By Bisi Lawrence
Pastor Tunde Bakare, for whom I still cherish a lot of fondness despite his recent foolhardy foray into party politics, found some comfort last year when Nigeria was fifty, in the fact, that the nation had remained together in the face of all odds. I have often wondered how much profit was in the mere fact that we could indeed be said to have stayed together as one country.
We all admit that Nigeria is a conglomeration of several nationalities restricted within a delineated geographical area, embodying diverse cultures, pursuing different aspirations, with certain sections enduring various levels of insufficiency in a development process incongruous to the volume and value of their natural resources. Is it unarguable then that some sections might not have fared better if we had not all stayed together?
Holy Writ, which Pastor Bakare delights in by his calling, sees the cohabitation of brethren as “good and pleasant”, when it has its foundation in unity. It is described as being like “precious oil poured on the head. Can we affirm that we are united as a nation? In fact, our “precious oil” is more like boiling water poured on our heads. No. We are NOT united. We are NOT living in peace. There is little that is good and pleasant about our being together like brethren.
But then, we have never really been “brethren”. There has always been an obvious distasteful attribute to the major aspects of our nationhood. We subscribe openly to negative qualities that demean our identity as a nation. We speak all the time against corruption but only grow deeper in it.
We condemn tribalism but have only devised a softer word, “ethnicity”, for it in order to live more comfortably with it. It is therefore actually counter-productive to seek to emphasise the things that unite us, as different from the things that divide us.
This country is united in infamy and dishonest practices as a way of life, and there is anger and discomfiture swirling even in the system. We even dare to overtly emphasise that, while we continue to engage ourselves in a massive self-delusion that a nebulous concept tagged “20,20-20” would ever emerge into reality.
That is why the yearnings for a nationwide discussion about the way forward, if we are to remain a nation, will not be drowned by palliatives in the form of constitutional reforms or reviews (or whatever) when the desires of the people are yet to be articulated and sifted clean of tribal – beg your pardon, ethnic – advantages.
However, there are untold benefits in our remaining as a nation. On the mundane side, there is strength in numbers. There is merit also in diversity; that is why nature allows so much of it in the universe. Or, you might say, that is why so much of it is permitted to exist in creation. As, in the reef knot, the reversal of the upper part imbues it with resilience as well as power, so, several negative aspects are naturally eliminated in the merging of divergent assets to enhance the potency of the positive, and so raise the synergetic result to a higher level of efficiency. That is basic metaphysics.
But when you consider the opposite, which is disintegrating into minor units, it is natural that several qualities, both harmful and benign, would have been imbibed by each section from the original. What ensues is the event of the minor divisions developing to become copies of the prototype.
They appear in all the colours and with the prejudices of the discarded model, and so the story continues. We have seen that already in the plight of the minorities in the states, who are discovering that they probably have no more opportunity of producing governors than they ever had in a much larger regional grouping. It also has echoes in the widespread clamour for “true federalism”. Considering all this, it is apparent to me that only mischief-makers, battalions of whom the system has now spawned, could hope for a disintegration of this country.
And so, Pastor Bakare must be right after all. One year later, we can still cling to little more than that we are still here as a single country. Only the living can praise God. Only a surviving nation can hope for anything at all, like the eradication of corruption, and poverty, and tribalism – even for the achievement of 20,20-20. anything can manifest in a vision; all things are possible in a dream; and dreams do come true … sometimes.
What it requires mostly is a steady purpose, a tight focus and an unyielding mindset. We need to strive forward, for there is no looking back. The nations of the world among whose number we wish to be counted, are ahead, not behind. Our gaze should be riveted to a symbol, an object indigenous to all of us, and therefore acceptable as representative of our aspirations to the point where its image is a veritable inspiration.
The age-old and time-honoured object of such inestimable price is a banner – a flag. It has been with human beings from the dawn of self-awareness, exacting their loyalty, embodying their pride and sustaining their aspirations down the corridors of history. It has established their identities on the battleground as well as at the conference table where the conduct of great nations brought it great renown.
Nations have thus proclaimed their love for this unique repository of their very essence, and accorded it affectionate cognomens. The best-known foreign flag in Nigeria would probably be “The Union Jack”, the banner of the United Kingdom. It is unarguably the oldest having been the emblem of our colonial past.
One of the most popular these days is, of course, the Ghanaian flag which is affectionately known as “The Black Star”, from the unique emblem it bears. So many aspects of life and living in the West African country quickly derived their identity from that stellar insignia. The Ghana shipping line is known as the Black Star Line, the football team is known as the Black Stars.
The flag of the USA which is causally called “The Stars and Stripes”, is also affectionately known as “The Star Spangled Banner.” No flag on earth is surrounded with so much respect, verging on worship. The Americans have discarded the idea of a national religion. They make their flag the object of their national adoration. They even have a third name for it – “Old glory”.
Our country is in need of a national symbol on which we can hang our fealty right now. It is sad though, that we do not seem to be in search of it, because we seem to be unconscious of our loss. But we have lost our sense of a common purpose as a nation, and we require a stimulus to make us face the same direction. A more meaningful flag can serve that function.
There is nothing wrong with our “green-white-green” flag as it is, but there it is – it has no name, no easy handle by which you can grab it and hold it up, like “The rising Sun”, “The Tricolour” “The Hammer and Sickle”.
It has no focal dimension to it, something like an insignia. Right now, on this our fifty-first anniversary, I would once again present the SUN. This page has once featured the solar insignia as being truly representative of “The Giant in the sun” – that is what we are. Our present flag, enlivened with a golden disc inserted into it, would give us a lovely flag that might engender the feeling for a lovable nation.
Then in another fifty years, we would have more to celebrate than just being able to avoid disintegration. Think about it, as you enjoy your holiday.