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Without fostering belief in Nigeria, we head nowhere


By Chuka Nnabuife

WE SEEM eager to have democracy or at least, civil rule work for us in Nigeria. Our hues and cries for rule of law, enduring development, end of poverty, good governance, unity and general well-being of the nation, hint a consensus of concern for the country to progress in very positive direction.

  Reading the newspapers, listening to radio or watching television, last Monday, June 12, as Nigerians appraised the rewards of their democratic rule, in commemoration of the country’s Democracy Day was a mind-boggling endeavour. Experts among the elites, the middle class and masses, as well as politicians who desperately sought to be relevant in the new political order, did their best to blame the problems of Nigeria on undemocratic rule. Words and expressions like ‘corruption’, ‘military brutality’, ‘free and fair election’, ‘impunity’ among others were bandied.  All were apt, at least for the themes of discourse of the day.

  But beyond the plethora of ‘them and us’ complaints, pensive allegations and vituperation in fluent speeches that came across as ‘correct talk’ to many, on critical appraisal, a lot of the comments begged the question.

At best, they were bandied falsehood, passed off over time, as the realities of Nigeria. Our country’s major problem is willfully telling ourselves lies and persuading our minds and others’, to believe it. Sadly, we enjoy the dangerous escapism. Lament or whine as long as we can, we cannot face our challenges squarely, let alone tackle them if we fail to accept our reality.

  We are divided. A kingdom divided against itself can never stand. Socio-economic development or real dividends of democracy cannot happen in a land dispersed in various enclaves and deeply dispirited as our contemporary Nigeria. The division fuels a growing reign of apathy and distrust of state and government by citizens.

Hence, despite the effulgence of any idea, system or style of governance, citizens lack the zeal to key-in to government’s direction. Our divisions are ethnic, faith-based, class-oriented and politically partisan. We are also mutually suspicious of one another based on manipulated historical narratives and somewhat genetically enshrined biases.

The result is that we suspect one another without proof, distrust the rulers even in best policies and hate Nigeria. Almost everyone who gets a chance, exploits and extorts Nigeria the same way; nearly every worker does not bother about his or her productivity. We all see Nigeria as our milk cow and opt not to care about the production of the milk – our ‘national cake’ mentality.  

  All these ensure the lull as our nation, despite all her endowments and the brilliance of our people perpetually lacks capacity to grow politically or economically. The poverty that pervades here is an outcome of this. Therefore, poverty is not really our main trouble but the cause of it. Our own poverty which is at the root of most flaws we have, from anger in the land to insecurity, to injustice, corruption, electoral manipulations, among others emanate from the absence of a nation or belief in the country we have.

President, Bola Tinubu, while receiving the leaders of the National    Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), in Aso Villa, yesterday, observed thusly: “Nigerians want to draw water from a dry well. That is no longer acceptable.” The president was dwelling on NANS’ requests for palliatives to the current vexed matter of fuel subsidy removal but that comment captured the crust of our country’s ailment. We want to eat omelette but we don’t want to break eggs. 

Nigeria’s real problem appears very simple and seemingly not hard to tackle but the guts and sincerity required to solve are more tricky than the so called big troubles. We simply have to work hard on the collective psyche of Nigerians to solve the worsening general lack of faith in the country and distrust among citizens.

  Finding enduring solutions to our division and lack of hope in Nigeria is, arguably our real challenge. It is even more apt at a time like this that our new president, Tinubu came into office with a manifesto, advancing the need to ‘renew’ Nigerians’ ‘hope’ in their country.    

Renewal of that ‘hope’ is most needed this time in our forlorn and famished land. Vibrant hope and unwavering belief in land and state are the core motivators and mobilisers of citizens to build the nations of their dreams. Founders, creators and builders of states from ruins and rubbles of destruction, loss of war, annexation or natural calamity know this. Same mission guides designers of state symbols, composers of anthems, pledges, colour columns of states, among others. Rekindling the flames of affection for state and fellow citizens is a multi-disciplinary art that countries that aspire towards greater heights engage seriously in.

  The art is not just about sloganeering and media hypes. States that know its value make it their philosophy as much as the background of their policies and practices. They strive visibly to make citizens in both mainland and diaspora imbibe and assimilate the hope thrust.

  It is such a vital foundation for strengthening weak nations that in the immediate aftermath of the Great Depression and the Second World War (WWII) even a physically-challenged President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (F.D.R.) had to motivate his downcast and forlorn United States of America (USA) with hope-inspiring messages. One of his messages that rejuvenated the spirit of his countrymen was: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” That statement of faith and purpose, backed by policy and action turned USA and ally nations around.

In the same period of anomy, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom, also hinged his reinvigoration of Britain with hope-renewing messages and functional policies in same direction. “We shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny,” Churchill told his countrymen.

At the peak of his people’s downcast losses such as in the period of Nazi onslaught in UK and neighbouring countries, Prime Minister Churchill used inspirational messages and policies to renew Britons’ hope and steered them smartly through the most challenging period of WWII. He even pushed the land with invigorating messages at moments of defeat as his June 4, 1940 ‘we shall not flag or fail’ message in the House of Commons did.

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous states have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail,” Churchill enthused.

  As in USA and UK during and after WWII, so was the renewal of hope messages and policies used in Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries. We also saw it succeed in the mid-1990s Rwanda after the Central African countries perilous 1994 civil war.

Sadly, our Nigeria, despite having had her terrible civil war, 1967 through 1970, shows neither evidence of any hope-renewal across the divides nor of nation-rebuilding campaign. Hence the absence of citizens’ trust of government and a reign of the people’s fear and disdain of one another would continue and possibly, fester into vast angst.

With such magnification of bad emotions of gloom and doom only the doldrums is plausible because, like crabs in a bucket, nobody would allow the other to escape the ditch. Crimes will only grow not ebb, and persisting poverty is, sure.

  When George Bernard Shaw wrote in the preface of his 1907 play, ‘Major Barbara’ that, “the greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty,” that is what he means.

Poverty is the worst proceed Nigeria reaps from her crimes which are mainly linked by our hatred for ourselves and our country. What we need for progress to come hither are easy but require visible commitment. We must first work hard to sincerely re-invent the Nigeria of minds and hearts; foster trust of one another and renew hope in our country – not touting or sloganeering it in ‘eye service’ to attract the new president’s attention.



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