Opinion: Too many kinsmen, not enough Nigerians

by Tunji Andrews

The only times we ever seem to stand as a people called Nigeria, are times when the national (male) football teams win major competitions. The truth is that we are a largely diverse community of people and no amount of confessions by means of the National Anthem can change that.

When I sleep, I dream. The phrase you have just read, though may come across to you as insignificant, judging by the fact that statistically, over 65% of the world’s population do experience the dream phenomenon during sleep, which they also remember when awake. However, for me the phrase represents a flash of awakening, an ‘Ah ha!’ moment, my own little apple falling from the tree experience, my eureka instant.  The thing is, I have come to realise that I am my most creative within those hours of sleep, that my extremely structured thinking orientation becomes somewhat spontaneous and without boundaries in this state; and, even though, I am sure there is some psychological explanation for this, it still doesn’t fail to puzzle me. Its so amazing how all the information I didn’t even know my mind grasped during the day, becomes available to me at night; mixed with what I already know creating the thoughts to which I often write about. Like for instance, who would have thought that my mind would have enough capacity left to capture the essence of that documentary on China, whilst I was deeply engrossed in analysing potentials for business growth to a client in a busy hotel lobby.  I left the hotel a little worried, had I just given away too much information, thinking, how I let my eagerness to educate run away with me and laid out the entire strategy that would guaranteed, revive this companies dying profitability; my mind was busy, but in some corner, completely unconnected thoughts to the matter at hand began to brew.

Quite recently, despite the difference in opinion from a few colleagues, I have been pointing out how corruption, especially in growing economies, is not entirely an all-bad phenomenon. My logic behind this school of thought is quite simple really; that the lack of structure in such societies makes bureaucracy a nightmare to businesses. Even though no one can deny the adverse negative effects of a few individuals stealing national resources, as it entrenches the stronghold of poverty on the people of that nation, but as it is in such societies, it has that impact to let selected enterprises flourish with little or no bureaucratic interference, creating the nation’s version of scale of economy.  I will even go further to say that, corruption of itself isn’t solely responsible for the decay, underdevelopment and high levels of inequality prevalent within the Nigerian society; as there are other economies who share our taste for corruption, yet are fast developing and eradicating decay. There are even structured societies to where corruption is minimal, yet there are high levels of inequality; or was it not Jesus Christ who said that “the poor you shall always have with you”.

Those who have read any of my previous articles would have noticed my fascination with China (The Oriental superpower); even though I still nurse an utter distaste for their trade entry strategy into Africa. I do believe that studies on China’s emergence as a global power will re-write many economic theories on growth and sustainability; because, for one thing, history has not ever recorded such massive short term growth and most importantly, under a much frowned upon governing structure. No one, not even the Chinese can completely tie how their governmental structure, one which preferred until recently, to stick with its “the rule of individuals” (ren zhi) as against the more popular westernised “rule of law” (fa zhi), and how Ren zhi aided economic growth. The thing is, in Chinese legal thought; an analogous debate revolves around two competing traditional schools of thought called Confucianism and Legalism. Confucianism infuses law with moral qualities.  The Confucian concept of ‘li’ expresses the view that lawful norms of behaviour described in “rites” or “ritual decorum” were essential to good government and preferable to the enforcement of positive ‘fa’(Laws). Taking this position to its logical extreme, some Confucian proponents of ‘li’ believe that good morals alone, especially when practiced by the rulers of a political state, are in themselves sufficient to provide social order without relying on the enforcement of positive legal rules and principles at all. In practice, the formal legal and political structures very often remain subject to the will of the Communist Party leadership. The Party still rules the roost in China, and judges are not independent of the Party. Especially in highly charged political cases, such as those decided in the wake of the Tiananmen crackdown or the 2007 persecution of the Falun Gong religious sect, with the duty of judges entirely subservient to decisions of the Party; and yet by some phenomenal act, they were able to achieve the biggest economic leap of the last millennium. At least in Nigeria, the legal system pretends to be independent.

I am yet to read of a civilization, which emerged as a global leader, and did not achieve this as a people, as against just a government. Even the extreme cases of the Napoleons, Xerxes and Hitlers, were cases of individual ambition harnessing the sound collective identity of a people; who were sold the idea of being the best and above all else. None had its wealth created by these men, so much so that in the book, THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF PEACE, John Maynard Keynes noted that, “Germany not only furnished these countries (most of Eastern Europe) with trade, but, in the case of some of them, supplied a great part of the capital needed for their own development. Of Germany’s pre-war foreign investments, amounting in all to about $6,250,000,000, not far short of $2,500,000,000 was invested in Russia, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Roumania, and Turkey. And by the system of “peaceful penetration” she gave these countries not only capital, but, every thing else they needed hardly less, organization. The whole of Europe east of the Rhine thus fell into the German industrial orbit, and its economic life was adjusted accordingly”. In simple terms, Germany was an economic force long before Hitler emerged on the scene. The Persian Empire, the Greek, the Roman, the British, The American and more recently the Chinese, are all empires built on the strong backs of its people, who saw the possibility of personal achievement via the expression of national pride and might.

In my short and rather eventful life, I have been privileged to have met very many people who carry the same green passport as I do. Now, outside the people of foreign decent who were born here, I have met many Igbos, Hausas, Fulanis, Edos, Deltans, Benue people, Yorubas, Ijebus, etc, but I swear that in all my life living in Nigeria, I am yet to meet one Nigerian. The naivety of the very many would want to protest this assertion, by saying that this has only occurred recently due to bad leadership, which makes me wonder in which time-space we experienced true oneness as Nigerians, when even our founding fathers, themselves established in us, regional and ethnic diversity. It is the reason a Yoruba mother will threaten to disown her daughter for bringing home a would-be spouse, who’s an ‘omo ibo’. It is also the same sad reason why ethnicity becomes a major debate when it comes to time to choose a Nigerian president, with the ruling party even having a Zoning arrangement.

The only times we ever seem to stand as a people called Nigeria, are times when the national (male) football teams win major competitions. The truth is that we are a largely diverse community of people and no amount of confessions by means of the National Anthem can change that. Suppressing this ethnic individuality at the national level is what I believe has created so many factions looking to destabilize the unity of this great nation. Many have called for the formation of a Sovereign National Conference, to which if the objective remains ‘UNITY IN DIVERSITY’, would enjoy my total support. I believe that this (SNC) would work as these aggrieved ethnic groups being very similar to a wife who is being ignored by her husband, results to all manners of nagging and trouble making to regain his attention; and even though this may not be the best approach, however, as I have come to learn in my relationships, it very often works.

The unity of Nigeria should be made to remain a win-win scenario and not one where aggrieved parties are forced to remain. Alternatively, as branded in the WEALTH OF NATIONS by Adam Smith, “In order to understand this, it has to be remembered, that, in those days, the sovereign ruler of perhaps no country in Europe was able to protect the whole extent of his dominions and the weaker part of his subjects from the oppression of the great lords. Those whom the law could not protect, and who were not strong enough to defend themselves, were obliged either to have recourse to the protection of some great lord, and in order to obtain it, to become either his slaves or vassals; or to enter into a league of mutual defence for the common protection of one another. The inhabitants of cities and burghs, considered as single individuals, had no power to defend themselves; but by entering into a league of mutual defence with their neighbours, they were capable of making formidable resistance. The lords despised the burghers, whom they considered not only as a different order, but as a parcel of emancipated slaves, almost of a different species from themselves. The wealth of the burghers never failed to provoke their envy and indignation, and they plundered them upon every occasion without mercy or remorse. The burghers naturally hated and feared the lords. The king hated and feared them too; but though, perhaps, he might despise, he had no reason either to hate or fear the burghers. Mutual interest, therefore, disposed them to support the king, and the king to support them against the lords. They were the enemies of his enemies, and it was his interest to render them as secure and independent of those enemies as he could. By granting them magistrates of their own, the privilege of making bye-laws for their own government, that of building walls for their own defence, and that of reducing all their inhabitants under a sort of military discipline.”

While we all cannot truly be one, it is my firm belief that we can make the institution of Nigeria a profitable venture for all parties concerned.


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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