By Obagha Chiamaka Theodora
If you take out time to scrutinize the songs of various artists, listening carefully, you’ll realize that a melodious song can never be made by playing a single note. The sweetness of music depends on the combination of notes.
In the same way, the development of a Nation depends on the people’s ability to unite and work together. It is very easy to mark the year 1914 as the year when the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria was amalgamated but we need to ask ourselves one question, what efforts did we, as a people and as a nation, make to complement our amalgamation with respect to unity? We made little or no efforts and that birthed the 1967 Civil War. We have let the call for one Nigeria fall on deaf ears, creating room for the agitation of the Indigenous People Of Biafra.
It’s really unfortunate that the five-letter word, unity, has prevented us from getting to where we should be. Though badly bruised by the absence of national unity, we’re yet to conquer. We are yet to achieve this dream of oneness, a state of tranquillity and togetherness. Yes, we adopted mantras such as “the unity of the nation is not negotiable” but we have failed to prove it. Counting from 1914, we are over 100 years old and even when we received our independence in 1960, we aimed for solidarity and unity.
On the other hand, all we got was disagreement and controversies among the diverse people and communities, threatening the nation’s coexistence and development. Maybe we just don’t understand the significance of national unity and the important role it plays in the sustenance of democracy especially as we are an internationally recognized republic. Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Delving into that quote, we are made to understand that unity builds tolerance towards difference which yields cooperation. Cooperation as a value brings forth growth alongside many other attributes such as integrity, freedom and most importantly, patriotism. Unity is the secret spice for a solid foundation for democracy. Unity promotes development across all ramifications of the society, be it social, economic, political etc. Unity equals good guidance.
Over the years, it is evident that unity is the most vital element for Nigeria’s overall development because though the government has fulfilled some other requirements necessary for development, the absence of unity has brought other efforts to ruins. Seeing as unity has been our age-long problem, it has become a thing of worry.
The government has tried rendering solutions from one regime to the other but they should understand that if you cut a moringa tree from the stem, the root stump will grow again. This is why we should all sit down, both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the militant and the civilian, the rulers and the ruled, to ponder over the root of our problem. What is the cause of division in Nigeria?
First and foremost, the major hindrance to achieving national unity is the colossal scale of corruption from the federal government down to the grassroots of our government. The same way we have failed to fight corruption is the same way we have failed to become united. It is this corruption that has bred opposition from all fragments of the nation. Who is to blame? The people?
They are trying to save themselves seeing as the government is not representing their interests and this has invariably led to conflicting ideologies rising spontaneously. Corruption has further accounted for the nation’s division by giving rise to a conspicuous increase in the level of poverty, thus leaving the poor masses with little or no trust in the government.
The government seems to forget the fact that poverty makes citizens more sensitive to the failures of the government and could easily lead to revolts and civil unrest. For example, the exploitation of the Niger Delta area without due provision of basic amenities and paid royalties has spurred agitation of the indigenes.
Furthermore, the corruption of some government officials who represent their ethnic groups rather than the interest of the people has further divided the people. The favouritism surrounding the allocation of resources has made many citizens lose hope in the vision of one Nigeria. This unjust preferential treatment of some groups has complemented the natural division which multi-ethnicity and diverse religion has brought about. This brings us to the concept of religious and ethnic disparity as a block to national unity.
With over 250 ethnicities and over 500 distinct dialects, Nigeria is recognized as one of the most diverse nations in terms of ethnic groups and linguistics. Also, a variety of religions can be accounted for with the majority being Islam and Christianity.
Yes it is indeed colourful when these various groups come together to display cultures but we cannot lie that it has been a threat to the peaceful coexistence of Nigeria, and this is partly because the numerous ethnic groups still maintain a higher allegiance to their tribal interest than to state, let alone national interests that would be beneficial to everyone.
Quoting a United Nations Report on Nigeria’s common country analysis- “Nigeria is a deeply divided society considering the plurality of ethnic, religious and regional identities that define her political existence. Since independence in 1960, Nigeria has struggled to sustain national integration. For decades, different segments of Nigeria’s population had, at different times, expressed feelings of marginalization, of being short-changed, dominated, oppressed, threatened, or even targeted for elimination.” United Nations is more or less an umbrella for the world and this statement goes to show that national unity in Nigeria is a dream not close to being achieved.
However, our ordeal is not entirely hopeless. Mattie Stepanek once opined, “unity is strength…when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” We may not be united today but if we work hand in hand, putting away our differences, national unity can become a reality. Achieving national unity is a struggle that involves both the government and the people.
On the part of the government, their ability to contribute to national unity solely depends on them putting the Constitution first place. The Constitution’s pure motive has Nigeria’s unity at heart. The Constitution accounts for the right of the people to practice any religion of their choice, federal character to ensure that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states, ethnic group or sectional group in appointment to public service as well as state autonomy over natural resources to allow individual states explore their own natural resources.
Truly, if the government genuinely fulfils what the Constitution spells out, national unity is almost guaranteed. The government can also adopt zoning of leadership positions to bring a sense of belonging to all regions. Also if the government makes judicious use of the natural resources and there is even level of development across the regions, national unity will not be an issue. National unity will be greatly fostered if the government promotes equality among ethnic groups, promotes inter-tribal marriages, extends the duration of national youth service corps, preaches cultural integration as well as set up socials such as unity schools, national festivals and sporting activities.
On the part of the people, we need to embrace our differences first and foremost. The most unifying forces are not always laws, Constitutions, organisations, roads or buildings but people and their willingness to unify. We are the people and we need to stop making comments and hate speeches that instigate violence against one another. Nigeria is diverse and that’s not changing any time soon. Let us respect one another’s view. Let us learn to agree to disagree and the sooner we accept that variety is the spice of life, the better for us.
I believe in one Nigeria and I believe that one day our coexistence will reflect our motto- unity, faith, peace and progress. Let us not allow unity remain a dream, let us rather fight in solidarity and make national unity a reality. Today being the 1st of October,2020 marks our 60th year of independence.
This is the beginning of a new dawn. This is the beginning of a truly united Nigeria. This is a wake-up call for genuine national unity. Let us endeavour to live out the true meaning of our name -Giant of Africa- as I close with this quote by Gerald R Ford- ‘let us remember that our national unity is a priceless asset.’
Happy independence day my country. ONE NIGERIA- Good people, Great nation!!!
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