Among the activities lined up for the celebration of Nigeria’s Independence Anniversary was a public lecture delivered by Arc Zubairu Haruna Usman – Ugwu on Friday, September 25th, 2020 at the Conference Hall of the National Mosque, Abuja. Excerpts:
We are beginning this public lecture, marking the 60th or Diamond Independence Day Anniversary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with some posers; their cogent answers will guide us through the entire duration of the lecture, for a robust appreciation of the significance, aptness, timeliness and of course the contents of the lecture for our own practical use in nation-building. We shall utilize the 5 Ws and the H qualification questions, namely who, why, when, what, where and how, in no particular order for the posers as follows:
a) As a nation, where are we coming from; where are we now; and where are we going?
b) Who brought us to this pass; what did they do or failed to do? c) How did they do it; when and why?
As Muslims and the Ummah of Muhammad Rasulullah (SAW), we are deeply and unapologetically influenced in thought and practice by the Noble Qur’an and Allah’s Noble Messenger. Consequently, without prejudice to whatever is in extant literature regarding our topic, we shall be drawing profoundly from the Qur’an – the last testament form Allah the procedures for sustainable nation-building knowing full well that nothing is left out in the Qur’an including the task of nation-building; Allah, the Most High affirmed this thus;
“…Nothing have we omitted from the Book…” [Surah Al-An’am (33), Ayah 38.]
In the same vein, we shall drink for our own sake and country, from the vast ocean of the exemplary life in nation-building of the best of mankind, Administrator, Legislator, Judge, Warrior, Consummate Peace Maker, the best Father and Husband, the very best in all things spiritual and worldly, the Greatest Nation, nay, Empire Builder of all times and most importantly, the last Prophet and Messenger of Allah Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (SAW), whose superlative personality Allah Himself unequivocally vouched for:
“Indeed in the Messenger of Allah [Muhammad ] you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in [the Meeting with] Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.” [Surah Al-Ahzaab (33), Ayah 21.]
The African countries of today (with the exception of Ethiopia) are the creation of their respective colonial masters who carved them out without consulting or seeking the consent of the affected peoples of the territories. They are therefore an amalgam of multiple pre-colonial nationalities of different ethnic and linguistic identities. Britain, for ease of administration, adopted the indirect rule of governance in Nigeria, as in her other colonies, to control parts or all of her territories. Indirect rule utilized pre-existing indigenous power structures, but it, however, had ingrained subtle divide and rule strategy.
The British forged alliances with powerful local rulers, codified traditional institutions, promoted narrow local tribal, regional and ethnoreligious loyalties very strongly enhancing her vice-like grip on the population, and weakening the chances of the people coming together, despite their differences, to challenge colonial rule. Thus, Britain weaponized all fault lines (tribe, ethnicity, region, religion, etc.,) into tools of political intrigues for supremacy, thereby effectively dividing our forebears into ethnic lines. Deep-routed mutual suspicion and rivalry, low social cohesion and intermittent internal conflicts became the order of the day. No other factor has vitiated Nigeria’s efforts at nation-building till date than consequences of the British indirect rule and the inherent sublime divide and rule policy.
In consequence, Nigeria has witnessed and is continuing to witness the disintegrative pull of centrifugal forces due to tribalism, ethnicity, regional and sectarian strife severely threatening the integrative centripetal forces of pro-national unity and the settled constitutional issues of indissolubility and indivisibility of Nigeria. This must be cause for concern for all because once the plague of tribalism and insidious manipulation of social cleavages within a nation is not well-managed it often resulted in the near-disintegration of the nation. The attempted secession of Biafran from Nigeria in 1967 and the subsequent three years fratricidal Nigeria-Biafra war it precipitated suffice as a good example. All forms of warfare decapitate the task of nation-building!
Nevertheless, at the end of colonial rule, the new Africa indigenous rulers, Nigeria inclusive, filled with optimism, wholeheartedly accepted territorial boundaries from colonists without recourse to redrawing the map of the emergent independent countries along known primordial lines of pre-colonial nationalities; rather, they set about engaging themselves in the onerous task of nation-building. Aware also of the inherited problems of ethnic bickering, many countries adopted different approaches to enhance prospects of nation-building, including institutionalized one-party state, unitary mode of governance to promote national fervour and forge a unity of minds of all nationalities through military conscription, mass education, nationalization of land, establishing state-owned media, etc. Nyerere, Nkrumah, Kenyatta and Boigny towed this path in Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire respectively. Nigeria’s founding fathers, however, opted for federalism which soon was truncated by long military interregnum beginning in 1966, before transitioning again to civilian democracy in 1999. In retrospect, none of the approaches has proved to be the fit all guaranteed for sustainable, meaningful and satisfactory nation-building process in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general.
1.0. CLARIFICATION OF KEYWORDS: NIGERIA AT 60, IMPERATIVE, NATION BUILDING, AND TOGETHER
The theme of this year’s Independence Day Anniversary celebration is “Together” while the topic of today’s Public Lecture is “Nigeria At 60: The Imperative of Building a Nation Together”. To enable a better understanding of this lecture, we undertake the explanation of the ordinary everyday meanings of the keywords composing the topic, namely Nigeria at 60, imperative, nation-building, and together.
Nigeria At 60
First October is a significant date in the of Nigeria. We achieved independence from the United Kingdom on the 1st of October, 1960. Thus, October 1 is the official national holiday during which Independence Day Anniversary Celebrations is observed annually in Nigeria. Six days from today, on October 1, 2020, Nigeria will attain the diamond age of 60 years; hence Nigeria at 60!
Nation-building is the totality of the tangible and intangible processes undertaken, in the name and the power of the state, to enhance the capacity of institutions of the state, shape the state-society relations, deal with external relations including interventions, to achieve the ultimate goal of bringing into being a nation that boasts of well-defined and structured core national values to profoundly command the allegiance of all the citizens without regards to age, gender, creed, tribe, economic and socio-politico status. This is “Nation formation” for all intents and purposes, in a layman’s language.
To this extent, nation-building aspires to integrate and rally the people within the state to achieve, for all time, a nation that is technically feasible, politically stable, economically viable, socially desirable and cohesive. With regards to Nigeria, therefore we could safely infer that nation-building means all the “labours of our heroes past” since 1st October 1960, and also the contributions of the successor generations to date, men and women of all walks of life, meant to redefine, reorient, integrate and mobilize the heterogeneous populations within Nigerian space inherited from Britain to work together as one irrespective of subsisting differences.
A common manifestation of effective nation-building process is the voluntary obedience of all the people to rally round national symbols designed to unite them, by creating a visual, verbal, or iconic and all-inclusive representation of the people of the national community and their values, goals and history. In this regard, some of our common official national symbols are the Nigerian flag, coat of arms, Seal, motto, national anthem, etc. They should be rallied around as parts of celebrations of patriotism and heroism when the occasion demands. Similarly, Nigeria nation-builders would mean all the citizens of Nigeria who take the initiative to develop a truly national community through government programmes, viz military conscription, efficient national health care schemes, agrarian transformations, mass universal basic and adult literacy, mass physical, social and economic infrastructure, setting great store by justice, equity and fairness, accountability, transparency, probity and prudence in managing the country’s affairs and of course the effective use of propaganda to foster socio-political harmony and economic growth.
Imperative means an essential or urgent thing; together means in the company of or close association with others. Thus far, we may safely infer that today’s lecture topic speaks about the importance of our march to nationhood individually and collectively. It also embodies an impassioned clarion call on us all, no matter our geopolitical, linguistic and ethnoreligious group, to use the opportunity of Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary to reflect on the country’s task of nation-building, and urgently discard the garb of our differences and come together to leverage on our collective skills, strength, speed and strategies to build a stable, durable, prosperous Nigeria that embodies all the dreams and aspirations of all citizens.