By Olusina Thorpe
In 2009, a popular girl music group, “Kush”, sang an endearing song about Nigeria. In that song, they called on Nigerians to live in unity, emphasizing that ‘our strength is in our diversity’.
The diversity in Nigeria has since posed a recurring challenge for the country. We have survived a protracted civil war as well as numerous socio-political adversities.
Being a Nigerian means different things to different people. To some, being a Nigerian equals being strong, resilient and focused, while to others it means being confident, kind and humorous. What is, however, not in doubt is that a typical Nigerian loves life. He is optimistic. He is loving and hospitable, irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation.
That is why it amazes me whenever I hear horrible tales of banditry, kidnapping, maiming and wanton destruction going on across different parts of the country. That, in my estimation, does not really define who we are.
Yes, we have ethnic differences. Sure, we have religious alterations. Naturally, we have political differences. But then, we are not vicious. We are not destructive. While growing up, I could recollect being in the midst of people of mixed ethnic and religious backgrounds. But we never saw ourselves from that framework of our diversity. Rather, we related as brothers and sisters. One nation. One destiny.
A friend who is from Ekiti State recently told me that as a primary school pupil, he relished being in the company of young Fulani herdsmen who lived in a colony in their community. They were accepted by the community. Indeed, their children, according to my friend, had a reasonable grasp of the local dialect. He further told me that his parents had scores of cows that were in the custody of the herdsmen.
Sadly, all that seems to have changed now as the demons of ethnicity, barbarism and savagery seem to have suddenly taken firm root in our nation. Suddenly, children are no longer safe at schools, as the fear of kidnappers has become the beginning of wisdom. Banditry and senseless destruction have become the order of the day. Is this really who we are?
No doubt, the Nigerian state comprises various ethnic, native or tribal groups with their particular shared cultural identities, customs, traditions, and other identities intact.
It is not strange, therefore, that, once in a while, the constituent units in the country fan the embers of nepotism and ethnicism. Consequently, disunity has become a consistent dividing factor in the nation. The various components of the nation view national issues from diverse perspectives.
But then, in-spite of this, as aforementioned, we have always lived as brothers and sisters, especially when it comes to values and passions that we share in common. When, for instance, our youths find themselves in different parts of the country during the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, programme, they integrate easily.
In-fact, through the programmes, a few inter-tribal marriages have been consummated. Equally, some corps members, seeing the limitless possibilities for prosperity in their host communities, have stayed back in those communities to earn a living.
Similarly, through various means of social interactions, a few of the corps members have been able to learn, speak and understand the languages spoken in their places of primary assignments. Also, lots of them have been exposed to various customs and traditions of diverse parts of the country through the scheme. This has really helped to widen their understanding of the country’s diversity.
This goes to show that we could coexist as a nation and enjoy enduring prosperity, despite our obvious differences. Ours is not the only nation with such differences. Some of the greatest and most prosperous nations of the world equally have similar tendencies. But they always define their existence with what mutually binds them together as against what could tear them apart.
In my view, that is the path of wisdom. That is the path of unity, prosperity and peace. Therefore, the time has come for us as a nation to embrace positive change in every aspect of our national life.
According to Warren Wiersbe, “… We can benefit from change; anyone who has ever really lived knows that there is no life without growth. When we stop growing, we stop living and start existing. But there is no growth without challenge, and there is no challenge without change. Life is a series of changes that create challenges, and we are not going to make it, we have to grow…..”
Hence, if Nigeria is to attain real greatness, we must begin to imbibe new ethos, eschew tribalism, and divisive tendencies that polarize our people. Our huge population should be deployed as a great asset for economic emancipation. It should not be a liability.
It needs to be stressed that there is nothing peculiar or extreme about our national challenges. Several countries have had similar or same experiences and have been able to surmount them. The only difference is that while others identify their challenges and diligently work on them, we seem to allow ours to tear us apart.
What does the future hold?
In spite of the misgivings, I candidly believe that Nigeria will rise again. Really, could all these adversities be a learning-experience? Could it be that in the not-too-distant future, the country will turn the corner and return to the path of honour and greatness?
Is it possible that Nigeria’s glory and glorious days are still ahead of her? What would succeeding or future generations say about Nigeria? Although present precursors do not point to a hopeful and optimistic future, but I dare to affirm that Nigeria will achieve true nationhood in our lifetime.
All we need to do is to see ourselves as one; eschew divisive tendencies and rally together as a people. At various times, in human history, human beings have proven their toughness in overcoming forces that stand against progress. They have shown that great things are possible and that man is capable of recording incredible successes in the face of massive odds.
As George Bernard Shaw says: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”.
Now is the time for the great renewal of our minds in order to engender positive change for our nation. A lot of nations have experienced tough times, but they have since moved on to greater heights.
Nigeria and Nigerians must not be an exception. Even as we think and get perplexed and angry about recent negative events, we must not give up hope. We must keep faith with the future of our dreams.
Nigeria is our country. We must make all efforts to ensure that it works for us and the coming generations.
In the words of John Maxwell, “our destiny is determined, not by what we possess, but by what possesses us”. Hence, rather than allow hatred, bitterness, envy, nepotism and such destructive emotions to possess us, we should open our hearts to hope, love and brotherliness.
This brings to mind the inspiring story of a 65-year old medical doctor from Ogun State, Dr. Isa Akinbode, who was recently rewarded with a sum of N13.9 million and a brand new car by the Borno State Government for leaving his comfort zone to provide professional services in a community under the threat of Boko insurgency.
Akinbode, at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency, was living in the General Hospital, Monguno, offering healthcare services to patients even when the town was faced with the severest threat from the terrorist group.
Akinbode, who graduated from the University of Maiduguri, later joined the Borno State Civil Service where he served for 22 years before he retired in 2016 at Monguno General Hospital.
After his retirement, he remained in Borno to offer voluntary medical services to the victims of insurgency, despite that he was abducted and subsequently released by the Boko Haram insurgents.
May God give us more Nigerians like Akinbode who are prepared to build and not to destroy.
God bless Nigeria! God Bless Nigerians!
-Thorpe, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations, NIPR, Council member, wrote in from Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.