National affability has much to do with what we think of one another; how we talk to one another, and what we call one another. As nugatory as this may appear to be, the content of our dialogues and multilogue – caustic and vile – in our cocoons on social media and interactions with other Nigerians escalate recriminations, and deepen stereotypes and contorted perceptions. Bala gets a raw deal from Emeka, and he gears into pejoratives, ‘’southerners are dishonest’’. Tunde’s relationship with Dahiru hits the nadir, and he goes, ‘’northerners are vicious’’. In these instances, ‘’northerners and southerners’’ have become offenders vicariously in transactions between individuals.
The sectional tags – ‘’northerner and southerner’’ are subliminal stereotypes that we have come to normalise. Although the tags should ordinarily be for the geographical taxonomy of where a citizen comes from, in the case of Nigeria this meaning has been inverted. Calling a Nigerian ‘’northerner’’ or ‘’southerner’’ is often suffused with innuendos, and a form of labelling.
Tags can be unfading for their power to hang on subconsciously. It becomes reflexive to throttle into the ‘’northerners/southerners are that like’’ trope. We must be conscious of the potency of tags and do well to keep our conversations and interactions benign. Little annoyances stoke the tension. Whatever does not amplify the unity of Nigeria ossifies disharmony; so, should be discarded.
Tags like ‘’southerner’’ and ‘’northerner’’ emphasise division, and accents the polarity of the north and the south. Instead of being ‘’northerners’’ and ‘’southerners’’ can we just be Nigerians? This may appear to be a tough call or some idealist longing, but it is possible. It takes deliberate effort on the part of the government in policy formulation and direction on national cohesion, and citizens in our public statements, interactions and actions. A national epiphany and rebirth is conceivable. There must be a systematic approach to promoting national geniality. The government has a principal place in achieving this as well as the citizens.
For me, since I became aware of the insidious quality of these sectional tags, I have made intentional efforts to flush my mind of the vermin. It is not an easy process as these tags are common in our public conversations and have attained normality. But ‘’change begins with me’’.
Preserving Nigeria’s peace, unity and security is everybody’s business. It is in our best interest to keep the peace and to keep Nigeria steady on the wheels. There is no salvation anywhere – in the US or in Europe. Justice, compassion, and fairness do not govern the global system; only interest rules. We should love our country, and defend its interest. The ‘’world’’ cannot do for us what we must do for Nigeria. In fact, “international community” does not exist in practical terms. At the global level there is only a Babel of interests.
The world watched as the killings in Rwanda persisted in 1994 for 100 days. While the country was up in an orgy of bloodletting, the ‘’international community’’ was observing diplomatic niceties and some drinking tea in meetings. About 1.1 million citizens killed. The genocide ended because Rwandans resolved to end it.
The world watched Boko Haram at its apogee of terror in Nigeria. The US even refused to sell weapons to the country when the terrorist group had its claws deep in Nigeria’s throat — and with many citizens abducted by the insurgents. It is in our hands as Nigerians to preserve our peace and security. There is no salvation in the US, the UK or any foreign power. It is our journey, and it is our cross to bear alone. We are the potter; we will build Nigeria with our own hands.
Let me reproduce here an ecclesiastical allegory written by Mr Tony Dara, media mogul and passionate advocate of a united Nigeria, which he shared with me.
He wrote: ‘’Luke 18:18-30 (here is an attempt to juxtapose Nigeria in this heavenly conversation).
‘’The Rich Ruler (the Nigerian)
‘’And a ruler (a Nigerian) asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life (to have a great Nigeria)?” And Jesus (Man of Wisdom) said to him, “why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery (faithful to Nigeria); do not murder (no harm to others); do not steal (content with what he has); do not bear false witness (give accurate account), honour your father and mother (respect societal values).’” And he said: “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor (give all to Nigeria), and you will have treasure in heaven (in Nigeria); and come, follow me (become a nationhood servant not master).” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich (SELFISH, SELF-SERVING). Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said: “How difficult it is for those who have wealth (who are selfish and self-serving) to enter (build) the kingdom of God (Nigeria), for it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person (Nigerians as we are) to enter the kingdom of God (to build Nigeria).” Those who heard it said: “Then who can be saved (who then will serve Nigeria)?” But he said: “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” And Peter (a Nigerian) said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you (we are determined).” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God (Nigeria), who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life (Nigeria is a VERY BLESSED LAND).”
Indeed, Nigeria is a blessed land. A new and better Nigeria is all in our hands. Instead of chronic negativity and visceral tearing down of the country, let us work at it. It begins with what we do in our neighbourhoods; in traffic, in our offices, in our schools, in public places, and even in our religious houses.
Fredrick ‘Mr OneNigeria’ Nwabufo