literary scholars were known for; predicting the future. Like the two major characters in Samuel Becket’s ‘Waiting for Goddot’ (Estragon and Vladimir) who spend most of their time waiting for Goddot that never appears, Nigerians have spent over a half of a century waiting for a messiah to fix the nation.
October 2018 is going to mark our 58 years of independence from the British rule, the country still remains in the Hobbesian State of Nature where life is short, nasty, and brutish, although some improvements are being recorded in this present administration. The verdict of history supports the thesis that no change, be it political, economic, social or religious, can crystallise without the support of the masses.
‘A single finger cannot remove a louse from the head’ – apologies to Ola Rotimi. Most Nigerians think that the much-awaited change is to be done by an individual in Abuja. This perception is far contrary to the process of change. It is on this note of individual contributions, that I picked my pen, to pen my opinion.
The state is a mere mirror of our individual behaviour and mentality. I agree no less with the opinion of Plato, the Greek scholar, in his book The Republic, that ‘’justice in the soul influences justice in the state.’’ That is, the discipline of the soul affects discipline in the community.
The relationship between the state and the individuals is a symbiotic relationship. The present socio-economic and political morass we find ourselves is the results of our actions and inactions. An average Nigerian is of the opinion that the little misconduct he perpetrates has no effects on the society at large.
As individuals, we have crucial roles to play in the development of the country. The book of history is replete with the names of individuals who contributed to the development of their countries, such as Mandela, Martin Luther and Gandhi.
It is unfortunate that in Nigeria, we destroy our nation on the basis of ethnic jingoism. We still submit ourselves to the myth of best tribe and ethnic supremacy. In the farmer- herder clashes, a lot of people have been killed. Our decisions are based on ethnic bigotry.
When we go to poll, we vote based on the ethnic relationship; admissions and employment are offered based on ethnic affiliations rather than merit and competence. We have decided to take shelter in tribe rather than the nation. The only time we take pride in our country is when we can ride it to personal wealth or when our footballers win a trophy.
In fact, commitment to this unofficial identity of ethnicity is more potent in our minds than our commitment to the nation. For over 50 years of independence, we still find it difficult to see one another as brothers and sisters. On a daily basis, we kill our brothers, sisters and friends in the mire of blind emotion and false delusion.
If we lack the knowledge of foresight, we should work with the knowledge of hindsight. One of the elementary lessons we all learnt from the study of history is that history repeats itself. In the name of ethnic supremacy, over one million people were killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994 in a civil war of ethnic cleansing between the Tutsi and the Hutu.
Does no one learn from history? Permit me to add, without prejudice to any religion, that on the basis of religious fanaticism and extremism, we commit the greatest sin against God and man.
We kill our brothers in the name of God and in furtherance of an exclusionist creed, the creed of you or me in opposition of you and me. We murder our sisters in our dogmatic blindness of I am right: you are wrong to the terminal I am right you are dead-apologies to Kongi.
It is ironic that the country with the highest number of religious institutions remains one of the most corrupt nations in the world. Religion is about sincerity and integrity. Our socio-political problems are compounded and aggravated by some religious entrepreneurs masquerading as men of God.
They have abdicated their responsibility of preaching peace, unity and justice by going into a Faustian accord with desperate politicians to fan the embers of disharmony and stoke the fire of acrimony. I demand to be schooled on the portion of any scripture that says we should kill others simply because they don’t believe in what we believe in. Over 1000 people have been killed by Boko Haram in the name of God.
Also, we destroy our nation on the basis of greed. We are so steeped in looting, and violating the rights of others for personal interest. We import fake drugs without considering the implications for the users. Policemen kill civilians because of N50.
During elections, politicians arm thugs to eliminate or attack anyone or community seen as a threat or opposition. We allow politicians to play politics with the lives of our brothers. Those politicians cannot achieve these bestialities and cruelty on their own without our support and assistance.
Some journalists, who should serve as their conscience and nemesis painstakingly and merrily serve as their errand boys. Parents are not left; they pay examiners to increase the scores of their children. Fuel station owners deliberately hoard fuel to cause artificial scarcity for selfish interest. Although the degree of involvement might differ, (yet) we are all guilty.
When we analyse all these unfortunate scenarios, we will discover that we are responsible for our predicament. We are the architects of our problems. For how long shall we continue to kill our brothers, sisters and friends in the name of God?
For how long shall we continue to destroy our communities in the name of ethnic supremacy? For how long shall we continue to enslave, impoverish pauperise our brothers because of our greed and selfishness? With greed, social stratification and religious dogmatism, we destroy our nation rather than building it.
No nation develops in restiveness. Peace is a vital ingredient to the development and progress of any nation. The only time I feel happy is when I am in BRT, not even in my matches’ box where I barricade myself where the noise of generators and speakers owned by religious houses disturb on daily basis.
In BRT, there is no preaching, no hawking, and no bus conductor disturbances. In BRT, Christians sit beside Muslims, a Yoruba man sits beside a Hausa man, bankers sit beside the market women from Orile Iganmu market without acrimony. If it is possible to maintain a peaceful co-existence in BRT, it means we can live together as brothers and sisters without discord.
In conclusion, our fate lies in our hands. God does not fix problems. He only provides the necessary materials and resources for man to solve any problem. The country has not gone beyond redemption. Nigeria is salvageable, redeemable, reparable and transformable. This can only be possible when the reality is viewed from one perspective. It becomes easier to make progress.
This can only be possible if we are ready to play our different roles and parts in the building of this nation. We should all rise above religious bigotry and see beyond the narrow prism of ethnic identity. We should also be conscious of the fact that the future of Nigeria lies upon our shoulders. For the country to develop, we need peace, truth and justice.
By Alasela Saidi