Sunday, 6 October 2019

Nigeria’s Independence and the Rhetoric of Unity in Diversity —by Tony Ochelebe ll


6 October 2019 

I refrained from writing or saying anything pertaining to Nigeria's 59th independence anniversary. Chiefly for two reasons. 

The first is that I am trying not to be overly negative about the many woes befalling the nation (even though my friend and brother Firsts baba Isa and other Lawyers would quickly tell me that the thing speaks for itself). 

The second reason is not far-fetched. Selling Nigeria many times is like selling a rotten fruit and this fact is obvious to the customer. So one is constrained to just sit idly by and watch his commodity rot away. There is a third reason. But this however cannot be given a place amongst the two mentioned earlier Even though I would mention it to teach a lesson or two. 

For a lot of people, one becomes an enemy of the nation or a faithless unbeliever the moment one begins to point out the things one thinks are wrong with the way and manner our common patrimony is appropriated. No, critics are not enemies. They are patriot just like you, especially, if their criticisms are constructive and solutions driven. How else can I say it to make those who benefit from certain regimes understand that while their praises and sycophancy delude those in government into thinking they are on track, critics bring the government on to grey and seemingly forgotten areas where development should be engendered, entrenched or both. So, the critic is a patriot of different hue and of different milieu. 

We are 59 years old as an independent entity. That is no news. We are one indivisible entity as we would like to say. That too cannot make headline. But I am eternally baffled and befuddled to hear this from people whom one think should know better. We cannot be united as a people because we continue to mouth it. We cannot tolerate ourselves because it sounds musical to the ear. We can only be united as a people through a national dream, a vision!

Don't we have a vision? We have something like it. Something that sounds to me like Unity in Diversity. Truly for some of us that is a recitation, something that sounds rhythmical and, oh, how the government drums that into our ears! But like I have implied, that is not enough. It is not an elixir to our 'dividedness'. 

Let me explain. Why do most men marry? I used marriage because that is a union. The ready answer would be "for companionship and procreation" (unless of course for the greedy ones of us who would marry for reasons ranging from money and fame). So the vision would be to have a stable marriage/ companionship and children one would be proud of. So, the vision nudges one into deciding what kind of wife to marry and into being deliberate in the things one says or does to a potential partner and even after marriage. 

We are divided on all fronts. Religion, ethnicity, region, political parties, even denomination stand tall against us like Goliath against the Children of Israel. We are too divided to be united! But again, an average Nigerian knows this. But we would rather play the Ostrich. Las, las, e go better, we echo on the streets while we hear a different rendition from the pulpit, it is well' and our politicians come with their, "we are doing our best to give our people a better life" even though we know better life talks expressly about their pockets.

National Unity in the Nigerian context is the acceptance of other ethnic and religious groups as parts of the nation. It connotes coming together to believe in the Nigerian Dream which in itself entails food, shelter, security, access to education and healthcare. The Nigerian Dream is a modest one, yet it is continually disregarded, abused, and bastardized by the same people who should be the custodians of this dream. So we cannot talk about unity in diversity without deceiving ourselves.

Let's go back and envision a new Nigeria for ourselves, a Nigeria where our unity is occasioned by our common vision. In other words, let our vision unite us and not our mouth!


Tony Ochelebe ll is a development communication enthusiast and he wrote in from Abuja, Nigeria. He can be reached through: tonyochelebe@gmail.com    



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