Here’s a conundrum for you:
• First, pick the number of times a week you would like to have a mineral drink. (It should be more than 1 but less than 10).
• Multiply this number by 2.
• Add 5.
• Multiply it by 50.
• If you’ve already had your birthday this year add 1762. If you haven't, add 1761.
• Now subtract the four-digit year that you were born. You should have a three-digit number The first digit of this was your original number of the number of times a week you would like to have a mineral drink. The next two numbers are....... YOUR AGE!
When a friend told me that she could work out my age using a formula known as beer math, it initially sounded strange. When she started working it out using the above formula, the whole ‘add’ this, ‘subtract’ that and ‘multiply’ those seemed complicated. But at the end when I saw that the formula added up to my age and the number of drinks I had chosen in my mind, the whole complex process seemed to somehow make sense. The fact that the answer to the puzzle is accurate no matter the number of drinks chosen and the age of the person I tried it on reinforces, in my mind, the notion that sometimes one is confronted with a scenario that, on the face of it, seem unworkable, but in the end, the result makes sense. Much like the way I view Nigeria, a country of 250 different types of people lumbered together in one geographical location. A country with so much difficulties and dimensions but in the end, despite our troubles, it’s a country that makes sense to me.
Presently this nation exists within an atmosphere of divide and blame; so much so that people are calling for the separation of the country openly. The game where we blame each other for all the evils in our country never resonated more than a millisecond with me. I have always believed that the past and present government officials who have fluffed up the affairs of the country and the extremists that have chosen to exact a culture of violence are individually responsible for their own actions and it is unreasonable to extend guilt by association to everyone else with whom they share the same ethnic identity.
It is a fact that every decision, embezzlement and indiscretion made by our governments and leaders have been made by people from the various different parts of the country as they assemble a government of national character. It is no news to Nigerians that kidnapping, 419, armed robberies has been carried out by the different array of people across this country. Even the bombings and violence now predominantly carried out by Boko-Haram first reared its ugly head when the Niger-Delta militants unleashed terror on civilians in the FCT, Lagos and Port Harcourt. It is unlikely that at any point a region, as a collective, has endorsed the destruction of another as a matter of policy. It is a belief fuelled purely by dogma, self-delusion, ignorance and bigotry in varying levels.
When commentators and terrorists publicly refer to Nigerians in “us and them’ terms; when they suggest the separation of Nigeria in order to rid the country of ‘the bad-people’, it amounts to the pursuit of an agenda to revoke the full civil liberties of other Nigerians. Also, the people who think they are defending their freedom of speech and action by unreasonably reducing every mishap and tragedy in this country down to ethnic and religious indices, have not the ability to exercise these freedoms responsibly, or judge whether others do so because they are equally segregating others.
The truth is that anyone who continues to spread disharmony and promote dichotomy between the different regional and ethnic groups in the name of fighting for freedom, is not so different to those that set out to harm innocent Nigerians through violence or otherwise. They play a large part in perpetuating the bloody ethnic conflicts and tense inter-religious hatred we see today. We demonize the extremes of violence, but each form of violence exaggerates an endemic process of persuasion by those at the top of the social order. Most violence is not idiosyncratic: An irresponsible and careless expression by influential members of a society has the greatest potential of taking on a physical form. If those of us who are better informed continue to encourage inaccurate information of negative rhetoric and stereotype, then Nigerians, together or apart, will never overcome.
We need to start addressing the real issues and the particular individuals that have decayed this nation and apportioning blame where blame is due rather than allowing primitive sentiments to oppress our minds. If individuals in government loot our coffers, they, and not their village folk, should take individual responsibility for their misappropriation. If some crazy, demonic fanatic goes on a murderous rampage and blows up guiltless Nigerians, the blood of the innocents should be on that individual person’s hands and not on all the people who read the same scripture as him.
In the 52 years that we have existed as an independent country, terrible things have happened to Nigeria; gross amounts of abuse, loathing and corruption have underlined our existence. But with the bad, comes the good because in those 52 years, wonderful things have also happened. I have always believed Nigeria’s main asset is its people and diversity. Whenever I meet a Nigerian abroad, the tribe they come from or the stereotypes that their region is burdened with has never been a consideration for me. The fact that they come from Nigeria always gives me a sense of camaraderie and pride. Yes, we are different; different customs, different foods, different languages, different attire, different features and different beliefs but not so different that we cannot respect and embrace those differences.
I am a Hausa/Fulani from Katsina who is absolutely proud of my identity, culture and heritage. But before that I am, first and foremost, a Nigerian to my very core with the spirit and soul of my beloved motherland. I am more than happy to come from the most populous, interesting and diverse country in Africa.
This nation is very complicated and disturbed, but through God’s will we exist as a nation. And just like Beer Math, although we are a complicated formula, the different and various people fated together under this nation in theory does make sense to me. So if anybody tells you that Nigeria can add and multiply its worth by subtracting a certain region and dividing the country, despite the fact that their words sound like it’s emanating from a beer parlour, tell them about the unconventional logic I showed you today in Beer Maths!
I invite you to follow me on Twitter- @hanneymusawa