Sunday 20 April 2008

The entity is Nigeria, the identity is Nigerian

Inadvertent Ambassadors

I am of the opinion that anyone who has any association with Nigeria is automatically an ambassador of Nigeria and by unfortunate commission assumes that role fully when they leave the shores of the motherland, fatherland or ‘parentland’ as you deem fit.

This is not to impose the weight of any responsibility on anyone, but if people do identify you as Nigerian, you become the source of information about the country and you are inadvertently the window into their opinion of Nigerians.

I have been in conversations where some people have had bad experiences with Nigerians and someone speaks up saying they have had Nigerian friends, salt of the earth, compassionate, responsible and very trustworthy confidants – we leave impressions everywhere we go.

Nigeria is the entity for identity

I tire of the argument that the entity called Nigeria is not representative of a people who have a common purpose; (reference to a comment on Chxta's blog) that entity has existed since 1914, there are very few people alive who can remember when Lord Lugard put together that jigsaw puzzle.

Nigerian is what we are regardless of localised affiliation; our old national anthem recognised that ‘though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand’. There is a brotherhood of Nigerians, whether you decide to belong and contribute to its development and progress is your choice.

It is time for us to move beyond the tired arguments and debates of old of which we have had not part apart from the reading of history.

Drop those old chains

I tire of the allusion to slavery when problems of Nigeria are discussed, I do not know anyone who was taken as a slave from the localities of my forebears; I had the good fortune of having a great-grand mother into my early 20s and she never did talk of anyone taken into slavery in her time – Slavery had been outlawed since 1834 in the British Empire.

I have been to Badagry to see the chains and shackles of old, I have seen Roots, but I do not intend to try out those chains and make them the symbols of my tomorrow by blaming the problems of today on a past I was never part of.

Becoming relics of the past

Nigeria has a very rich history of empires, kingdoms, conquests and defeats; we can take the lessons of our history and use those as a force to build a people of a strong heritage with a future brighter than the brightest day.

Many of us are free-born Africans but have refused to be what we are, rather we seek refuge in some hamlet mentality fearful of the next village and bound in the terror of superstitious beliefs that everyone out there is the enemy – if we cannot come together in community building we cannot move on to the greater task of nation building.

Colonised in the mind

I also tire about the tales of the effects of colonialism, Nigeria was already independent and a republic before I was born, so why should I aspire to have a colonial mentality when I was born after the country of my heritage was already the master of its own destiny.

When my father built his house, it was not built to the design of some old colonial District Officer quarters, it was built as he wanted it with his own ideas and plans as a Nigerian free to decide how he wanted things to be done, the architects, surveyors, builders and decorators, all Nigerian, were paid for their work, no slaves were employed – there was no colonial brick in that building. I do not intend to build mock-Tudor, Georgian or Jacobean either.

We deceive and delude ourselves if in the fifth decade of our independence we still think our problems are not majorly of our own doing and seek to blame them on others like Mugabe is trying to do about Zimbabwe after 28 years of destroying the good land he inherited.

You cannot choose your co-passenger

A simple analogy is this, when I book a flight, I can choose the seat I want, but I cannot decide who sits beside me. If at the end of the day I have to sit with someone for a 4-hour flight I can be all grumpy and asocial throughout and make my flight utterly miserable.

Alternatively, I can try and engage the person in conservation, something, I am wont to doing because I am something of a chatterbox; a foible, I suppose – the person either responds or doesn't.

If they do, we enrich each other's life, knowledge, experience and probably become friends; I cannot count the number of invitations I have to visit the homes of people in faraway places because of these chance meetings.

Nigeria – Our sovereign Motherland

The entity called Nigeria is the source of the identity of every Nigerian, it is time for us to accept the fact of that entity as it is and start to engage with the unknown passenger (other Nigerian) beside us in the flight (Nigeria) that we are in and work towards a unity of purpose to build Nigeria, the nation of which we are all willing or unwilling ambassadors.

When I see the Motherland of our old national anthem until 1978 and the Fatherland of the new since 1978, I wonder if the old does not capture more clearly the essence of what it is to be Nigerian and the pride we should have in our great country; that critical word seems to be missing in the new.

The new seems to be a slight rewrite of the old and though we have to live with the new, the fact is we still seek a nation where truth and justice reign, where our flag is a symbol of honour and where no man is oppressed.

The old tells us what it is to be Nigerian, the new tells us about the duty we have to make Nigeria great such that the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain.

Arise, O Compatriots!


The two Nigerian National Anthems

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