(By Frank Ijege)
“This was the situation in the pre-independence Nigeria. After independence, the situation did not change. Instead coming together and ensuring the ‘new’ country is placed on the path of progress and development, most nationalist and anti-colonialism fighters withdrew to their regions to propagate regional and not national interest. There was hardly any of them who was genuinely championing a Nigerian cause. It was either a Northern, Southern, or Western region affair; there was no Nigerian affair“.
The entity called Nigeria today is a product of the 1914 amalgamation by her Colonial masters. Since that day, life has not remained the same for the people. The colonial masters sought to bring the different tribes together, with an aim to form a single entity. This they did, to help them in the smooth administration and exploitation of the country. So, the people woke up one morning to discover that they have become merged with others and have been forced into become one entity, despite the seeming difference in their culture and way of life.
The people were hardly consulted, neither were they given the opportunity to discuss the terms of their coming together. Many people had expected the colonial masters to take steps to foster unity and imbibe a feeling of oneness among the people. Sadly, they didn’t. Instead of uniting the people, the colonial masters for selfish reasons, further planted division among the people. People were taught to regard those from their ethnic group more than others. In every engagement, regional interest towers above national interest. People were ready to die for their regions and none was ready to die for Nigeria. The nationalists of that time were seen more as ethnic heroes and not national heroes. All tribes lived in mutual suspicion of one another. Lies, baseless rumours were fabricated and shared with reckless abandonment against one another, and many people fell for it.
This was the situation in the pre-independence Nigeria. After independence, the situation did not change. Instead coming together and ensuring the ‘new’ country is placed on the path of progress and development, most nationalist and anti-colonialism fighters withdrew to their regions to propagate regional and not national interest. There was hardly any of them who was genuinely championing a Nigerian cause. It was either a Northern, Southern, or Western region affair; there was no Nigerian affair.
This state of affairs has continued till date. At every stage of our national life, issues of regionalism and tribalism take the center stage against national interest. Merit and competence is slaughtered on the altar of religion, tribalism and nepotism. One area where this is prominent is in elections. During elections, people are more concerned about the ethnicity and region the candidate belongs to, and not his or her competence. From 1963 to date, this has been the basis of (s)electing leaders by Nigerians. We have also spiced tribalism and regionalism up with religion; a sad development for our troubled country. Mutual suspicion, unnecessary violence, killing and maiming of one another, sabotage overheating the polity, etc are some of the consequences of this mentality.
All the leaders we have had as a country, are/were products of this faulty mind set. We are yet to enjoy the dividends of having a true and genuine Nigerian leader and president, one who will not be judged from where he comes from, but by the love and interest he has for the country. A president who will not play the ethnic or religious card when he assumes office. One who will tell his people, that although I am one of you, I am now for Nigeria and Nigerians and will operate as such for the next four or eight years.
We must note that a Nigerian president cannot emerge without a change in the orientation of the Nigerians. Until this happens, Nigeria will remain where it is; making motion without movement.
As the 2015 elections approaches, one hopes Nigerians will shove issues of regionalism, tribalism and religions aside, and see through all the contestants to the oval office of president, and ‘elect’ a true and genuine leader. We cannot continue to make the mistake of the past. One good thing about making mistakes is that it affords you and opportunity to learn and correct yourself. 2015 offers us an opportunity to correct the mistakes we have been making since 1914. I pray Nigerians find a Nigerian president. God bless Nigeria.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”