To whom do we owe allegiance – our tribe or Nigeria? The reality is some of us, if not most, define our existence and identity from a tribal standpoint.
We think in tribal amplitude and act in protection of the tribe. Our tribe comes first; we steal, fight and even kill for the tribe. The nation as an entity is split into disparate collections of kinfolk with unrequited loyalty. This is the trouble with Nigeria. The state is perpetually slaughtered for the tribe.
We must give up tribal allegiance. Like I said in the column, ‘Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba must surrender ethnic identities’; we, the Igbo, the Hausa, the Yoruba, the Fulani, the Ijaw, the Esan, the Urhobo – and all other ethnic nationalities — must surrender our ethnic identities to the Nigerian identity. This does not imply abandoning our roots, but embracing an expansive identity for the survival of our country.
Giving up the tribe means putting the interest of the nation first; it means acting on the philosophy of the monolithic whole as against group agenda; it means eschewing divisive utterances and actions; it means accenting our strengthens and areas of convergence rather than promoting discord and points of divergence; it means embracing our common identity as Nigerians and consigning the tribal identity to secondary relevance. It means being Nigerian.
We have a nation to build. Reading Waziri Adio’s ‘Arc of the Possible’ – a memoir on his stewardship as the executive secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), I was unnerved by some of the revelations in the book. There is a total system collapse — traditional rulers mounting vigil at government offices to secure jobs for their dependents against laid-down procedures; national assembly members demanding job slots through blackmail; party officials demanding a slice of the proverbial national cake, religion deployed for slaughter, and so on. The public office is principally considered as sectional booty and appropriated for insular ends.
Really, some Nigerians will not survive in a just, fair and equitable system. Corruption and indiscipline at the top is because of corruption and indiscipline at the bottom — and vis-a-vis. We are victims of the systems we create and enable.
OBASANJO’S TUTORIAL ON TRIBESMEN AND STATESMEN
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is perhaps one in the very few and eclectic league of statesmen in Nigeria. Obasanjo has never been shy to declare his Nigerianness. He once said he is a ‘’Nigerian first, before being Yoruba’’. At a time when much vaunted ‘’statesmen’’ have become tribesmen, Obasanjo still bears the torch – unflinching and unquenching.
While some elderly Nigerians, some in their 80s and 90s, who should be bastions of national unity, still think and speak from ethnic stumps, Obasanjo never ceases to speak in defence of Nigeria’s unity.
The fact is Nigeria’s fissures are accented by some elders in the political class who created them in the first place. They keep at them, stoking controversies and ethnic tension to sustain their own relevance. If not, why will a 94-year-old who has seen it all, elect to be a tribesman?
Over the years, I have not at anytime heard Chief Edwin Clark speak in defence, in support or in the praise of Nigeria. It is either he is talking about former President Goodluck Jonathan, some Ijaw agenda or issuing threats against the state. I do not think this is the way to go for a man who has benefited immeasurably from the country and who is one of the few elders who saw Nigeria from infancy.
High Chief Clark should hearken to Obasanjo’s advice that ‘’until the state emerges, Nigeria will not make the desired progress as tribesmen will always sacrifice state for tribe’’, and that ‘’it is about time you change from a tribesman to a statesman of character’’.
The tribesmen will keep setting Nigeria back. Political groups are emerging ahead of the 2023 presidential election, but their focus appears to be on a candidate who will represent the region’s interest – not Nigeria’s interest. How can we make progress this way? We have to give up the tribe for Nigeria to truly live and thrive.
Nigeria is for all of us, and we must work towards a society where unity, justice, peace, and harmony breathe in the busy streets of Aba; where they hover across the brown roofs of Ibadan, and where they stroll on the fine sands of Sokoto.