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“No matter where you come from, no matter your religion, we are one let’s live together” This is an excerpt from a popular jingle on the network of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). The jingle which seeks to promote unity among Nigerians is one of countless such that preach peace and harmonious living for every Nigerian but it seems the message appears not resonating as the cracks in our nationhood are getting wider on daily basis.
The fault lines in our country have eaten deep into our well-beingand thus affecting the nations productivity.More than thirty years after the Nigerian civil war ended on a “no victor, no vanquished” basis, the Igbos are yet to feel homely in Nigeria. On the 6thof June 2017, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum gave what it termed an ultimatum for all Igbos leaving in the Northern part of the country to leave the North which was later withdrawn due to the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians, especially from the North.
In the same vein, the crisis between herders and farmers in the Northern part of the country that have claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions is yet to abate despite efforts by successive governments in the most affected states of Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and Taraba. In the Niger Delta, agitations for resource control have also claimed lives. While these challenges appearethnical, some of it have religious undertone,especially in the North Eastern part of the country where we have Boko Haram a religious crisis aided by poverty & illiteracy and other ethno-religious crisis in the North.
In the South West, the recently conducted Governorship elections in Lagos also opened another Igbo Vs Yoruba conversation in the state.All these signify is that, the cracks are getting wider all across the country.
Diversity, of ethnicity and religion, is not peculiar to Nigeria.However, we have failed to manage ours well compared to how other countries have managed theirs. A very good example is Rwanda; it fought a deadly war but now lives as one great nation However, all hope is not lost for Nigeria.
Fixing the nation’s education system is an important first step to closing these fault lines. The high inequality in access to qualitative basic education results in socioeconomic outcomes that deepen the fault lines. The high number of out-of-school children ultimately leads to higher unemployment and poverty rates, which further widens the fault lines. The level of educational development in the country goes a long way to promote unity and peace as education cannot withstand ethnic, religious bigotry and intolerance which is the cankerworm that is eating deep into our unity as a country.Majority of those perpetrating the division in the country have huge number of illiterate followers. Access to quality education by all citizens will make that impossible.
It is worthy of notethat managing our diversity and fault lines will not be achievable without the right leadership that inspires patriotism in citizens. Nigeria must start choosing leaders based on their competence and not their ethnic and religious leanings. The demand for competence-based leadership will help in getting the right hands that will promote the unity of the country above personal interest.
Also the agitation for resource control will continually be a source of concern in the Niger Delta. The creation of the Ministry and the Amnesty Office have not done enough. It is important the government address the root issue by having a short, medium and long economic plan toincrease mineral derivation to these region. Also, broadening the tax base of the states and the federal government via investments in infrastructure, agricultureandlow technology manufacturing will increase the economic stability of the whole country and economic prosperity of all regions which will close the fault lines.
Furthermore, the leadership of the nation must legislate towards the removal of state of origin in favour of state of residence for Nigerians to feel homely wherever they reside. This will enable Nigerians tofully participate in political and social-economic activities in whichever state they live.
Lastly, we need to define and know the Nigerian Dream. There has to be aknown set of values, norms and aspirations. A dream every Nigerian must aspire for and abide with, a dream that gives all Nigerians equality wherever they may be. This is important and germane in our efforts to close the fault lines. Nigeria must not be seen as an abstract depiction but the reality of our livelihood that we must be committed to. We need to define theNigerian dream in closing the fault lines.
The continuous survival of our nationhood is the best gift we can give to ourselves as citizens. This survival is however based on five pronged areas as explained above namely access to quality education by all Nigerians, a competency based leadership that inspires patriotism in citizens, a robust economy that provides equal opportunity, sustenance and dignity for all, legislation of the removal of state of origin for state of residence to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging and acceptance wherever they resideand defining the Nigerian dream. Nigeria will survive.
Adesina Tosin Nathaniel writes from Ikorodu Lagos
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