Kenn1, e rish to begin fear you too O, you be laik dis relentless garrison politician.... I pity de pesin wey oppose you for anyting like political campaign.
Don’t waste your pity on those losers who opposed me during the campaigns; they’re all now six feet under! Useless to you and to themselves! Ah, but don’t worry, I like you so much, I’ll save you for last!
My debater has laid out his proposition which I have said is a null hypothesis. But I won't stop at just saying so, I will prove it by taking his thesis point by point. I will also urge my opponent to be less careless. That he thinks he's arguing a popular sentiment does not give him the right to take our intelligent audience for a ride just because they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Anyway here goes...
1.01 How can one say that an already existing nation lacks the building blocks of nationhood? Nigeria has already been constituted as a nation, a fact of which it seems my opponent is ignorant of. Maybe if he could list a few of these vague antagonistic paradigms or the leaders of thought he has in mind then one might be able to help him out. He also seems to believe that Nigerians possess a sub-par consciousness and require being spoon fed by these leaders for self-awareness. This is arrant nonsense.
2.01 A point of correction please, definitely not everything that defines Nigeria or Nigerians was imposed by an outside agency. Nigeria has been independent for nearly 50 years and all the policies guiding the nation since then has been made by Nigerians. The national flag was designed by a Nigerian and first hoisted at independence; the national anthem was composed by the Nigeria Police band in 1978 with words from 5 diverse Nigerians. Need I mention the NYSC programme established in 1973 and through which myself and possibly my opponent were able to lay claim (as a matter of course) to parts of the country outside our “particular ethnic enclave”. If my opponent has a split awareness of the nation, I can assure him that the millions of Nigerians, who live, work and die in parts of our “one country” different from their “ethnic enclaves” do not share this view. Neither do they share his “foreigner’s alienated sense of obligations” or lack any of the fundamental rights of any bonafide citizen of the nation.
2.02 I want to reiterate that this split awareness may just a figment of my debater’s imagination. How else can one account for the fact that markets in almost all nooks of the country are dominated by one ethnic group who in most cases do not belong to the same ethnicity as the area’s dominant population? How can one account for the fact that another ethnic group supplies most of the beef sold in the country and sometimes in such a manner that requires them to move from one part of the country to another and every so often they freely corner that part of the market, location notwithstanding? If this is not a sense of ownership then I don’t know what is. If the taxes, rates, and levies paid by these traders are not enough obligations, then I repeat; I don’t know what is. These Nigerians show their stewardship to the nation and their places of residence irrespective of ethnicity. In fact, their ethnicity does not preclude their nationality and vice versa.
2.03 Before I go on, I would wish to define enclave (or ‘closed society’). The Merriam-Webster online dictionary declares it “a distinct territorial, cultural, or social unit enclosed within or as if within foreign territory”. Lesotho is an example as is the Vatican. Embassies are another form of illustration. To qualify as an ethnic enclave, an ethnic group in the area where another ethnic group predominates may have a separate language, culture and economic system. Sabon garis and Ogbe Ijaws come to mind but they fail to meet the final criteria. I would therefore wish to call my debater to order. He should not presume to define the state of mind of over one hundred and thirty million Nigerians. However, I deign to say that his conclusion on Nigerian peoples and institutions is a baseless and faulty fabrication. If he disagrees, then I challenge my opponent to name any ethnic group in the Nigerian nation that meets these conditions.
2.04 Again I say, prove to me this split awareness and its overarching negative connotations or forever hold your peace! In essence, there is nothing wrong or unique in Nigerians having ethnic identities in addition to their national identity. After all a proud Brit today could be that kilt wearing Scots tomorrow! How has that limited or nullified the United Kingdom?
2.05 My debater, I have to admit that this is getting tiring but I guess it is my duty today to rid you of your stifling ignorance. Nigerians lack to a large extent this much touted sense of alienation because they were never foreigners in the Nigerian geographical space. They have been interacting (trading, fighting and intermarrying) for centuries before the British colonisation. Their sense of ownership of the Nigerian nation has been and continues to be attached to the identity of Nigeria. It beggars belief that you say that there is at present no corporate body that possesses the tools to foster unity. One of such is the CBN through physical instrument of the naira, while the intellectual bodies include the National Museums and the Federal Universities scattered across the country among others.
3.01 It is unfortunate that you had to spoil your first reasonable argument with such an outlandish addendum. I agree that were one trying to build a nation from scratch, a sense of ownership needs to be cultivated and the sense of alienation if present, eradicated. I accept that this may not be an uncomplicated process. But to posit that the current set up in Nigeria has anything to do it specifically is total bunkum. Actually, Nigerians started off relatively well in that there was no transplantation involved. Your following example buttresses this point.
3.02 I find it ironical that you seek to boost your argument using pan-Europeanism – a highly controversial claim if ever there was one. Anyway as you said, a huge majority of those in the United States are descended from Europeans. Many migrated in the 18th and 19th centuries, most from Britain and few from Spain, France and the Netherlands. Historically, most of these migrants (European or not) had to adapt themselves to the British way of life in the colony. This took varying levels of effort but even till today, you have distinct communities of Polish or Scandinavian, Chinese or Japanese Americans. (BTW, If there can be distinct common European culture why not Nigerian?)
3.03 It may have passed my opponent by but this social engineering has been going on for decades in Nigeria and even since before independence. In doing this, no one has been compelled to drop their ethnic identity. This is not part of the strategy of the Nigerian nation. I know for a fact that my debater is aware of the homogenous Nigerian cultural identity reflected in our pidgin. This distinct patois contains elements of many of our ethnic languages. And here it seems I have to correct my opponent once again. Being predominantly English in the early years, it was fairly easy for the United States to find common ground in terms of language, culture and economy. But for those who moved from non-English speaking European countries especially during the world wars, it was more traumatic. Positive consciousness had nothing to do with it. Infact, pan-Europeanism is very much a product of the second half of the 20th century.
3.04 In as much as I would concede the point that Nigeria’s founding fathers had no active participation in the creation of the geographical space called Nigeria, they were fully active in our emergence as a nation. I posit that majority of Nigerians have a common positive consciousness even though it might not be as dated as my opponent would want it. I wouldn’t want to disparage our group memory of the independence day, the declaration of the first republic, the civil war (no matter how painful or divisive), the oil boom, FESTAC, or that glorious summer of 1996 when the super eagles after amazing feats of football wizardry delivered the Olympic gold. Again it appears my opponent is misinformed. China was never under European political domination and is a noted multinational entity. India is more alike to Nigeria than my opponent would have us believe. Made up several kingdoms before British rule, it is today described as a pluralistic, multilingual and multi-ethnic nation state.
4.01 I have already listed a few positive achievements of Nigeria as one people. If my opponent regards the mythology of Nigeria as anorexic, he may be the one suffering from lack of oxygen to the brain. How else can one discountenance the labours of the Aba women rioters of 1929, the efforts of those he termed “our so-called founding fathers” between 1922 and 1960, and those who lost their lives in the military coups since then as well as the civil war. If my debater cannot remember these events, then he may either be too young or have a short memory or a bad one. It may be the latter because in addition to the fighting he mentioned, there are oral accounts and proofs of co-operation and cultural assimilation between the pre-colonial kingdoms and empires. Also most other nations including the USA, India and China have bloody pasts which have been incorporated into their common histories or remain a knotty spot (like in the case of the Native Americans).
4.02 While I admit that my opponent is not too far off the mark in his personal definition of the building blocks of nationhood. I aver that the singularity or otherwise of these basics does not a nation make. A nation is determined by the people that make it up. Their definition is also influenced by a common political experience and geographic location. These building blocks as I already stated are currently present in Nigeria. It is true that the dominant cabals have a major role to play in building upon these basics but their effective maximization must necessarily fall upon the people, or as some would say the masses.
4.03 It is unfair to state that Nigeria or its leaders have no past glories to resort to at moments of crisis. I have listed some of them here. If as individuals or collective they have chosen not to do this, it may be that they are deliberately trying to sabotage a subsisting nation. It is a minus on their part that they lack the inspiration to implement the ideology of the Nigerian nation as constituted. I insist that there have been Nigerian nationalists, there are Nigerian nationalists and there will be Nigerian nationalists. It therefore behoves on the Nigerian people as a whole to rally around our past glories as a nation and say “Enough is enough”. No more of the cabals that would fragment us by seeking to diminish the ties that binds us together.
4.04 I definitely agree that there is only one reality. Here, the other view is the personal nightmare of my debater or like one of the commentators noted, “…irredentism gone too far”. In this situation, I actually object to my opponent’s vilification of the Nigerian nation. Nigerians already have similar traditional cultures and what ever is remaining can be worked upon. There is also the general way of life and world view we have built since independence. We carry the same green passport, we are subject to the same national laws, and we undergo the same educational curriculum. That geographical space is our homeland. When my plane lands in Abuja or Lagos, I am home. Tomorrow, I will cheer the super eagles as will millions of Nigerians, both home and abroad. In the same way our seeming ethnic plurality can be fashioned into our strength and we would not need to ameliorate our diversity but rather promote th spice of life.
Finally, though nationhood is always highly disputed; religion has never been a condition and is usually a tactic used by irredentists in Nigeria to distract us from our commonality. For as long as the established structure of our nationhood remains the reality, I assert that Nigeria can only go on in future to become stronger as we build on the ties that bind us together.
I think its fair to say Nigeria is indeed a nation, by most definitions of the term. The real debate should be whether or not the nation, as it's currently constituted, can work and be successful. That is the koko of the matter.