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?
The 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 some of the aspects of what identifies our nationhood. We subscribe openly to negative qualities that demean our reputation 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 without merit to seek to emphasize the traits that single us out, as different from the aspects that separate us. This country is united in infamy and dishonest practices as a way of life, and there is anger and discomfiture swirling in the system. We even dare to overtly emphasize 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 the concept of 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 section imbues it with resilience as well as power; so several negative components 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 disintegration 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 20.2020. 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 that West African country quickly derived their identity from the 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 casually 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”.
parade without a pride
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 now to make us face the same direction. A more meaningful flag than the bland “green-white-green” 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 Tricolor” “The Hammer and Sickle”. It has no focal dimension to it, something like an insignia. Right now, on our fifty-first anniversary, I would once again present the “SUN” as a suitable symbol. This page has once featured the solar insignia as being truly representative of “The Giant in the sun” – that is what we are called, and that is what we truly should be – the largest unit of black people on earth, endowed with human and material resources without measure, the envy of our rivals and the model for our peers.
Our present flag, enlivened with a golden disc – the sun – inserted into it, would give us a lovely flag, bright and colourful, that might engender the feeling for a lovable nation. Then in another fifty years, we would definitely have more to celebrate as a people with a definite purpose, and a common sense of unity. President Jonathan will be remembered much better for that than a six-year single term.
We cannot accept that the celebration of our National Day should be held behind curtains, as it were. It is a glorious day on which we honour “the labours of our heroes past”; an occasion for to mark our emancipation from colonial bondage; and a festival for the renewal of our hopes for the future of our nation. Come rain or shine, it is an event that should be observed without the undue restraint of fear – “lily-livered fear” – of cowardly threats from terrorists.
When people like Rueben Abati, the mouthpiece of government, who so strenuously strives to distance himself from our regard these days with each succeeding utterance, says there was nothing unusual about the charade that took place within the fastness of Aso Rock on Independence Day, we wonder for whom such mealy-mouthed statementss are intended.
As a Nigerian who has been privileged to witness the pomp and pageantry that accompanied that ceremony in the past – the soul-stirring march-past, the colourful turn-out of out civilian presidents, when they claimed full right to the title of “Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces” by appearing resplendent in the uniform of a Field Marshall, or Admiral of the Fleet, or Air Marshall—I totally reject all that elevating display being decapitated and swept into an enclave beyond our view. Where was our pride as a nation?
And because of what? I don’t even want to mention it. I am too ashamed.