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The Nigeria We Desire

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For nearly 40 years Nigerians have been singing our current national anthem. The second verse is a profound prayer. In those forty years we have constantly begged the compatriots to arise but very few have arisen. That clarion call of Nigeria has remained unattended. Instead, generations upon generations of leaders (sorry many of whom are actually “dealers”), have continued to work assiduously to ensure that the “labour of our heroes past” are tending towards nullity. Yet daily, in all official functions at all levels of government, these golden words continue to be sung with top level government officials in attendance. I would like to devote a little more time to the second stanza of our extant national anthem and attempt to compare our actions with our prayers.

This prayer calls on the God who created all things. A mind-set that still pervades Nigeria today is to pray before we start most meetings. I have not had the benefit of attending any meeting at the Villa, but I have at several state government houses. We even pray at the opening and end of meetings where the nation’s resources are stolen.

One however, wonders what runs in the mind of the people saying these prayers at the point at which they are saying them. If it was possible to have a mind scanner, would we find any alignment to the words being spoken? How many of these people are guided by the dictates of the faiths that they so eloquently and flamboyantly profess. Starting with an acknowledgment of the divine makes a lot of sense but can we expect much help from God when we vehemently refuse to help ourselves?

This stanza begins by taking our cause which it describes as NOBLE to the divine and asks that God directs this cause. The genuine cause of nation building is noble. Really, can there be a cause nobler than the task of forging one united, strong nation out of at least 250 languages and 1000 dialects, each with largely distinct culture, norms, nuances but more importantly strengths and talents?

This diversity which is the very unduplicated strength of a nation like Nigeria, makes it possible for her to be adequately represented and win at every conceivable human endeavour.

This prayer is therefore suggesting that these three virtues of ‘knowledge of the truth, love and honesty’ are very critical ammunition with which the youth can fight for and win a desired space for Nigeria in the committee of nations.

How much of the knowledge of the truth is found in our youth is common knowledge, but what truths are crucial for a set of youth to be guided by? I don’t know what the writer had in mind when he penned these words, but I know for sure that the truth is not deceit, 419, lack of respect for agreements, total disrespect for the rule of law, everyone taking laws into their hands and being laws unto themselves as is very evident in the way people drive on our roads. The maximum speed limit on Nigerian roads is a hundred km/hr.

Trailer trucks often exceed this regularly, more interestingly whilst overtaking Federal Road Safety Corp patrol vehicles. Many Nigerians have been schooled in criticizing governments such that whenever a new government wins by popular sentiments and is still in its honeymoon days, many a Nigerian are bored and exhibit withdrawal syndromes from the temporary unpopularity of criticizing the government. I am in perfect agreement with the saying that “a people always gets the kind of government that they deserve”. I believe this is perfectly true of most societies that are not under colonial rule or other forms of dictatorships.

Sometimes when I see what Nigerians expect of their leaders and convert these expectations to a job profile, mostly only foreigners would fit the profiles. We mostly do the wrong things but expect one of us who has been used to breaking rules at will, to get into power and suddenly become an angel. Growing up in Lokoja, Offa, Ilorin and later Ibadan I saw several commercial vehicles with philosophical inscriptions on them. Inscriptions such as ‘honesty is the best policy” “No king as God”; “Remember your six feet”; “Remember the child of whom you are”; “Iwa lewa” etc.

It appears to me that it would be so absurd today to ask a sign writer to inscribe such on a vehicle. The reason being that most likely the sign writer would have cheated the car owner in the process. We have so become used to dishonesty such that whenever we see a display of simple honesty we are either awed, or even disgusted. Some people even deride the honest people as fools and people who will never make it in life. My question is why do we pray when we have no intentions of acting in line with our prayers?

I believe that there is no totally homogenous human population. So, in every society, you will have people living on the two sides of the truth and justice, but I agree that it appears that a very large portion of Nigeria live on the wrong side of truth and justice. I find this part of our national anthem very irking whenever I see the youth embracing and going to lengths to further the causes of their oppressors mostly at great personal danger and sometimes bodily harm to themselves.

The willingness to advance the cause of the wicked by someone who is supposed to be living just and true is at the least baffling as much as it is stultifying. How many of our youths today truly believe in their hearts that living just and true is a desirable goal? This number would be an interesting one to know. The population of Nigerians who are over 50 strike me as a group of people working assiduously towards building magnificent mansions in the sand without a care as to what can happen to the structure in the future.

Nigeria at its independence in 1960 was the greatest potential on the continent. I have said that if it were a company that IPO-ed, its share would have been oversubscribed. Don’t forget this was pre-discovery of oil. It had a very solid economy, well managed, good growth and even better prospects. Everything looked just great. Yes, it was just emerging from the woods of colonialism. Many would have taken a bet that the country was destined for greatness.

Achieving great and lofty heights was a given. However, 58 years down the line, it is a point of argument as to how far we are from achieving the great and lofty. That a few individual Nigerians have achieved the impossible is not in doubt, but nations are not made of the achievement of a few but rather by the level that the average have attained. Again here, instead of delving into arguments as to why or why not. I rather choose to remind the youth that the achievement of great and lofty heights by Nigeria is now firmly in your hands irrespective of having a government of fathers or one of dealers.

The late Jamaican reggae icon Peter Tosh sang that justice and equal rights are precursors to peace. If this is the noble cause referred to in the first line of the anthem, then it is indeed a noble one. Justice, judgment and equity no doubt further the cause of lasting peace.

A nation where peace and justice reigns is certainly desirable. I join the writer to say the prayer again. I affirm my belief that by most of us dealing based on the truth, love and living just, we can indeed build a nation where peace and justice reigns.

– Dr Alaofin an economist and management consultant wrote from Lagos.

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