Nigeria, beyond geographical expression
by Eugene Uwalaka
Chido Onumah authored a beautiful book judging by its rather illuminating and edifying title – “Time to Reclaim Nigeria”. But this budding author seems to have been persuaded by his reviewers that the country he wants to reclaim does not exist. (ThisDay, April 1, 2012). One of the reviewers, Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf
Aregbesola observed that the mission to reclaim Nigeria is a bit problematic. To attempt to reclaim something suggests that it was in your possession ab-initio… To attempt to reclaim what you never had is a misnomer, the governor asserted.
On his part, the erudite Marxist scholar and columnist, Dr. Edwin Madunagu reinforced Governor Aregbesola’s position when he remarked as follows: “To reclaim, as I understand it, is to take back. I am aware that this ideological slogan is now popular with radical patriots, democrats and human rights activists in Nigeria. But I doubt if the Nigerian masses had at any time since Nigeria was created in 1914 and especially since independence in 1960 owned Nigeria. There is another side of this debate about reclaiming Nigeria, which is whether we actually have a country in the true sense of the word”.
I find the foregoing remarks by both Osun State governor and Madunagu rather misleading and unpatriotic. Take it or leave it, “The Nigerian nation exists”. This fact was both geometrically and polemically proved in the Ethics of Political Leadership. How to reclaim this nation was the obsession of the author of the Ethics of Political Leadership, who marshaled out plans, programmes, policies and procedures for reclaiming Nigeria in the chapters on analysis and diagnosis of disunity. We can and we will reclaim Nigeria! It takes only good governance to achieve this feat.
Prof. Esko Toyo, (University of Calabar), once remarked that Nigeria may be a historical accident like any other state in history but it was a lucky and desirable accident. Pursuing this position further, he said, “the existence of the Nigerian nation is important not only for expanding the possibilities and the dignity of the Nigerian but also for wrestling the black race from exploitation and indignity. Only Nigeria has the potentiality to achieve this feat fairly easily, given good and patriotic leadership”. Dr. Osisioma Nwolise of the Political Science Department, University of Ibadan, writing on the theme “vision without defence”, seemed to share Prof. Toyo’s vision of a great Nigeria when he said, “Africa is potentially the richest continent in the world today and I am convinced that Africa will be the most important continent of the 21st century.
Nigeria should begin to prepare herself for the greatness her position thrusts upon her. The defence and security of Nigeria must be built to dovetail with the defence and security of Africa. Dr. Osisioma’s position effectively reinforces Prof. Toyo’s thesis that “the nation exists”. Nigeria is not a mere geographical expression. This writer totally agrees with both Toyo and Osisioma.
Nigeria is beyond the geographical expression some short-sighted and unpatriotic leaders call it. Chido Onumah could not muster the intellectual courage to market his vision of the great Nigerian nation. The present United States of America was not a ready-made geographical entity. It was rather tailor-made. America had to fight territorial wars to amalgamate contiguous or proximate satellite states until it achieved a size its founding fathers adjudged politically and economically optimal.
But Nigerian leaders prefer to lose territory as in Bakassi. Nigerian leaders had in the last 100 years continued to vegetate aimlessly and lament over the un-bloody territorial expansion engendered by the constitutional amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria in 1914. While Americans had seen size (measured in land mass, concomitant resources and expansive population), as a great comparative advantage, Nigeria’s leaders have a negative mind-set that sees size as a comparative disadvantage. Internationally, whether you are talking about the USA, China, Russia or India, you are talking of big nations that determine how other nations are ruled because they are big and have converted their natural resources to national powers. Nigeria is extremely lucky to be born into this League of Nations that rule or lead other nations.
Nigeria was born great. It is curious that it is this privileged status and blessing God has given Nigeria that some place-seekers and charlatans want to destroy through negative sloganeering and incessant ethnological sagas.
If Nigeria is unstable today, it does not mean it will be unstable forever. If Nigeria is unstable, it is not because of the heterogeneous and multi-ethnic nature of her large population. Rather these factors constitute her strength, not weakness, as our leaders want to make us believe. These factors have contributed to Nigeria’s stability in no small measure. (Read the Ethics of Political Leadership).
The cause of instability and disunity is the lack of political will to co-exist on the part of opportunistic and unpatriotic leaders. The Nigerian people are willing to co-exist socially in business, trade, commerce, politics, economics, and in service to God and humanity. But often times, Nigerians are constrained to take sides and identify themselves with disintegrating and divisive forces that resort to cleavage politics and ethnological sagas when out-witted, outsmarted and out manoeuvred by other political aspirants.
Nigeria is the proverbial Garden of Eden. Those who quarrel with its size, heterogeneity and complex circumstances fail to open their eyes to perceive the outpouring of high divine fecundity and how lavishly God made His blessings and favours available to this nation. Those who lament the multiplicity of disparate and antagonistic tribes, groups and classes and the consequent multiplication of cleavages fail to see this phenomenon in terms of the multiplication of alternatives, interdependencies and opportunities God opened to us as a people.
This reasoning is in consonance with the law of inertia of large numbers that states that “large groups or aggregates of data show a high degree of stability than small ones”. The greater the number comprising the aggregate, the greater will be the compensation or tendency of random movements or chance events to neutralize one another and consequently the more stable will be the aggregate”. (Read the Ethics of Political Leadership).
By and large, a monolithic Nigerian nation (that is, one comprising only Ibo or Hausa or Yoruba), is far less desirable and less enduring than a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and heterogeneous Nigerian nation. This reasoning is based on the principle of plenitude mooted by Arthur Lovejoy. It states that “a universe or population that contains as many different kinds of being as possible, lower as well as higher, is a more perfect and desirable universe than one containing only the highest kind of being”.
Finally, leaders should mind their utterances. They should refrain from unedifying words. Unedifying words communicate disunity, instability, sadness, stress, strife, and capability deprivation. They should use words that communicate vision, mission, purpose, faith, trust, love, unity, stability and peace. Leaders should note that what they say can make or mar the nation. The nation exists. Let’s join Chido Onumah this “time to reclaim Nigeria.