I, for one, have always believed that our redemption as a nation will only materialise once we start looking outwards. I know that a lot of people will disagree with the notion of a Nigerian nation and this maybe true. But today, we stand at the precipice of that redemption and it will materialise with minimal effort on the part of the leadership and citizenry of Nigeria. This is where I stand, and cannot do otherwise.
A nation is really just a collection of people who share a given identity, NOT common ancestry. The latter is what most identity ideologues point to when they describe a nation but fail to realise that almost every society that represents a single national identity but were once made up of bitter enemies who were forged into a nation by common interests and strong, visionary and purposeful leadership. Admittedly this was more often than not done by brutal means, but that was the past, and the present is past the civil crudities of archaic politics.
As a student of history, it is clear to me that the inflection point of any nation that is today homogeneous and well-integrated came at the point an ethnically disparate cluster turns to the outside world in pursuit of common geopolitical interests. It is at this point that nations are born because the centrifugal dynamics are mechanised into substantive centripetal purpose.
The camaraderie exhibited by Nigerians outside Nigeria, or when they present a seamlessly united front in dealing with international questions is amazing. Whether it is students in a UK university, or in Malaysia, Cyprus… or doctors in the US and even drug couriers in Dubai you’d be amazed how social fissures suddenly disappear – and you have people who otherwise swear there is no such thing as a Nigerian while in Nigeria become very proud and patriotic Nigerians.
In 2015, Nigeria led a military coalition that restored constitutional order in the Gambia. In the 90s and the early 2000s, Nigeria was instrumental in the pacification of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria also came through by helping in the resolution of unrest in Somalia, Mali and Ivory Coast. Since the late 80s at least Nigeria has been the de facto guarantor of ECOWAS security.
In the early 2000s, Nigeria was also a key member of the coalition that brought back peace in Sudan. The present mayhem in Sudan once again raises the question of the effectiveness of African bilateral institutions as well as geopolitical powers in preserving peace and the rule of law within the continent.
The conflagration has brought untold hardship on citizens as well as foreigners living in Sudan. And the root cause reflects the classical triggers of violence and corruption in the continent. This is a dispute between two men and their selfish interests and will have no qualms burning down the country and everyone in it to get their way. This is an apt manifestation of that pernicious apres moi le deluge disposition of African leadership. Joyously, the last two men to have ruled Nigeria have turned their backs from this quality
President Goodluck Jonathan will no doubt remain in a class of his own in the pantheon of Nigeria’s political leadership for a very long time to come.
Whatever one may have against President Buhari, it is a fact he has largely upheld the integrity of the electoral processes his government has superintended over at all the levels federal institutions are responsible for.
The Adamawa debacle is a case in point. I am convinced that this was not a conspiracy cooked up by interests based in Adamawa. In all likelihood, it is a conspiracy gone awry because certain powerful forces from Abuja failed or declined to hold up their own side of the bargain after the stuff really hit the fan. I can imagine that if this was in the early to mid-2000s, Abuja would have found the means to uphold the declaration made in favour of the ruling party’s candidate.
2023 in Nigeria is already a year of possibilities. A number of barriers have already been broken. This is the longest democratic spell Nigeria has had since its independence. Muslim-Muslim ticket sailed through, and this happens to be one of the cleanest elections in the political history of Nigeria if not the cleanest. They were not perfect but they are orders of magnitude better than anything we have seen so far in the Fourth Republic and certainly represent a quantum leap in the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law.
The future is wide open for the fatherland. Having surmounted the odds stacked against our democracy and national cohesion, it is time to solidify the Nigerian identity by looking outwards – by leveraging the collective and individual energies of the Nigerian people towards the cause of a greater and better Africa.
As it is, Sudan is once more bleeding and that conflict, if not managed now, could spell doom for the region. The incoming Nigerian leadership has the opportunity of creating and sustaining a viable Nigerian nation which is underpinned by a common identity and sincerity of purpose.
This is where I stand, and cannot do otherwise.