Echoes of Nigeria’s Unity


Ehime Alex writes that during the Independence Day celebrations, Lekki British School sent a clear message that Nigerians will be better staying together

Certainly, an amazing and great country, the strength of Nigeria lies in its diversity of culture, unity of purpose, peace and progress. These were the tones that saturated this year’s annual Independence Day celebration of Nigeria’s 57th anniversary at the Lekki British School, held in Lagos recently.

Over the years, the school has had cause to celebrate Nigeria’s independence with pomp and pageantry as part of its enriched curriculum. Dedicated to the country’s knowledge, citizenship and cultural values to its pupils, the school had marked this year’s celebration with the theme: ‘Better Together’.

The joy of getting off from the clutches of colonial rule can only be imagined by many Nigerians. It is like counting the nation’s blessings and naming them one by one. But, for the visionary and Chief Executive Officer of LBS, Mrs. Abiodun Laja, “It is a day of joy for us.”

“We are here to remind you today that irrespective of our diversity in culture, background the nation remains as one,” the junior school Head, Ms. Maryanne Maduekwe equally remarked. “It is a wonderful day for our students and millions of Nigerians to remember the labour and sacrifice of their national heroes,” the high school Principal, Mr. Ashish Gill also remarked.

That was not all for Gill who has a foreign complexion, and speaks in foreign accent. The advantages of celebrating Nigeria’s independence have been numerous to him and even to other foreign students to learn about other peoples’ culture. “Here we ensure that our children are deeply rooted in cultural values besides international curriculum,” he said. “We also want them as a matter of utmost importance to understand their background,” he added.

Other such comments as these: “We are instilling the culture of our nation in the coming generation, our children, the next generation,” by Year II teacher, Nancy Okeke. “For the students to mark Nigeria’s 57th anniversary means a lot, seeing them in various traditional attires to display their cultural wealth,” Year II pupil, Ifeanyi Ohuruzo. “It is about Nigeria to stay as one and united irrespective of where you come from,” according to Year V student, North America, David-Daniel Arinse. “It is building a nation at a wide place,” said School Counselor, Doreen Ekong, from these staff and students of the school seem to depict that Nigeria must remain as one.

What a wonderful day for the students, teachers, parents and guests who dressed gorgeously to be identified in their ethnic and traditional attires, and much more wonderful for them to pass the message of oneness, unity, progress and peace.

In poems, songs, dances, dramas, among other performances the message of “We are better together to stay together” electrified the ambience of the event held consecutively at both the LBS high and junior schools as the audiences were thrilled in various Nigerian cultural displays: Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, and Edo. It was an occasion for the students to showcase their knowledge of the Hausa Salala dance, the Yoruba Apepe dance and the Atilogwu dance of the Igbos.

In some lines of poems, they read: “We live as one. We fight as one, but we are always united. We are just a pack of wolves who live together and howl together. As a bunch of keys we open different doors, doors of prosperity, doors of fertility, doors of progress, doors of greatness. Our grasses are lush that beautify our country. We speak different languages, our tribes are diverse. Together we stand, divided we fall. It’s better together to stay together.”

Apparently, schools are seen as the agents of social cultural change that transmit social beliefs along with formal education in a society. It is in this light that the reveled LBS prided as one of the best citadels of learning with highly standard British curriculum can be viewed essentially as a socio-cultural melting pot for the transmission of Nigerian culture to both its local and international students.

Talking of culture and the transmission of it, the special guest of honour, the Kabiyesi of Ikate-land, Oba Saheed Elegushi, who said he represents the custodian of the Yoruba culture and tradition of the people, and spoke on the topic of culture with particular emphasis to the Yoruba culture, simply defines culture as “An idea, tradition and social behaviour of a people.”

The Kabiyesi noted that culture differs from society to society and people to people and that it is even diverse within a smaller unit of the community. The Royal Majesty who was represented by Prince Olarewaju Bakare, a lawyer by profession also noted that through practice, convention, needs, necessity and convenience the culture of a people could evolve.

He equally observed that, the work of communicating the Yoruba culture is somehow cut-off for him as a custodian of Yoruba culture, hinting that same goes for other traditional rulers like the Igbos, Hausas and Edos.

“In those days, the flouting of one’s tradition especially the Yoruba tradition was a taboo. It could be greeted with banishment,” the Elegushi of Ikate-land stated. However he observed that the Yoruba culture could be displayed in various forms. While noting that “Respect” is one of the etiquettes of the Yoruba culture, he stressed that in the Yoruba way of salutation, the male forks are expected to prostrate whilst greeting their elders and the female ones respectfully kneel to greet elders.

“This has helped to demonstrate our rich cultural heritage,” he noted. “In time past, natural herbs were used to heal people and do other useful things. Medicine is also part of our culture,” he noted but however lamented that the true knowledge of the use of the herbs had gone as their fore-fathers could not document the teachings or transmit them from generation to generation. The Kabiesi added that “Marriage” is another cultural ethos of the Yoruba. “In the traditional Yoruba culture, marriage betrothal was done by the parents of the boy. But today, the music has change,” he remarked.

From all the various performances, the messages have been that Nigerian cultural similarities lie in areas of religious worships, folk-lore, dances, festival, arts, craft and traditional modes of dressing among others. In one of the dance-drama piece by the junior school pupils, the belief that the Binis are steeped in tradition of new yam fête and the necessary sacrosanct that surrounds hereditary to the throne of the kingdom of Benin monarchical system was dramatised.

For some participating foreign parents at the event who spoke with THISDAY, the overall idea of the LSB’s national day celebration is integrated in the manner the traditions of the people of Nigeria have flourished and manifested in a robustly rich cultural heritage.

In all of these, the LBS has literarily again passed the message of indivisibility of the Nigerian state, teaching that what unites us is greater than what divides us.

As the saying goes, the words of elders are words of wisdom. Kingsley Nwokoma, a 83-year-old man who was at the event to felicitate the independence with his granddaughter said the need for the country to stay together remains inviolable. But warn that in doing so, the government must be seen to make every citizen of the country to feel as one.

However, on the sidelines of the Independence Day celebration at the LBS was also a day to honour the CEO of the school, Laja for an unprecedented 40th year as a private school entrepreneur. She said, “I love children that have been the desire for me venturing into school business.” In that excitement the CEO noted that the joy has been so enormous. But the challenges have equally been enormous.

But to God be the glory that gave her the powers to surmount and came out victorious. While she said that she was eager to continue improving on the standard of education in the private sector, her ultimate goal is to continually give parents value for the monies spent on their wards. She said, ‘They are getting value for their money’.”

She advised young ones who would like to venture into the business of private school, to take God as their partner in progress.