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Nigeria: 58 Years of What? (2)

By Awa Kalu, SAN

IN the words of Hillary Clinton, former First Lady of the United States and its former Secretary of State, and now a strong voice in US politics, ‘it takes a village.’ If it takes a village to bring up a child, you may wonder, how many persons or villages it would take to ‘bring up’ a nation.

Nigeria

All that can be said is that:  for a nation, the burden is often cast on the proverbial ‘founding fathers’ whose dreams, wisdom and foresight propel the nation to greatness.

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According to that belief, it was the founding fathers of the United States who dreamt of a strong nation propelled by the ideals of equality of all human beings, that government itself is instituted for the welfare of the governed and that every person is entitled to the pursuit of happiness.

The dream of America’s founding fathers has been vigorously pursued by their successors in the course of several decades or even centuries of democratic governance.

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In our own case, it appears that the dreams of our founding fathers were encapsulated in that first National Anthem which my generation recited effortlessly. We hailed Nigeria, our own dear native land, and we pledged that though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. We then agreed that we were proud to serve our sovereign motherland.

For reasons that have not been completely satisfactory, that National Anthem which acknowledged our diversity and affirmed our unity was hastily jettisoned. In its place, we are beckoned on, as compatriots, to arise and to obey Nigeria’s call.

That call is to serve our fatherland with love, strength and faith. We then resonate in the belief that the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain. In unison, we confirm our preparedness to serve our fatherland with all our might and to produce only one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.

Whichever of the two anthems you choose or prefer, there is no iota of doubt that the ingredients of a national ideology are inherent in both.

Members of the recently concluded National Conference (whose report is also in the cooler) showed an overwhelming preference for the old anthem. Was this a manifestation of nostalgia? One cannot say.

The question at this time, at our 58th independence anniversary, is whether we have struck the chord embedded in both anthems – the task of building a great Nigeria? In addition, can the successors to the founding fathers of this nation claim to have fulfilled the promise of the anthems recited by our youth?

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The answer is not hard to find and we do not need any rocket scientist to grant us any illumination into our current travails in the build up to our recent independence anniversary. A careful examination of our recent history and social condition will leave no one in any doubt that following an incremental deterioration in our security situation, (now being ameliorated by a leader with a new broom), there has been a downgrading of our individual and collective wellbeing. Were we statistically minded, for instance, it would have been easy to quantify the havoc wrought by unmitigated armed robbery, car snatching and allied violent offences. How do you quantify the economic danger posed by the now contained rise in kidnapping in many states in the Niger-Delta, South-West and South-East regions?

Where is the barometer with which we can measure the economic mayhem arising from sustained militancy in the Niger- Delta which fortunately, was ameliorated by the amnesty programme initiated by the Federal Government? What do we make of the past wave of destruction of oil facilities on which our economy as well as our well-being depends? What did the Avengers want for real? Time will still tell. What of the disruptions occasioned by IPOB and cattle herdsmen? There are questions and there are more questions.

What about the confusion generated by the random deployment of Improvised Explosive Devices, IED, in different parts of the country leading to the dislocation of social and economic life particularly in Borno and other nearby states? What about the understated impact of strikes such as the one occasioning a disruption of service in the public sector?

What about the notable consequences of national disasters such as the not too recent flood in Lagos and more recently, other parts of the country such as Benue and Anambra states? On the aggregate, it cannot be in doubt that the security of the state is the only guarantee for order, peace and good government.

President Buhari acknowledged this in his last but one speech at the United Nations and in his speech in the current United Nations General Assembly, the President called on the international community to join hands in fighting corruption which will give strong fillip to abundant goodness in the land.

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This was obvious to our founding fathers for which reason our extant constitution, in section 14(2) (b), declares that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’ National security is inseparable from the welfare of the people for which reason, it is accorded the status of a fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy. Can a nation celebrate without security? Can we celebrate while wallowing in corruption and its travails?

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In further answer, we may borrow a few words from a book, Foundations of a New Nigeria, edited by two great and celebrated scholars, Sam Oyovbaire and Tunji Olagunju. In their introduction, they argue that ‘History is a succession of events in the life of nations, of peoples or of communities. Historical events are social cumulations.

Fundamentally, one set of identifiable events in time and space is as much rooted in a preceding set, as it is the root of succeeding events.’ ‘Similarly’, they contend, ‘historical events in one place could become the genesis of events in other places depending, of course, on the critical nature of the former. In this manner of conceptualizing events, history could be said to be unrestricted by space and time.’ The authors further opine that history and historical events are not amorphous or shapeless occurrences.


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