Nigeria has borne, struggled and survived the forecast of doom for a long time as evident in the aftermath of the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates in 1914, electioneering, ethnic and religious violent conflicts, and the Nigeria Civil War of 1967-1970. The 2015 presidential election seemed the end of the road for Nigeria as a country. As usual, we survived it as a nation, but how we survived it to many is cryptic and to the political elite in Nigeria, it was their political acumen and wit. Far from the truth we weathered the stipulated ruin of Nigeria in 2015 not as lunatics as the political elite think but rather through the act of hard work, patriotism and endurance.
However, it is insulting that after the 2015 and 2019 general elections the desired positive change canvassed to the people of Nigeria by the government, was not enforced. Rather, the political elite continue to divide the largesse of the nation along friends, ethnic, and family lines. Most pathetic is that after eight years of the failure in keeping promise(s), these same people are telling us the same old story and acting in the same ways, forgetting so quickly that we nearly stopped to exist as a nation in 2015, or learning any lesson from the end SARS protests.
Mine is, therefore, a patriotic reminder to the political elite that factors that nearly divided Nigeria in 2015 may assume more potency after the result of the 2023 general elections is declared, especially when justice is not seen done or competence is ridiculed over mediocrity. Furthermore, I would recommend that what Nigeria needs to weather the envisaged hazards of her dance on the brink in two personalities – a Nelson Mandela and a Martin Luther King Jr personae.
Why do Nigerians need a Nelson Mandela? You would ask, is Nigeria’s problem so simple that a Nelson Mandela could solve it? Yes, because extant and relevant literature on Nigeria’s politics has it that leadership is the major problem of the nation. The situation in Nigeria currently needs a Nelson Mandela personified who would see political power as a tool to give freedom to the oppressed and the oppressor. Nigeria now does not need a power monger or a chauvinist, but a man who would share dividends of democracy across the big and the small tribes of the country as one united nation.
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In justification of the above position, it is common knowledge that one of the major discussions associated with the candidates of the contesting parties is their ethnicity, with religion as the second. This means that Nigeria needs a leader who would speak a human language rather than a tribal language. A leader who would refer to the past not to victimise or shame a group of people but rather to draw lessons from history not to commit the mistakes of the past but to avoid future occurrences.
The aftermath of the Nigerian Civil War is the ember that fans ethnic intolerance in the country, as such, a leader like Nelson Mandela is needed to lay to rest the accumulated resentment and historical trauma in Nigeria over the hurt of the civil war through a truth and reconciliation commission.
The attitudes past Nigerian presidents, both civil and military, have shown towards the civil war are not restorative in any way but rather self-exhortations, victor and victim bias which has sustained the inherited divide in the unity of the early nineties. Justice cannot be done without equity and equity is the birth of truth. Nigeria in her bid to weather the hazards from her dance on the brink come February 25, 2023, needs a president who likes the truth, tells truth, and encourages truth not a man in the old-fashioned Nigerian leadership style. This is because the chaos Nigeria finds herself in as a country is incubated in lies and deceit, evident in her formation as a federation.
After the search and discovery of a Nelson Mandela in Nigeria, through the 2023 polls, a Martin Luther King Jr is needed to serve as a watchdog to the Nigerian Nelson Mandela. However, it is not sacrosanct that Martin Luther must come after the Nigerian Mandela, because the Nigerian Luther should serve as the forerunner of the Nigerian Mandela, especially during this season of political campaigns and elections. Nigeria, in her history as a nation, has unfortunately been deviled by unnationalistic and unpatriotic freedom fighters, who are money-centric in thinking and action.
Nigeria, during and after the 2023 general elections, needs freedom fighters and agitators who are human and nationalistic and not bigots. Freedom fighters and agitators who will address the universal national questions in Nigeria from a human and communal prism and not through a fanatical or ethnic lens.
As observed by many scholars, and some of the 2023 presidential aspirants, the problem with Nigeria today is more national than it is ethnic. Though marginalization might have been a particular region’s lot in the past but not anymore in the contemporary as evident in the G5 PDP demonstrations.
Therefore, for Nigeria to survive and weather the catastrophe that is hypothesized about her in her dance on the brink, she needs freedom fighters and agitators who are in the mind of Luther King, who see both victims and perpetrators of evil as victims. Nigeria needs this man; he or she could come from any region and religion. We need freedom fighters who agitate for the freedom of human beings, who will attack evil and not the evil doer, who would say that a man is evil not because he is from one geo-political zone or the other but because such person is evil and posed a national threat to the sustenance and well-being of the people of Nigeria. On the other hand, we need freedom fighters who will praise good works and good men not because of their religious affiliation but because they did well for the community of human being.
Rev. Uzu is a student at Boston University, United States of America