It’s often intriguing to hear eminent and well appointed Nigerians talk about disintegration, destabilization and outright war, as if it’s a picnic. War? Not a tea party, and not something you should wish even upon your enemy.
Nigeria fought a war before, in which about two million people died. There was sorrow, tears and blood, till good sense prevailed, and we said there was no victor, no vanquished. The scars of that internecine conflict are still very evident in some parts of the land.
Why then do some newspaper columnists, public commentators, ethnic warlords, even academics, talk of war as something they long for, an affliction they want to inflict their country with? War? Is it a picnic or tea party?
Hear what President Muhammadu Buhari once said to the agents of discord, beating drums of war: “Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad, they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood.
“I was distressed to notice that some of the comments, especially in the social media have crossed our national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far.”
Last Saturday, I took part in an international conference on Patriotism, Security, Governance, and National Development, organized by Global Patriot Newspaper in collaboration with Nigerian Consulate, New York and Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO), New Jersey Chapter.
If you ever wanted to know the Nigerian condition, and how some Nigerians see and perceive their country, you needed that kind of conference. Speakers included Vice President ‘Yemi Osinbajo, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Femi Falana SAN, Abike Dabiri Erewa, Prof Eddie Oparaoji, Dr Dakuku Peterside, Alhaji Abubakar Sokoto Mohammed, Prof Murtala Jide Balogun, Prof Olu Obafemi, Dr Akil Kalfani, Prof Apollos Nwauwa, and Engr Obed Monago, Chairman, Board of Trustees, NIDO America.
These speakers dissected what you could call the good, bad and ugly sides of Nigeria. And of course, the country has all those sides, and no mistake. That was why we once went to war, and till today, there are still rumours of war.
But should we ever fight again? And will we fight? I doubt, despite all the saber-rattling we hear around. War is no joke. It is no tea party or picnic, not minding those you hear stoking the embers daily. Like President Buhari said, they are “irresponsible elements” who will start trouble, “and when things go bad, they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood.”
What am I saying? Is Nigeria in a perfect state, nirvana, a Utopia? By no means. We all see things that exasperate us about our country. So, is cutting off the head the cure for headache? Is death wish for the country through the constant craving for war the way out, couched as warnings by some interest groups? For really, that is what they would wish to see, if only to have the morbid satisfaction of saying: we warned, they didn’t listen.
We have our grouses with Nigeria. The President often talks of missed opportunities, and yes, this country has missed many, over the decades. But he adds that those of them who have fought to keep this country together would never open their eyes and see Nigeria dismembered.
The international conference dissected the many problems of Nigeria, but one thing I felt could have been emphasized more was what I call loving our country, warts and all.
Loving the unloveable. That is what Nigerians need, if we would eventually get the country we desire. William Cowper, English writer, who lived between 1731 and 1800, said: “England, with all thy faults, I love thee still-my country.”
That is one thing we find lacking. We have not got to the point that we can say, Nigeria, with all thy faults, I love thee still-my country.
The Good Book says love covers a multitude of sins. And it does. But does it happen in respect of our country? Don’t Nigerians carry around giant-sized grudges against themselves, against their leaders, against the next ethnic group, and against their own very land? I have seen enough to make me conclude that the greatest problem of Nigeria are Nigerians themselves. They seem to hate their country. There was that atheist who said on his death bed. “I hate everybody. I hate God. I even hate myself.” That seems to be the experience of a good number of Nigerians.
Dr Dakuku Peterside, the immediate past Director General of NIMASA talked about patriotism and social contract, submitting that it is difficult to love a country that fulfills no obligation to the people. Correct. But love still covers a multitude of sins. When you love your country, warts and all, the shortcomings are easily understood and overlooked. We shouldn’t attempt to pull down the roof on everybody, simply because things are not done right or well. Nigeria, with all thy faults, I love thee still-my country.
The need of the hour is love for Nigeria, warts and all. Yes, there are many reasons not to love this land. But it’s the only one we have. We would be second class citizens anywhere else. Nigeria we hail thee. Our own dear native land.
The fault lines are many: ethnicity, suspicion of domination, religious differences, language, centrifugal forces. But, Nigeria, with all thy faults, I love thee still-my country.
That conference got it right. Patriotism, Security, Governance, and National Development. Nigeria needs them all. And like one of the speakers said, we need to ignite new spirit of patriotism in our country.
Do you know that some Nigerians actually gloat when things go wrong in the country? They rejoice at wanton killings, massive insecurity, prostrate economy, decrepit inter-ethnic relationships, and the like. They want things to fall apart in the ‘zoo.’ But Nigeria will survive. The singer, Veno Marioghae, said it long ago. Nigeria is like the testicles of a ram. It may sway from side to side as the ram runs, but it will never fall off.
It’s time we began to have a Nigerian agenda, instead of sectional agenda. It’s time we began to see the big picture, and wish our country well. Enough of wars and rumours of war.
Can we cavil less about our country? Can we emphasize less on things not done, and focus more on things being achieved? And I tell you, the Buhari government has stories to tell. Of rice pyramids, roads, rail, bridges, airports, massive infrastructure everywhere. Just on Thursday, the 13 Floor, Twin Tower ultra-modern Headquarters Building of the Niger Delta Development Commission was commissioned, about 26 years after it was conceived. And many of such projects abound. Let’s wail less, and appreciate more.
What we say often has a way of happening to us. “As you have spoken into my ears, so will I do to you.” (Numbers 14:28) Enough about war, destabilization, disintegration. “This generation of Nigerians, and, indeed, future generations, have no other country than Nigeria. We shall remain here and salvage it together.” Does that sound familiar?
Nigeria, with all thy faults, I love thee still-my country.
• Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity