Chains by any other name would still hurt as much—anonymous

2023 presidency: Northern youth group endorses Tinubu to lead, Nigeria: Igbo Presidency 2023 – Nigeria’s Date With Justice and Unity. 2023 Presidency: Nigerians divided over Tinubu’s ambition. Disunited South-West, South-East Risk Losing 2023 Presidency, Says Sani. Why North may retain power in 2023 –Kwande

A cursory look at the few headlines above from a cross section of Nigerian newspapers tells you that the story of Nigeria is one comical entertainment, when the subject matter is serious, and off course by persons that should know better.

So I dare ask Nigeria, a nation so blessed yet in too much peril, that one begins to wonder what really is the problem, what really did or have we done wrong…there are so many questions to little answers. As I reflect on the nation, I beg to take us back a bit in the next few lines.

Today more than ever despite all the sing song of unity, why is Nigeria so divided, there is hardly an online forum, group that has been able to discuss a matter for an hour without the ethnic and religious question propping up. What is the matter with us, why do we hate ourselves so much, are we really a nation?

Where is the Nigeria in which the patriots stood, the one with the beautiful green, white, green flags waved at the Tafawa Balewa Square during Independence Celebrations, or match past on May Day. There used to be these feeling of ‘this is my nation’s flag, this is my nation’, where went that feeling? We still had our identities as WAZOBIA with other relations but today in public buildings and institutions, the flags of the nation do not exists until our maligned soccer team, super eagles are on duty, in other cases they are flying at half mast not by purpose but because the other half is missing of either the white or green is missing.

Our kids can sing all sorts of nursery rhymes from ‘old roger is dead’ to ‘my mother’, and sadly they can hardly get the nation’s anthem. At their tender age they are taught that they are from Isialangwa in Angwa local government area of Angwa state, in Nigeria, they are Michika, Ibo, Fulani Yoruba and they must not forget that.

Where is the Nigeria and Nigerians that despite the Lord Lugard lopsided nature of our creation where their brothers’ keeper. The Nigeria that existed inspite of the civil war, there was that Nigeria that did not need EFCC because even from home there was EFCC. Indeed while, the late sage Chinua Achebe wrote that there was a country, my debate has always been was there ever a country, or rather a WAZOBIAN conglomerate.

Nigeria despite very recent efforts, remains a nation that simply does not know where it is headed to, or does not want to face what I term, realistic, reasonable and responsible approach to its diversities. One remains saddened by our level of ethnic bigotry, and while one remains cautiously optimist on “project Nigeria”, Nigeria everyday is becoming a nation was not worth dying for…you must live for it.

This nation has become one that everything goes; the normal is disdained, while abnormality is rewarded, and for lack of critical thinking we do not have a collective on what exactly is right or wrong but rather which tribe or faith is concerned.

So where is the Nigeria that had a school teacher with the short knickers, white shirt and tie, he was paid very little but he was content, he could take a piece of egg a day on his take home pay. Then we admired them, we feared them, and many of them molded us into Nigerians. We farmed, we did those yam experiments, made candles and shoe polish, learnt typewriting and short hand, and we were many a time in the carpentry shed when not at the school piggery or poultry.

But with tech, startups, and joining the global village, we have degenerated in our divisive nature as a people. And stuck to ourselves by a collective nature to get it wrong, we speak of corruption as an ethnic bait, but forget that in most urban centers kids would not show you the direction to place without gratification, we are not worried that our children, now lie by practice, we do not bother about the rising dangerous codeine and sniper generation that possess no ethnic badge.

While we guilty trip on which ethnic group, whether south or north should govern, while we find solace in narratives of which tribe steals most, the truth if you ask me is that amongst many things we are not a nation yet, we have no vision regarding what we want as a people, we still find shelter in the Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Igbo agenda.

The ethnic conundrum of our existence continues to hunt and haunt us being one of the major obstacles to the existence of the Nigerian state. Beginning with the transition from colonial to neo-colonial dependence, military and back to the current brand democracy. The conflict spiral generated by ethnicity can be seen at all the critical phases in Nigeria, its democracy, the party system, the electoral process and the sharing of the national cake via offices and resources

The major issue in our ethnic struggle is the phenomenon of politicized ethnicity. More often than not, ethnicity invoked by interests, which are not necessarily described in ethnic terms.

As Claude Ake once put it, “conflicts arising from the construction of ethnicity to conceal exploitation by building solidarity across class lines, conflicts arise from appeals to ethnic support in the face of varnishing legitimacy, and from the manipulation of ethnicity for obvious political gains and not ethnic problems, but problems of particular dynamics which are pinned on ethnicity”. This is the Nigerian situation.

The contradictory tendencies of ethnicity are obvious today and the need to provide important safeguard against centralization and authoritarian tendencies has once more arisen. The problem we have is that the mobilization of ethnicity as a way out has more often than not been for some few people’s material benefit and this has given rise to the questions of citizenship rights, statism, indigeneship/settler palaver. To an extent this has become a veritable tool that is internalized and used as a crisis generating mechanism and obstacle to democracy. The WAZOBIAN Dilemma I call it…

Deep ethnic fears generated by in-built structures that promote unequal access to power and resources is being exploited, and is part of the government’s dilemma at all levels. The need to balance the WAZOBIAN formula has left us with x-raying where the minister comes from, left us with narratives of that is how they are, seen us profiling criminal demeanors based on ethnic identity.

You and I, need to think Nigeria without loosing our identity, or continue to suffer the WAZOBIAN Dilemma, Nigerians need to become noble in understanding themselves: are we ready—Only time will tell…

*** Written by Prince Charles Dickson PhD.