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The citizens and Nigeria’s nation building (I)

Old Greek philosophers made a distinction between three types of people:

Old Greek philosophers made a distinction between three types of people:

1. The Idiots

2. The Tribesmen

3. The Citizens


The idiot is not particularly a mentally-retarded person, as is now being used in modern parlance, but someone who is totally obsessed with their own, and only their own wellbeing. Idiots do not care how the pursuit of their own ends impacts the rest of society. There are thus ancient and modern idiots, in that while they had people who were concerned only about subsistence in the old economies, today we have people who are obsessed with worldly acquisitions for their own aggrandisement in a global capitalist economy. Both types of people achieve the same result for societies.

The next stage in the evolution of people in this line of Grecian philosophy is what they called the Tribesmen. Now a tribesman is not necessarily someone who belongs to some tribe (we all do), but someone who finds it difficult to see the value of diversity. A tribe is a group of people united by social, physical or economic issues, such as language, religion, region, culture, and so on. Now before anyone takes this and runs with it, note that it is not only similar languages or cultures that make a tribe. People fuse together for different reasons that promote their interests. It could even be security. As societies grew into what is called civilisation, people learnt to depend on each other in their ‘tribes’. Tribes formed armies and went to war to expand their territories or protect themselves from decimation, slavery and annihilation. Civilisation itself is derived from the Latin word that means ‘living in cities’. Civilisation is the ultimate destination, wherein a tribesman no longer feels the need to protect only the things he believes in, but is ready to let go, adjust, sacrifice and take on new ideas, and to give others a chance. Diversity.

A Citizen is one that understands the art and science of dwelling in a civilisation. He/she understands why they need to coexist with others in society, the dependency among people, and why they must be part and parcel of the governing and administration of wherever they live. They don’t necessarily have to be in politics but they find their voices and continue to amplify such voices, within an atmosphere of cooperation and civilisation, towards making society better than they met it. Today we have global citizens, who are not only concerned with their immediate community, but with global affairs. This is what we all must strive to attain. There are glass barriers everywhere but from time to time, we will find out that our opinions can shape the world.

Different kinds of engagement

From the above, it is clear that being a citizen is the modern aspiration we should all strive to attain. In thinking about this, I realised we can impact society in several ways, viz;

– Through our informed interactions

– Through writing

– Through protesting/open demonstration of grievances

– Through politics

There is an interesting quote that often courses through my mind. It goes;

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.

This saying, credited to Sir Francis Bacon, emphasises my point above. One of the greatest challenges we will have in our time is that many people have so little time to read. History has disappeared from school curriculum, so the actions we take today are devoid of the salt and seasoning that history affords; those actions come out bland and often directionless. We must thus pull back and remind ourselves of the need to be good, voracious readers. And the advantage is for the youths of today. You have billions of pages of great, edifying material on the internet. You can teach yourself anything, using Youtube. If you find it hard to sit and read, invest in a reading app.

The challenge here is that we need full, ready and exact youths, who know exactly what they want and will approach society as leaders, with a knowledge of history, a mastery of technology, an immersion in the knowledge that is almost freely accessible on the internet, and the visioning that comes with the art of leadership. You must learn to speak, write, communicate, converse, like champions, like world beaters and world changers.

Is Nigeria a nation?

One of the biggest contentions of our time is the question ‘what is a nation?’ In other words, is Nigeria a nation? I listened recently to a programme on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), wherein I heard one of Nigeria’s all-time greats, Ernest Ikoli, say that Nigeria was a mere geographical expression. This is also a statement that is often credited to Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The question is; which nation is not a geographical expression? Indeed the statement is traced to one Count Von Metternich, an Austrian Minister and Aristocrat, who made the statement about Italy circa 1847, in the heydays of the Austrian empire, clear 100 years before Awolowo documented same about Nigeria in 1947. In 1847, Metternich said ‘Italy is a mere geographical expression’, in recognition, or perhaps mild mockery of the fact that Italy was then a disparate amalgamation of about 30 kingdoms. Today, no one says the same about Italy. The country has probably turned its disadvantage to an advantage. Unity.

I went in search of the meaning of a nation and this is what I found;

“A nation is a large group of people with strong bonds of identity – an “imagined community,” a tribe on a grand scale”.

“Historical events uniquely fuse together the population of a given territory into a nation. These nations share “a soul” and memories of “endeavours, sacrifice, and devotion.”

“…A politically organised nationality…”

“A community of people composed of one or more nationalities and possessing a more or less defined territory and government”

“A territorial division containing a body of people of one or more nationalities and usually characterised by relatively large size and independent status”.

“A heroic past, great men, glory [are the links between people] upon which one bases a national idea. . . . A nation is . . . a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future”.

From the above definitions, it seems building a nation is a deliberate effort by all CITIZENS in an atmosphere of camaraderie, cooperation, justice and fairness, mutual respect, knowledge of history, sacrifice, humanity, solidarity. It is left to you, the citizens, especially the energetic, magnetic, passionate, innocent, connected, networked, tech-savvy, futuristic, and visionary youths to build this nation. Never allow anyone to tell you it cannot be done.

The only question is; HOW?