THE NIGERIAN SPIRIT- A Reflection by John T.Gbashah

As a Nation, we are supposedly bonded by a name, a constitution and a geographical expression, which going by our historical perspective and challenges seems to have failed to address the dynamics of our diverse cultural heritages or interests. The focus of “the labour of our heroes past”, which retrospectively had been channeled towards sending our colonial masters packing by any means necessary, eventually left our founding fathers the arduous responsibility of defining for us this geographical experiment they toiled so hard to liberate. An amalgamation of uneasy bedfellows assembled in the selfish interests of our colonial masters, and given a “surname” that was not synonymous with any of our cultural heritages or values, which after independence left our “parents” battling with the responsibility of rationalizing a fragile family structure, in a vain attempt to determine the order of seniority amongst us its “children”. The resultant chaos, eventually led to anarchy and war which left “us” traumatized, confused, apprehensive and suspicious of each other to this day.
Blinded by an insatiable quest to subjugate one another thereafter, we still continue to squabble and bicker over an “inheritance” bequeathed to us by our heroes past, and in the process we have failed over the years to look in the mirror to see and analyze what we have gradually metamorphosed into. For in our seeming “bondage”, time and challenges have woven together similarities in the midst of a plethora of diverse ethnic originalities that have distinguished us in more ways than one. Establishing for us admirable “identities” and qualities only us seem not to be able to notice. For in the course of our journey, we have developed individual “strengths” through the shear might and power of our diversity and numbers which other progressive Nations have noticed and subtly exploit to their advantage, while simultaneously highlighting our weaknesses to the rest of the world, in a deliberately orchestrated plot to prevent us from realizing our true worth and potential and subsequently harnessing it for our socioeconomic development, by making us believe less in ourselves as a Nation in preference to “their” alien lifestyles and cultural identities.
When in reality, though bonded for a shorter period compared to some these Nations who sometimes ridicule or vilify us, we have been together so long we have excelled and carved out individual identities in literature, medicine, economics, music, film, sports, arts and science etc, just as collectively we have evolved our own language, proudly and successfully hosted the largest gathering of black artists in world history (FESTAC 77), been our “brothers keeper” in times of famine, political unrest, conflict and war, and helped bring apartheid to its knees only to be paid back with xenophobia.
However, since no Nation on earth is perfect, we have unfortunately also distinguished ourselves and showcased our mental genius in the “dark science” of technological intellectual financial manipulations and internet brain games targeted at weaker “foreign” minds, Nigerian “domestic sense” back home obviously too weary and inquisitive to be tricked by those of us that are engaged in this culture of mischief.
If what binds us can either make or destroy us, then it is my humble opinion that the primary objective of our political leaders in trying to achieve socioeconomic development should be identifying and promoting the things that positively bind us rather than aspiring to be “ethnocentric regional or zonal political warlords”, usurping the roles and powers of our traditional leaders. For in the absence of visionary leadership many Nigerians have found themselves in “bondage” occasioned by corruption, greed, poverty, and insecurity, bonded by hopelessness, uncertainty, despair and fear, rather than commitment to a worthy vision, ideology or purpose, most especially when some of our religious institutions tend to focus more on individual prosperity and gratification rather than collective prosperity and moral uprightness.
Furthermore, when our leaders don’t know where they’re going and besides that don’t speak with “one voice” or lead by example, how can they convince the rest of “us” to follow; bearing in mind that coercion achieves compliance but not commitment? For where we’re headed as a Nation, would determine to a large extent the things that “should” bind us. And the bonds that future generations are bound to align themselves to, in the absence of visionary leadership and very limited opportunities occasioned by ethnicity, religious bias, selfishness and greed, would continue to trigger animosity and hatred capable of creating “bonds” similar to or worse than Boko Haram.
So let’s all sit back and ask ourselves some fundamental questions. What has kept us together all these years in spite of all we’ve been through? When the tensions associated with every election for example make it seem like the last we will ever have as a Nation, yet we always celebrate May 29 and now democracy day, without hell breaking loose, as the winners of elections bask in the limelight of their professed political ingenuity and prowess, while the losers head for electoral tribunals and the rest of “us” return to a life of “bondage” as we know it and have unfortunately grown to accept. A life of complacency our politicians now exploit to their advantage because the people fail to hold them accountable for their actions while in office.
What are the things that bind us as a geographical configuration, that have sustained this fragile assemblage that speak well over 150 different languages, who at the drop of a hat can fight and kill each other during reoccurring communal clashes, yet intermarry or socialize and take delight at social gatherings to humorously “yab” each other’s lifestyles and accents when we speak our own adapted and now internationally recognized “broken English”?
Why is it that when a goal is scored at the soccer world cup, it is “we” that scored, yet the person that missed a penalty in the same game which eventually cost “us “the match is vilified according to his ethnic origins? Where are we really going to as a Nation and why can’t we decide for ourselves a collective vision or purpose?
Over the years, it has become crystal clear to the discerning mind, that it is the people, through the “bonds” they have established in their “bondage” over the years that have sustained this fragile entity we call Nigeria and not its leadership, for it is clear also that individually Nigerians have the capacity to excel but collectively they don’t. This in my humble opinion is a function of leadership at all levels, and my submission in this regard therefore is that our leaders should get their act together now before it is too late. For these bonds which are both negative and positive are gradually tilting our national consciousness towards a “common purpose” as can be exemplified by the presidential elections of 2015 where for the first time in our history an incumbent President was voted out of power, and the then President a hero in his own right was magnanimous enough to relinquish power.
It is interesting to note at this point, how the resilience of a “submerged Nigerian Spirit”, like diamonds in their formative stage, are the bonds that have sustained this fragile entity we call Nigeria, and will one day be fully unearthed. So strong are these bonds that they have overcome all the negative images of a united Nigeria associated with bonds that originated as a result of bad leadership such as Niger Delta militancy, headsmen terrorists, IPOB, Boko Haram, economic financial crimes, kidnapping, and of course corruption.
My dear reader, If you have read up to this point, I want you to know that you are that resilient “submerged Nigerian Spirit”, one of those true Nigerians associated with a “positive bond” who has contributed to our survival as a Nation. You are that rough diamond waiting to be unearthed, for it is only your obvious concern and interest for this Nation that has kept you reading this far.
So my dear compassionate Compatriot, let’s fully unearth this “Nigerian Spirit” by identifying, harnessing and promoting those positive things that bind us, and admonishing our leaders in this regard to identify areas of “collective” interests in their various communities by creating avenues to facilitate and evaluate “feedback”. For many of our leaders lack the “common touch” and are not in tune with the dreams and aspirations of their people, just as many people have lost faith in our institutions and distrust their leaders in the full realization that their votes make no difference and that immediately after each election their leaders become “Honorable” and “inaccessible”, and so have become nonchalant over issues that affect the socioeconomic development of their various communities. Leadership should emanate from the bottom up and not the other way round as it currently unfortunately is, where our leaders can be likened to doctors who prescribe drugs without diagnosis. All most communities are asking for today is the “opportunity” to tell their “doctors” where their pain is.
Jesus in his infinite wisdom, asked his disciplines “Whom say the people that I am?” Luke 9:18, fully aware of the importance of knowing their thoughts as a leader, then asked the same disciples after their reply “But whom say ye that I am?”, knowing also the relevance in finding out what his “close associates” thought of him to ascertain what message they themselves were feeding the people. Every leader must ask these fundamental questions as often as possible and create channels to “hear” their subjects voices “directly”, and in the Nigerian context, not only through coerced “disciples” opinions, who out of selfish ulterior motives most times tell such leaders only the things that are pleasing to their ears.
Only then will our leaders identify and connect with the will, thoughts , feelings, hopes and aspirations of the people as against the selfish interests of a few close associates or sycophants, only then will the people be carried along in governance, only then will they gain their peoples trust and loyalty, identify common goals and aspirations and map out a vision for the future, and only then will they discover the true “Nigerian Spirit” and the bonds that have kept us together in spite of all the challenges we have faced in the course of our National history, and prevent their vain imaginations from attributing our survival as a Nation to their political ingenuity or prowess. May God Almighty who bonded us together in t
he first place continue to bind us all. Long live Nigeria.

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