Nigeria, What is the Way Forward?

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By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

A sheep was passing and saw a lion crying inside a cage trapped, the lion begged the sheep to rescue him with a promise not to kill and eat it, but the sheep refused. After much persuasion and the sheep’s gullibility, it opened the cage for the lion.

Now, the lion was very hungry, having stayed in the cage for days without food. It quickly pounced on the sheep and was about to kill and eat it, but the sheep reminded him of his promise.

They were still there arguing when other animals came passing, and they sought to know what happened. Both the lion and the sheep narrated their own side of the story, but because of fear and in trying to gain favour in the sight of the lion, all the animals took sides with the lion except the tortoise, which claimed not to understand the whole scenario.

Now, the tortoise asked the lion to show them where exactly he was before the sheep rescued him, and the lion pointed at the cage. Tortoise asked again, “were you inside or outside when the sheep arrived”? The lion replied, “I was inside”.

The tortoise again asked, “Okay, enter and let’s see how difficult it could be inside because I’m not getting the whole scenario”. The lion entered, and immediately, the tortoise locked the cage. The lion was now trapped!

I will come back to this story before I end.

I don’t complain about politicians, partly because the truth is, where do politicians come from? They don’t fall from the sky, they come from Nigerian parents, homes, churches, mosques, schools, universities, and businesses, and they are elected by Nigerians; it is the best we have to offer. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you are going to have selfish, ignorant leaders.

Nigeria is in a conceptual crisis; there is a potpourri of country, state and nation, so this is it; a country is a territory; it is not necessarily a nation; on the other hand, a nation is an association of peoples, that captures the diversity, they are captured and identified by their shared core values, on the strength of that they establish a constitution, and that creates institutions that make up the state. Because they are the state, states derive their power from them.

Sadly, we have confusion; we think the nation is the state or reduced to the state, we have a country quite alright, but there is no nation, we have institutions that collapse the nation into the state, and power is in the state, a wrong notion, which takes power away from the people. The state is the person rather than the institution that is a derivative of the constitution that is representative of the people.

What are our core shared values, what binds us, and how are we unified? What we have is a state held together at gunpoint; the reason we have all the agitations, the state is stronger than the citizens, and we are moving in the wrong direction, so how can we move? We have no shared core values. In fact, there are no values, except we talk about football, whose ‘god’ presides over many of the affairs of Nigerians.

The state is oppressing the citizens, and if the people don’t have the power, we are not practising democracy because until we have people’s power, everyone can get away with whatever they do. The rhetoric of one Nigeria or the muscled narrative of the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable, like the politics of printing a multiple-coloured Naira at the price of a dual colour dollar. People have shed their blood and died for Nigeria, yet we are still stuck in the gimmicks of un/de/tribalised jingoism; our intelligentsia is more riddled with solving problems we don’t understand and refusing to address the minor issues.

Irritating questions such as who is a Nigerian? What is Nigeria? How is Nigeria? Bedevils us, as we have a country, a territory to be proud of but indeed no nation, an empty shell, no engine. We have built nothing and wonder why we have built nothing. For example, on the strength of salt, a wrapper and a tee shirt, a leader emerges and, in many a better case, political oratory from clowns who, rather than belong to the country, have much of the country belong to them is the case.

Our case makes me ask, would you rather be rich in a poor country or poor in a rich one? My country is one that has defied logical measuring.

Back to my story—

In amazement, the other animals asked the tortoise, “why” and the tortoise replied. “If we allow him to eat the sheep today, he will still go hungry tomorrow, and we don’t know what will be eaten tomorrow.

Without shared values, we will still be food for the lion because, unlike the benevolent sheep, the many Nigerians who really want to be Nigerians, who think, eat, sleep and wake Nigeria, are perpetually beset on all sides with realities that; okay, I am Nigerian, and the real issue aside many little squabbles in the 2023 general elections, in which part the President comes from and the faith combo of himself and his running mate.

In Benue, it is the Tiv versus the Idomas vs others. In Kogi, it is the Igbiras versus Igalas. In some cases, it has even degenerated to no Catholic has ruled our state, and in others, we cannot allow the Muslims to continue.

None of these debates has brought the much-needed development for a nation because the values are mundane; it pitches us with a very visible structural divide.

Because we are structurally deformed and not a nation, moving forward cannot happen; we need to go back and enquire of the ‘gods’ where the rain started, and until then, there will be no forward as we continue to check how many SE, SW, SS (which by the way is an anomaly), NE, NW, NE are on a list before we check whether they are qualified. We still suffer a COVID-19-like disease called Federal Character in a characterless state, still plagued by terms such as catchment area and educationally disadvantaged (by who abeg).

We pride ourselves on our state of origin, yet are minorities in many cases in the so-called state. We debate which region is the poorest and which feeds the other. A nation of an elite and intellectual class that lacks critical thinking and so requires as a matter of urgency to lock back the lion and decide what needs to be done about Nigeria; we cannot move forward while on the wrong path, are we ready to retrace our steps, only time will tell.

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