By ‘Wale Oluwade
A nation is not a geographical space, occupied by people with distinct race, culture, and attributes. A nation isn’t just about roads, rail, bridges and power. An ordinary village buffoon can do these things, though; successive Nigeria leaders seem unable to do so 58-years after independence. What then is a nation? A nation is an idea. It is the collective aspiration and beliefs of a group of people with a shared history and a common hope in the future.
The Building of Nations
Nigeria is an idea and not yet a nation. Let me expatiate further on this thought.
Firstly, nation-building is a destination rather than a bus-stop, meaning; it is a never ending journey. It is a continuous process of constant renewal, regeneration and rediscovery. The United States of America’s democratic experiment is about 241-years old, yet a popular refrain I hear oft-repeated by her leaders is that they are “…working at building a more perfect union.” So, building a nation is a never-ending assignment. Secondly, building nations include providing hard infrastructures; building roads, power, bridges, rail lines, air and seaports, schools, hospitals, etc. These are some of the things that help to unite and connect the people in a nation and classify it among its peers.
Thirdly, and perhaps, most critical, nation-building is the construction of a national identity, a forging of a set of values, norms and beliefs that define the people. It is a way of life, and this is intangible. It is the evolution of an overarching unifying culture. It is usually an unwritten code by which they interrelate among themselves, other nations and by which those who come are expected to conform. Lastly, the most significant tool of nation-building is the education of its masses. This involves a rigorous acculturation in its history, language, beliefs, norms, values, mores, place and role in the world. Without an enlightened citizenry, a society remains at the level of primordial cleavages.
Nation-building is a conscious effort. It is a deliberate, purposeful and systematic assignment of forging common identity and unity. Following the unification of Italy (1860), a process led by the Northern elite which then ruled the country, Massimo d’Azeglio (one of the founders of united Italy) famously remarked: “Italy has been made; now it remains to make Italians.” Nigeria is an idea conceived in 1914, legitimized in 1960 but that’s it, nothing concrete has been done since then to actually make Nigerians from the over 250 ethnic-nationalities and languages.
We now examine three intrinsic values leaders and followers must consistently demonstrate to build the Nigeria we all desire.
The Value of Patriotism
Only patriots build nations. Politicians and mercenaries cannot build nations. So what engenders patriotism in individuals and groups living in a nation? This is a germane issue in national development. Nations are built by people and the people must feel a strong sense of affinity, loyalty and fidelity to a single unifying vision that all has mutually subscribed to. This is one single unifying aspiration or goal that bind all together regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion or language.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Prov.29:18. “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it…” Hab.2:2. Great men and women have great visions of their destinies. Great corporations have a clearly defined vision of their role and place in business. Great nations have a clear and yet simple visions of their roles and purpose in the world. For America it is; “the land of the free and the bold.” The opening words of the American Declaration of Independence states; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness…”
Simple but succinct. What is our grand and unifying vision as Nigerians? You have different ethnic groups and bodies championing their respective group aspirations, but what is our collective Nigerian unifying vision that binds the different and disparate ethnicities and cultures together? What is our common aspiration that is far bigger and nobler than the individual and group aspirations?
The Value of Service
Public service is a sacred responsibility. It is a call to nation-building. Public service is essentially service to an individual’s fatherland. Public service is integral and critical to nation-building. To serve one’s nation is to become the trustees of the collective values and visions of same and the executors of these values and aspirations. In this vein, an immigration officer will not compromise his obligation to secure the nation’s borders for pecuniary gains. A police officer will not shirk his duties of law enforcement for bribes. The teacher will not abdicate the raising of future leaders to crass materialism. Those who hold elective and appointive offices at all levels will not convert states resources to personal expense accounts to be embezzled and misappropriated.
Over and above the foregoing examples however, the greatest tragedy of public service in Nigeria and most African nations derive from the sense in which public service is seen more as a reward system or an invitation to a state banquet rather than a call to service! Thus, winners of elective positions and appointees into key and strategic government offices arrive in these with the mindset of having won or attained certain great privileges and benefits conferred by their new status. From the motorcade of the president and governors of states, which will make their foreign counterparts green with envy, to their sense of sartorial adornment suitable more for royalty than a public servant, to the retinue of security protection, and assortment of personal aides attending to all kinds of ridiculous and banal oddities, the list is as long as it is ridiculous!
The Value of Self and Group discipline
A disciplined society is essential to and integral for national attainment of set goals and aspirations. Acts of indiscipline by individuals and groups when unsanctioned in any society or seen to be tolerated, eventually result in the breakdown of law and order and the conducive environment necessary for progress. Take a look at Nigeria; from north to south and east to west, it is a total breakdown of order and sanity. And no nation can grow and prosper without discipline! Indiscipline as a personal or group failing is dangerous in that it hobbles every effort at progress, development and success in every human endeavor.
Indiscipline is a malfunctioning of the mind. It speaks about deviant thoughts, attitudes and habits. A deviation from the norm or standard expected. The Nigerian social landscape is littered with the glaring evidences of our personal and collective acts of indiscipline. These include; socializing at work, malingering and loitering, disrespect of national symbols, that is the anthem, pledge, flag and coat of arms, road littering, disobedience of traffic rules and regulations, armed robberies, terrorism, and so forth. Ours is a chaotic and disorderly society. It is as if there is no authority presiding over the affairs of state.
Social or group indiscipline is the most deleterious as it presents a nation or group in certain definite patterns. Nigerians are associated globally as forgers, scammers, credit card fraudsters, global money launderers, drug couriers, illicit traffickers in persons for sex and as commodities. Regardless that these are merely the misconduct of a tiny fraction of our fellow citizens, yet, it has become a national stigma and stereotype. Laws and rules are developed and they exist in human societies to help ensure conformity and adherence to same by all in the society. There are mechanisms for enforcement and sanctions in place to ensure these rules and laws are adhered to by all.
The foregoing are inviolable necessities to building the nation of our dreams where future generations can be proud. The 2019 elections present another opportunity to make critical choices in leadership selection. I sincerely hope we choose right.