“When we are surrounded by people who believe the same thing we believe, something remarkable happens, trust emerges.” – Simon O. Sinek, author and speaker
Nigeria is not a country.
It has borders and people. It is a defined territory, a demarcated stretch of land. But a country? No. Not until Nigerians collectively and unanimously decide to make it one.
Google defines “country” as:
A nation with its own government, occupying a particular territory;
A nation is a group of people who share a significant commonality like heritage, culture, history or language. So a country is group of people united by a shared heritage or culture who live in a specific territory and who have their own government.
The definition implies it is the inhabitants of a country who shape the identity and values of that country. But what is it that the Nigerian people believe? What does Nigeria stand for? To look at the Nigerian people and the Nigerian government, you would be hard-pressed to see how the latter serves the former. And most Nigerian people have no clue what their country stands for – if it stands for anything at all. Ask even the littlest American tot and she can tell you a little something about freedom, rights, justice, life, or liberty. That’s because the ideals that shape America stem from the ideals of the American people themselves.
Nigeria is not a country. Not yet. Right now, it’s a conspiracy.
It is the playground of the elites - a volatile, ruthless place where the haves leverage the have-nots and the have-nots let it be. It’s a historical amalgamation of special interests, cemented together by corruption. It’s the footstool of the Queen, a deadly explosive waiting to detonate. A fat, powerless mass collapsing under the weight of its own atrophied body.
Nigeria is not a country. We don’t say that because we enjoy criticizing our government. We say it because the Nigerian government has gone from being a local nuisance to being a global spectacle. President Jonathan is transforming Nigeria? Yeah, right! For Whom? What a joke.
Look at the kidnapped girls. As of this writing, they have been missing for three weeks and what has the Nigerian government said? It wasn’t until the news took on global significance that the Nigerian government bothered to address the matter at all. Now, they arrest protestors in the streets for trying to draw attention to the fact that our leaders have let militants come in and take hundreds of our bright, young women – girls - and the government has done nothing to rescue them.
Who would dare kidnap 230 young American women from a school and not have the full force of the American government and the American people rain down treachery on the offenders? There would be no need for global allies to get involved. No one would have to hold a press conference or demand to speak with the president. The American people and the American government would act as one.
Where is the outrage in Nigeria?
There are more languages spoken in America than in most any other country in the world. Still, the extent of individual diversity does little to detract from the spirit of Americanism. Being American is a cultural phenomenon. Take a slow drive around the average residential community in America and you are bound to see the flag flying in front of people’s homes. The government places no demands on its citizens to do so. They do it out of honor and respect for their country.
Such a display of patriotism is nonexistent in Nigeria where leaders and citizens conspire to sabotage and defraud the country.
Politicians, highly-ranking civil servants, union leaders, current and ex-military personnel, and regional warlords take advantage of a broken system. These elites force their agendas by putting puppets on the election ballot. Then challenge the Nigerian people to see if they can figure out which candidate is the lesser of two evils.
These kinds of oversights and improprieties are the primary reason Nigeria is not a country.
Poor Nigerians. We live under the strong delusion that our problems will be fixed someday if we just hope and pray. But what good is it to pray and remain inactive? Faith, by its very definition, demands an accompanying act. The elites rely on us to remain thinkers only and not doers. They tell Nigerians to pray for change when they know Nigerians need to fight for change.
What madness would drive the elites to try to maintain the status quo? They themselves have to live in gated, fortified homes, behind dead bolt locks and bullet proof glass. They pay for armed guards and police to patrol their yards so that home is more a prison than a refuge. They spend thousands of dollars a month to fuel generators at their homes when what Nigeria needs is a nationwide strategy for building an electrical infrastructure that will light up the night for all Nigerians.
I think it’s rather poignant that Chief Obafemi Awolowo, one of Nigeria’s founders, once described the country as a mere geographic expression. I agree with him. Nigeria is little more than a set of coordinates on a map, but geography alone does not make a country.
Nigeria is not a country. No. Not at all.
It was the late Martin Luther King that said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands during times of challenge and controversy.” Where do Nigerian leaders stand in the face of the disintegration of what could be a powerful and influential nation? What are the common values and beliefs that bind Nigerians together? Is there anything that will finally compel our leaders to stand for us not against us even in the smallest of matters?
In order for a Nigerian to do something as simple as get a passport, he has to jump through hoops, promise favors and pay out bribes. In the U.S., you can apply for your passport by filling out a form at the neighborhood post office as you’re shipping out your weekly mail. Corruption has trickled down from the highest levels of to the lowest levels of everyday service. There is no unity. And where there’s no unity, there is no nation.
That is not a country. Is it? It’s time to #BuildaNewNigeria.
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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters