Nigeria@60: Nationalism; A Problem -By Boyode Favour Ejaita
Nationalism in Nigeria, dates back to colonial times, with the advent of the white man, natives saw the white man as a god. His weapons, his speech, his words, even his bicycle which the people in Chinua Achebe’s things fall apart, called the “an iron horse.” The white man brought wonders with him, the people were skeptical, especially when he brought his own god. The fight of spirituality and the dethronement of one’s God and the establishment of another; changing the status quo was the first nationalist agitation.
It is important to note, nationalism is an abstract form of patriotism. Nationalism is the desire, and love of one’s nation. An identification with one’s own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of other nations. Suffice to say, the definition of a Nation and what it means, coupled with its ideologies makes it safe to assert that Nigeria is not a nation, but a nation-state. A nation is a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory. We have in Nigeria; the Igbo nation, the Yoruba nation, the Hausa/Fulani nation and other minority tribes, that has their tribal/ethnic nation. This makes Nigeria a nation-state.
The months after the return of the Nigerian troops, who helped Britain in world war II, saw a surge of nationalist agitations. The white man was no God. So, the agitations began.
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Nigerian nationalism radicalized and waxed in popularity and power after world war II. Nigeria faced undesirable political and economic conditions under British rule. In 1945, a national general strike was organized; Michael Imoudu and other trade union figures became known nationalists.
The indivisibility of Nigeria is sacrosanct. This is a fundamental belief held by most pre- independence nationalist. A belief enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution. But the doom came, when these agitations were fought on ethnic lines.
Post-independence Nigeria saw an electrifying surge of nationalist icons in Nigeria lobbying for their various ethnic groups. The saying, “our story is singular, but our destined is shared” became mere words, as the interest was no longer common, but tribal. We can say the civil war escalated because of the deviation from the common goal. Everything after Independence showed the evils of nationalism; the political parties in various regions fighting for regional
interests only, resource allocation, political appointments, power and the quest for power fought on ethnic lines with a misguided notion of patriotism.
Nationalism And Ethnicism; No Practical Difference
Nationalism from the discussion above; tells the love for one’s own nation and the supports for its interests. Ethnicism is an emphasis on ethnic identity, which stems from relating to a group of people having a common racial, ancestral, national, religious, or cultural origins.
In debates, theoretically, ethnicism is different from nationalism, but in actuality, they both profess the same ideology, an ideology that goes against patriotism, and the idea that binds Nigeria as one indivisible and indissoluble federation. What sums up the spirit of a people is, its ideals and Nigeria has it embedded in it motto; Unity, Faith, Peace and Progress.
The motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is threatened by the very fabrics of our Independent struggle; nationalism. One region scurrying off with the wealth of another region, leaving the latter region in penury and its people in abject poverty whilst enriching the formal region. A crinkum-crankum!
Whilst it’s a known fact that different ethnic groups makes up a nation. It is recognized that
what sums up the spirit of a people to live together is unity. E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). But what happens when this indivisibility is threatened by secessionist aspirations, ethnic agitations, regional crisis, religious wars?
Without any iota of doubt and without the ambiguity of words. The civil war was caused because of self-serving nationalists. It’s a known fact, albeit rebuttable, that the war would have been averted with compromises on both sides.
We celebrate Nigeria at sixty. We’ve come so far with little to show for, progression in age but retrogression in achievements. On the way forward; nationalism must erode itself from our sociopolitical agendas, and patriotism to feel in the void. Everyone coming into power, either wants to enrich himself or develop his region to the detriment of others, sadly. But that is the least of the evils of nationalism in Nigeria.
Sixty years after Independence, Nigeria still wallows in a state of meticina statism, cankerous tribalism, egocentric chauvinism, syphilitic parochialism, epileptic nepotism, catalytic parapoism and state brigadish.
The first words of the preamble to the Constitution reads, “We the people…” the idea that a country will be ruled by its own people was too true, to be real, it was an enchanting tale of hope and faith. But the agitations, and aspirations of pre-independence nationalists is nothing but a mirage. Everything they fought for is on the brink of collapse. It is now, more than ever, we should wake up from our slumber. While we complain and bemoan our ill fate, the rest of the world advances in innovation, science and technology.