Friday, 6 July 2018

Nation Building In Nigeria, By Olalekan Adigun

There is the usual temptation to reduce the meaning (albeit incorrectly) to: national integration, national development, political development, or national consciousness. The term includes all these but to reduce it to any of them is to commit the “reductionist’ fallacy

Nation building is a concept that gained prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s when President Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania strongly advocated it for fragile post-Colonial African states. The fragility of these states soon became obvious and was exposed in several lights: Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi declared himself President-for-Life; In Lesotho, Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan voided the 1970 election which he had lost; King Sobhuza of Swaziland abolished the Parliament and the Constitution and reinstituted a monarchy. This was also the period when Zambia and Malawi were dissolving the Central African Federation coinciding with the merger of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form present-day Tanzania. Large number of African States soon fell into Military dictatorship. In Nigeria, series of events led to collapse of democratic institutions in 1966 and subsequently, a bitter Civil War. The price to pay for not building a nation can be very costly!

It was after the bitter experience of the Civil War, that Nigeria made any serious effort(s) at nation building. This period saw the promulgation of the Reconciliation, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction(3Rs); the introduction of the new currency( the Naira); establishment of the National Youth Service Corps(NYSC); “deregionalisation” of University education where all previous regionally-owned Ife, Nsukka, and Zaria Universities were taken over by the Federal Government; the introduction of Unity Colleges and introduction of National Sports Festival; the introduction of the Federal Character Principle and the powerful office of the President; the introduction of the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board(JAMB) are all immediate (political) responses to the question of nation building after the War. But all these emphasis was only placed on just one aspect of nation building- National Integration leaving the others

Why is nation building appearing so difficult? In a pluralist society like Nigeria, challenges (pitfalls) of nation building are enormous. We take just a few for constraints of time and space.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is the scourge of tribalism. Tribal sentiments and loyalty is placing emphasis on where you come from as a prerequisite to getting appointments, other than your core capacities, competencies, potentials and abilities. It kills productivity, excellence and merit. The fact that it is even enshrined in our Constitution under the so-called Federal Character principle makes it even more tend to impunity. Though well-intended, the results arising from its abuse by politicians and tribal bigots has been monumental in defacing attempts at nation building.

The next is the lack of strong, patriotic and clear headed leadership. Tanzania has Nyerere and has maintained him in power even in death; China has Mao tse-Tung who provided the ideological focus for them; South Africa has Nelson Mandela who is still been revered even in death; in Zambia there is the legendary Kenneth Kaunda; Singapore will never forget Lee Kwan Yew; Ghana has Kwame Nkurumah; India holds Jawaharlal Nehru in a position of near saint. In the case of Nigeria apart from having tribal lords, whose contributions are only revered by their tribal groups, very little they did outside their tribes, with due respect to their contributions. Well, some may say we have Murtala Muhammed as an embodiment of discipline, prudence, patriotism, and leadership. Could we maintain him in power? Do we even celebrate him even in death?

The divisive tendency, planted by the colonial masters under the so-called “divide and rule” strategy, has deeply filtered through into the ranks of the masses from a deeply divide political leadership. Unfortunately, the political leaders benefiting from a divided populace, did (and doing) nothing to avert this malignant, ugly trend.

The next is the absence of core national values and ideology. that Nigeria has no official working ideology is an open secret and that should be a source of worry to every lovers of Nigeria. The absence of national values is another bizarre note. Though the constitution states our core values to be “unity in diversity enshrined in justice and fair play” is at best on paper just for the records. What is working in the country is the prevalence of regional and ethnic values. This is a major obstacle to nation building. It is like trying to build a house without an architectural design.

We also have selfishness and unpatriotic attitudes among our leaders and the people, providing another impediment to nation building. The presence of these vices explains the prevalence of such vices: corruption, nepotism, mediocrity, indiscretion, statism, religious bigotry, impunity,  and general breakdown of traditional values and morals in our national life.

Arising from tribalism is religious bigotry. In a country where some people can be more Catholic than the Pope, one must be careful in discussing religion else you are an”anti-Christ” or “insulting the holy Prophet”. This was the case when huge sum of money was being smuggled into South Africa with an aircraft belonging to an influential clergyman in Nigeria. You could almost see the “religiousness” in the argument of the so-called analysts in their sordid defence of this clergyman, if he is no properly so-called. This same people will go to high heavens to seek “justice” if such a plane had belonged to a leader of another religion. In fact some religious leaders get state protection through their godsons holding influential positions in Government. Maybe this also accounts for the recent sudden revitalization of “religious” qualifications in contesting for elective positions in recent times, rather than competence, potentials or abilities.

The solutions to these challenges are fortunately with all of us. In essence all hands must be on deck in our efforts at nation building. The following are few things we should start with.

First, we must inculcate the culture of selfless service, self-reliance, humility, patriotism, and other virtues among our lads particularly those in secondary schools. We must reward merit, competence, excellence and simple patriotic displays among these young ones as a way of new orientation in a new Nigeria which comes out of these lads.

Also, we must as a policy, create positive role models for our lads. This is where our traditional and religious leaders come to play. Our traditional rulers must make sure that titles and honour are given to truly deserving individuals in the society, not necessarily those with fat pockets. The society must go back to its roots where people without integrity, or that have brought same and ignominy to themselves are seen as social miscreants and frowns at such. The practice of rolling out drums to celebrate people who have corruptly enriched themselves must discontinue, and the traditional rulers must see to this. The Churches and Mosques should also ensure that they do not give titles to people whose source of wealth are suspect. When such is given the institution must withdraw forthwith such recognitions and publicly reject their “gifts”(in  cash or kind). This will go a long way in creating the correct impressions in the minds of our innocent lads.

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