Honourable Villagers, I propose a debate on the subject indicated by the title of this thread. I will attempt in the course of this debate to successfully argue that while the geographical space called Nigeria may continue to exist, the prospects of a nation bearing that same name coming into existence within that exact same space is virtually non-existent. I will present the points on which my position is based after an opponent and moderator is found.
Shoko, thanks for the offer. I am honoured and I accept.
Uche, yours is a very good question. But if you don't mind, I will give a short answer for now.
In my opinion, a country and a nation are not the same thing. For example, Yugoslavia was a country that consists of the Serb nation, the Croat nation, the Slovene nation, the Montenegrin nation, etc..
A nation is a corporate body that is made up of people who share a common culture, language (dialects omitted) and often, a common creation mythology that describes the progenitor of the nation as a direct ancestor (biological or image-wise) of all who belong to the nation.
All the above mentioned are the organic (i.e. living) glue that hold the people together.
Also, for all nations, the above mentioned have a unique form.
Kenn1, thanks for the response. However, I think the proposition was made clear in the title : "This Nigeria will never be a nation". It is now left for anyone who disagrees...anyone who thinks that Nigeria as it is has the makings of a nation (or perhaps is already one) to take me up on this.
Uche, the point you made was the reason why I had not wanted to give my own definition of the word nation in the beginning. In fact, my first response to you spoke of my wish not be seen as defining the terms of the debate...I wanted my opponent to be free (in the course of our encounter) to give his/her own definition of the word. But, I changed my mind and posted the response you see.
The reason for this was that I wanted to make it clear to anyone who would take me on that I already had a fixed notion, however, this notion is only my opinion....something also stated in the reply that contained the definition.
I will have no problems with a person presenting another opinion of what a nation is....something that Kenn1 has already done.
So, to sum up: A soon as my opponent formally steps forward, I will present my own argument. My definition of what a nation is forms a strand of that argument. I see no reason why that definition (as well as other aspects of my argument) cannot be challenged by my opponent.
Mulan, if you are indeed willing, I am ready to lock horns with you.....on this Crucible I mean....
I am willing and able and I accept Shoko as our moderator. However, I would prefer you start a new thread and post your thesis. I have started one opposing your stand but I would like the opportunity to modify it after I have seen your argument.
If this is acceptable, then I am ready to jump into the heat with you...
I'd suggest that you jump in the debate and make a post signifying your position. I don't think that both your ideas as to what a nation is can be too different... but even if it is, it'll all come out in the debate anyway.
My rules are as stated in the 'Welcome' thread... as soon as you (or anyone else) make a post stating your position and confirming you'll debate with Eja, I'll move the non-Debater posts to a separate thread and Eja can respond to your post.
By the way, I'm too lazy to do the beautiful interim summaries you've been doing in the Kenn/Katampe debate, so I'll just do a final summary at the end of the debate.
Kenn1, thanks for the response. However, I think the proposition was made clear in the title : "This Nigeria will never be a nation". It is now left for anyone who disagrees...anyone who thinks that Nigeria as it is has the makings of a nation (or perhaps is already one) to take me up on this.
I oppose the motion that Nigeria will never be a nation. In fact, Nigeria is already a nation and we can only go on in future to become a stronger nation as we build on the ties that bind us together. I will argue that Nigeria has progressed beyond a mere geographical space so named and thus already exists as a nation which presupposes that its peoples currently share a common identity...
Of course you are the moderator and have the final say in this debate...
Thanks to all who have responded so far. Sorry about the lateness of my re-entry but I am just coming back into the house. Where have I been? Some might say I went shopping, others might say I went to fortify myself at the Sacred Grove dedicated to the god Victorious Debatus...I will say no more.
Kenn1, your last post pleases me to no end. You are already pleading for an end to this...some might say you wish to leave the arena because you are scared. Kenn1, be rest assured, I promise to be gentle with all who oppose me. In fact, I will put you to sleep so nicely (i.e. Knock. You. Out. ) that you will think you overdosed on the finest wines known to man.
In other words, I shall demolish your side of this debate but you will enjoy it.
Enough of the shakara....... I have pounded on my chest so vigorously that as I type, I am coughing badly. Let me finish off my first presentation. Only some fine-tuning left. I shall be back shortly.
Mulan, I am looking forward to this. Your first contribution to this debate is of as high a standard as I would expect from you.
1.01 Nigeria lacks the building blocks of nationhood. This is a lack that is presently insurmountable because the paradigms to which Nigeria's dominant leaders of thought suscribe to are antagonistic to the factors that will permit the collective consciousness of the people presently called Nigerians to implement the necessary adjustments to their everyday awareness (and dynamic information processing).
2.01 Everything that defines Nigeria and the Nigerian was imposed by an outside agency. This means that Nigerians are still unable to lay claim (as a matter of course) to the whole of Nigeria. Most of the time, when Nigerians speak with a sense of ownership about Nigeria, they are referring to their own particular ethnic enclave. In other words, in speaking of Nigeria, we find that Nigerians have a split awareness of what is supposed to be their one country. There is the Nigeria that I belong to, and there is the Nigeria in which I am a foreigner, with the rights of a foreigner and, with a foreigners alienated sense of obligations.
2.02 The existence of this split awareness, especially the part that causes a Nigerian to regard other parts of the country as a foreign land or, to regard those people who do not belong to the same ethnic group as an area's dominant population as foreigners, is one of the biggest factors that work against the sense of ownership and therefore, against the growth of a feeling of obligation and of stewardship regardless of one's location within the borders of Nigeria.
2.03 Nigeria is therefore actually nothing more than a patchwork of ethnic enclaves looked upon on one hand by that segment of the population that has been uprooted from its ancestral base as an entity to be exploited and, on the other hand as a home that needs protection from the greed of exploitative foreigners. From these opposing perspectives, we descend into the vicious spiral whereby segments of the population become more convinced that Nigeria is either an untrustworthy entity that deserves to be exploited or, an overbearing visitor that has to be disengaged from because, when it is ready, it can turn antagonistic. These are states of mind that are applied to people as well as to institutions.
2.04 For as long as this split awareness exists, Nigeria will never be one because Nigerians will never be able to look for long beyond the prism of ethnic identities.
2.05 Until the sense of ownership and the sense of alienation are either eradicated or completely attached to other identities (e.g. class/caste), the void that separate both senses will prevent unity. There is at present no prospect of either eventuality coming to be. There is at present no corporate body that possesses the tools (physical as well as intellectual) that can either eradicate the split awareness or, re-attach it to another identity.
3.01 It should be noted that while the two options stated above are the easiest to achieve, it would be highly traumatic for those at the receiving end were an attempt to be made to realise either objective within the current set-up.
3.02 As an example of what I am speaking about, I will use the case of the United State of America, a state which, in spite of what some may think, is actually little more than a continuum of the pan-European nation that was first created by the Romans. To identify the United States as a pan-European nation is simply a matter of using ones ears and eyes. It is clear to see, that in order to fit in, people whose ethnic origins are non-European have to adapt themselves to a template that was forged from European culture.
3.03 For us to bring about something similar within the geographical space Nigeria, we would have to replicate a similar type of social engineering. The problem we would have with carrying this out needs not be elaborated upon here. I believe that we are all aware of how we would react if, in the interest of creating one homogeneous Nigerian cultural identity, someone tried to compel us to drop our ancestral ethnic identity and adopt one from our fellow Nigerians. Whereas the German, Italian, Irish, Scottish and other European ethnicities eventually came to a consensus about adopting English as the primary language in which the culture of the United States would be expressed, this consensus only came about after many centuries of the peoples having lived with the positive consciousness of themselves as Europeans whose civilization had a common root in Greece, Rome and Judea.
3.04 At this present time, Nigerians have no such common positive consciousness. We were created by those who defeated us which meant that our so called founding fathers were people who had no memory of their own active participation in the creation of Nigeria. In other words, our history as Nigerians only goes as far back as when the British formalised our borders within the overseas empires of different European powers. Beyond that, we only remember being Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Fulani, Tiv, Hausa, Idoma, Edo, etc. There is no shared group memory of ourselves as one people. In this, we are unlike others who were also once under the political domination of European powers (i.e. Indians, Arabs, Vietnamese, Malays, and Chinese). Because all these people could remember times past when they were a nation under the domination of leaders who emerged from within thier own ethnic types, they did not suffer the dislocation and disorientation that still afflicts the so called Nigerian.
4.01 There is no common history of positive achievements as one people for us to call upon. Not even in our mythology of Nigeria (a mythology so anorexic, that it barely exists). The memories of glory that serve as inspiration are either restricted to events that transpired within our individual ethnic groups or, where they include other groups, they include those groups as antagonists who we once defeated/ruled over. How are we to find inspiration as one people from this kind of past?
4.02 In the first paragraph of this presentation [1.01], I spoke of the building blocks of a nation. I defined these in another post on this thread as "a common culture, language (dialects omitted) and often, a common creation mythology that describes the progenitor of the nation as a direct ancestor (biological or image-wise) of all who belong to the nation..." In that paragraph 1.01, I also asserted that the paradigms suscribed to by the dominant cabals in Nigeria militate against the creation of such building blocks. The existence of this circumstance is not one that was (or is) inevitable. This situation exists due to decisions our leaders have made and choices they keep re-validating.
4.03 Our leaders do not have in their arsenal those calls to past glories that other nations, at their moments of crisis, have used as supporting structures for the collective backbone. Knowing that they have no treasures in our collective past history that can be utilised as rallying calls to the people as a whole, and, seeming to have no idea of how to proceed in the implementation (as Nigerian nationalists) of the type of inspirational endeavour that future generations may call on for support, our leaders not only ensure that the geographical space Nigeria remains fragmented but that there is no prospect of a unified nation coming into being within its borders in the near future.
4.04 Someone once said that there is reality as it is, and, there is 'reality' as we would like it to be. Only one of these is reality. The other is a fantasy, wishful thinking. Now, while I have no big objection to wishful thinking, if hope and best wishes are all that we have, then we do not have much. The fissures that cross Nigeria do not only consist of ethnicity and culture, there are also religious divides that leave huge segments of our population glaring at each other across a widening gulf. What are the ameliorating mechanisms that are currently operational throughout the geographical space Nigeria? I submit that there are none. Mostly, we have rhetoric and half-baked/money-minded initiatives that start with a fanfare but end like a silent fart. For as long as this remains the reality, I assert that this Nigeria will never be a nation.
First, I would like to provide a little background for this debate. Let us to consider some definitions of what constitutes a nation. The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines it as “a community of people composed of one or more nationalities and possesing a more or less defined territory and government”. The Free Dictionary online goes further to emphasize that this group of people are “organized under a single, usually independent government”. Finally, Wikipedia terms a nation “a form of self-defined cultural and social community”. Every reasonable person would agree with me that Nigeria as presently constituted definitely fits within the parameters of these definitions.
The geographical area presently known and legally identified as NIGERIA was as far back as 1901 administered as the Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria by the British. In 1914, these and the colony of Lagos were amalgamated and governed under colonial rule as a single entity and NATION. So yes, Nigeria was a british colonial creation, however, the country has been independent since 1960. As a geographical space, it occupies the land area lying 10 degrees north of the equator and 8 degrees east. It is located in West Africa and bordered by Benin, Chad and Cameroon, Niger and the Atlantic Ocean to the West, East, North and South respectively.
Nigeria is made up of more than 250 ethnic groups who together are governed by a single government under the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This government derives its authority and administration from the national constitution, the current one of which was adopted in 1999. This is preceeded by several colonial and post colonial instruments and is most closely based on the 1979 constitution which was put together by a representative constitutional assembly convened two years previously. This background is to highlight the fact that the community of people and nationalities that that make up Nigeria possess a defined territory and are organised under a single government.
My opponent may ask, ‘Are we self-defined?’ and expect me to turn tail but I simply smile. Of course we are self defined. I would like to recall some of the political activities between amalgamation and independence. BTW I hope my opponent is not ignorant of Herbert Macauley or the fact that he is often referred to as the father of NIGERIAN NATIONALISM. Further down the line, we had other nationalists including Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, among others. These people came together, albeit in different groups, to improve our collective lot. They believed that Nigerians could achieve more together than as individual nationalities. They wanted a better deal from the colonists and ultimately self determination and autonomy.
This IMHO is the basics or as my opponent put it, the building block of nationhood. So already one begins to see the emptiness of his argument. I will however give him a chance to restrategise while I prove his proposing thesis for the null hypothesis it is.
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 thank my opponent for her well-thought out argument. The majority of this post will consist of a point by point rebuttal of her assumptions and the rationale behind the wishful thinking that underlies them all.
1.01 As far as antagonistic paradigms go, please take your choice with regards to which you think is least significant (and therefore most fit to be ignored). Aside from (i) the Christian Vs Muslim Vs Traditionalist divide, there is also (ii) the interests of the Northern oligarchy Vs the interests of the South West Vs the interests of the South East Vs the interests of the Delta region Vs the interests of the Middle Belt Vs the interests of the moneyed non-Africans who reside in Nigeria. Is my opponent aware that every present (or past) leader has had to navigate between these various interest groups? Will my opponent deny that throughout the majority of our 'independent' existence, these groups have mostly (i.e. >90% of the time) employed antagonistic mechanisms while in the service of their interests? Now, as far as leaders of thought go, I was being polite. There are other names that I could call the people I have in mind. I would ask if my opponent knows of any nationally significant figure who straddles the divides between a significant number of the various ethnic, religious, geographical groups we have in Nigeria....what is the name of this person and where did he (or she) last walk on water?
2.01 This paragraph by my opponent presents a nice line in denial. However, it is not my intention to bring up actual events that disprove the rosy picture she has painted. Suffice it to say that if Nigerian leaders had designed and implemented policies while motivated by the intent of doing what was/is best for the 'nation' Nigeria, we would not be where we are today. Now, in case my meaning escapes my opponent, what I am saying is, there has never been a time when long-term policies that were in the interest of the whole geographical space Nigeria were implemented from the top-level. What we have experienced have been people basically doing for themselves and for the group(s) they belonged to. What has covered the dirty secret of the nations non-existence has been the ingenuity and never say die spirit of individual Nigerians. However, it should be pointed out that anyone who has lived with other African communities outside Nigeria will have noticed that such a spirit is a characteristic of the African. A characteristic that predates the coming of the imperialists and thus predates the manufactured identities that they shoe-horned Africans into. In other words, the colonial entity Nigeria cannot take credit for the creative and survival instincts of the Africans living within it.
2.02 Another paragraph, another nice line in denial. One whose falsity is shown by relatively recent blood soaked events that occurred in parts of Zamfara State, Ogun State and Lagos State. But, perhaps my opponent is stating that such will never happen again. If so, may I inquire as to the running programs that our 'leaders' have implemented to ensure this joyful hope?
2.03 The idea behind the term ethnic enclave covers more than geograhical space. It includes the concept of the closed community. The closed community is one where membership is open only to those who are related through kinship ties. Such communities exist in all parts of Nigeria. Communities where, there are rights (such as to land) that one who is not from the area will never enjoy.
2.04 The fact that today, not only the Scots but also the Welsh are agitating for full independence from a United Kingdom in which they have lived for centuries tells me that this split awareness does exist and that it eventually results in an imperative that will not be denied. In Spain, there are Basques and Catalans who wish to separated from the Spanish State. In Belgium, the Flemish want to separated from the Waloons and in France, there is a movement to separate Corsica from the rest of France. In Burma, the Karen want separation, in Sri Lanka, the Tamil want their own country. Yes indeed, there is nothing original in Nigerians having a persistent ethnic origin that will not be subsumed into an imposed identity. The idea of a nation is something organic that grows out of the collective will of the people it encompasses. Where this idea is forced, eventually the people will seek a way out.
2.05 The mistake my opponent makes here is glaring. She forgets that in those days of yore, there was no such thing as the Nigerian. There was no Nigerian State and as a consequence, the Ijaw, Yoruba, Igbo, Efik etc. did not have to acknowledge the authority of one who was not of their own ethnicity over their lands and resources. The soldier from Zaria would never have been called upon to be obey the orders of an Edo man. A man from Maiduguri would never have been able to challenge the authority of the Emir of Sokoto, nor, would an ordinary Ijebu man have been able to issue orders to an Ooni of Ife. I hope you can see how the times you speak of little resemblance to each other. You cannot compare the social environment in the centuries before British imperialism to what exists now. As for as the Naira as a symbol of unity, you may find that Nigerians actually have more reverence for the Dollar, the Euro, the Pound, etc. In short, while I know what you are trying to imply about the status of the Naira within the consciousness of Nigerians, I will have to disabuse you of the notion that there is some kind of reverence attached to that piece of paper. It is pursued because it is necessary. There is no nationalist sentiment attached to it.
3.02 Here you seek to use the existence of European culture as some sort of provisional guarantee that a Nigerian common culture will eventually emerge. We are talking of phenomena that are made up of unlike components therefore, the existence of one cannot be a reliable predictor for the emergence of the other.The common European culture was born out of Christianity and, the periods in time that are known to Europeans as the Classical Age, the Reformation, and the Renaissance. At every stage in these transformations, the hands at the helm were European. In speaking of Nigerian culture what would you be talking about? Nollywood (aka love child of Hollywood)? Christianity African style (aka love child of European Christianity)? Islam African style (aka love child of Arabist Islam)? What exactly is it that Nigerians are doing culture wise that is not an imitation of someone else? Please note that when I ask that question, I refer solely to these Nigerian Nigerians that you seem to believe exist somewhere....therefore, do not bring up elements of Igbo culture whose roots predate the manufacture of Nigeria and tell me that this is Nigerian culture. Igbo culture is Igbo culture, just as Yoruba culture is Yoruba culture.
4.00Further arguments (which include rebuttals of a few other points raised by my opponent). From here onwards, the numbering of paragraphs to not correspond to my opponents response.
4.01 Iya bi mi, mo tun ra mi bi (trans: My mother gave birth to me, I then gave birth to myself). Without the act of self-creation, we shall never truly own ourselves. Such an act becomes more difficult when instead of coming to life out from natural creation, we are birthed (as we Nigerians were) through a coldly calculated act that was calibrated to invest the new entity, Nigeria, with just enough life-force to make it serve the requirements of its manufacturer. The British manufactured Nigeria and, the reasons for this act are still as valid today as they were a century ago. Now, because we Nigerians are yet to systematically address the full ramifications of these requirements, we are yet to decide (with our collective self-interest being primary motivator), what the nature of the interface between our peoples and the needs of the worlds outside our borders should be.
4.02 From this omission flows the disorientation spoken of earlier, a disorientation that is not static but, one that grows exponentially as the years pass. And, as we speak, there are no truly national institutions in Nigeria or a sense of contiguity in the various development plans we have been subjected to since our so called independence.
4.03 National flags, national anthems and all such things are merely props. Props, that like much of our vaunted 'national' identity, are second hand concepts. Now, while trivia of this nature may be what all that is required to get some Nigerians misty eyed, rest assured that such things mean very little to most people who reside within that geographical space. I have traveled widely in places where Nigerians reside and, what I have found is that unless compelled to do so, hardly any Nigerian will fly a flag. And, as further evidence of the alien nature of symbols like this, it is not unusual to see flying outside a government building (i.e. ministries, embassies etc.) some tattered rag of faded green and dirty grey. Therefore, for my opponent to seize as she does on the existence of a flag as proof of nationalist sentiment in Nigerians is nothing more than a sign of desperation. In truth, with the exception of those people to whom the aping of symbols and devised emotions from foreigners is seen as a sign of civilization, the so called flag and national anthem have no deep spiritual meaning for Nigerians.
4.04 And right there, within that phrase in the last line of the above paragraph lies what we must look for if we are to describe a thing as having a significance that is truly nationalist (e.g. the Golden Stool of the Ashanti). We must be able to speak of how the thing has meanings that go beyond the level of our bare intellect. My opponent spoke of the Aba market womens uprising, well she may have spoken of similar incidents in other parts of Nigeria, however, if she were to be honest, she would admit that such incidents do not have the same significance in other parts of Nigeria as they have in the ethnic enclaves of their occurrence. In other words, the Aba market womens uprising, commendable as it was, meant (and still means) little to peasant farmers in Borno State or, to market women in Aramoko Ekiti.
4.05 Now, like it or not, the fact remains that the majority of Nigerians will spend all of their lives in such communities. They will not have the privilege of attending college and learning about Ernest Ikoli, Herbert Macauley, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti or the leadership of the Enugu coal mine worker's union. They will not enjoy the fratenisation opportunities offered by the NYSC. In short, my opponent should not conflate the lives of the elites with the lives of the majority of Nigerians. My opponent and her supporters should face the reality that the Nigeria they know (or fantasise about), and the Nigeria that is endured by a majority of the inmates of that geographical space are two very different worlds.
4.06 These worlds cannot be bridged by actionless rhetoric and wishful thinking. Only hard deeds can do it and unfortunately, since the Nigerians elites are content to carry on living in their delusional reality, there is no sign that a start has been made at this time to bridge this gap.
And finally, if I may correct another of my opponents mistaken assumptions. China and India, as I had stated, had once been under foreign domination. China had lived through an age when Europeans were able to detach parts of her territory and run those detached parts under rules and regulations that they made up (ref.foreign concessions in China). My opponent may also have forgotten that in the period leading up to (and including) the so called "World War 2", large parts China had occupied by one of the Axis Powers (i.e. Japan). Prior to these occurrences, and after they were over, the Chinese had existed with knowledge that went back over two thousand years of their own existence as one corporate body. They had been under one religion and had used one language (Mandarin) for administrative and scholarly purposes. In short, the Chinese had a history as a nation that predated all colonial entities and if asked today, they will state that there is a continuum between what we see now and what existed long before the coming of colonialists to their territories.
While India (as correctly stated by my opponent) may not have had a similarly united government all over the land, the prevailing religions of Hinduism and Islam united the whole territory. Unlike Africans, we will find that the religions and cultural practices that came with colonial entities have not achieved a similar firm footing in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Just as it was 500 years ago, those territories are today either ruled by a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh or some other person who is still uncompromisingly (and shamelessly) beholden to pre-colonial cultural structures.
Only in Nigeria (and other African countries) do we have this prevalence of leaders whose Holy Lands are far from where they were born. And that right there, if my opponent can see it, is another detrimental paradigm.
I will once again take my debaters point by point...
1.01 Thanks for listing some of the paradigms which you hazily referred to in your opening thesis as precluding the building blocks of nationhood. I can see that you are no longer holding on to that proposition but rather stating that some leaders have employed these hostile paradigms to serve their personal interests. It is obvious that my rebuttal has done a good job; I can now continue to help you out. The divides you have listed cannot exist in a vacuum and only emphasise the subsisting Nigerian nation. Religion is not a basis for nationhood and I would refer you to the Yoruba nationality in which all three divides co-exist amicably. Land area divides also do not rule out nationhood howbeit they may make it more difficult to strengthen existing national identity. I have already listed some Nigerian nationalists and I hope you have not so easily forgotten? I will direct you to my background to this debate and will also add that although Dora Akunyili does not walk on water (she is not Jesus afterall) she fits your descriptions. I know you might quibble about this but having “leaders of thought” and “nationally significant figure” within a sentence of each other also brings Fela to mind. I will leave you to ponder the multifaceted transcendal nature of these two dominant Nigerian personalities.
2.01 How I would that you bring up actual events or are you the one in denial? Again you exhibit the shift from your rigid stance by going so far as addressing Nigeria as a nation though in ‘apostrophes’. You explicitly lay the blame for its floundering at the feet of leaders. This may be your personal opinion but we are definitely getting somewhere. See, you also depicted the followers as ingenious with a never say die attitude and I fully agree. But are these the same Nigerians that required permission “to implement the necessary adjustments to their everyday awareness”? My opponent should not speak with both sides of his mouth please. Our nation has passed through difficult times including military incursions into civil governance but at all times, policies and plans have been designed and implemented for the best interest of the nation. I make bold to say that neither the guiding principles contained in the constitution nor the guidelines in national policies can be considered as detrimental to the nation or its citizens. That the performance has not met expectation can be regarded as failure of execution by those concerned at individual or collective level. Even if in the long run the nation fails, it only goes to show it has been in existence. What has never been alive cannot die.
2.02 The truth that millions of Nigerians live, work and pay taxes outside their ethnic nationalities cannot be brushed aside by my opponent bringing up incidences of violence in different parts of the country. Interestingly, the Ife-Modakeke and Umuleri-Aguleri intra-ethnic crises prove that you do not need to travel outside your enclave to be a victim. Are these incidents or their causes unique to Nigeria? Definitely not! Violence is universal and will continue to happen as far as man walks the earth. Political manipulation and state irresponsibility are largely culpable for playing up the factors that cause these events and for not managing the outcomes adequately. In the line of this argument, my opponent should chew on the events of 9/11 and the current situation in Iraq.
2.03 I repeat that to qualify as an ethnic enclave, an ethnic group in the area where another nationality predominates may have a separate language, culture AND economic system. I challenge my opponent once again to NAME and prove such an ethnic group in Nigeria. At present, land (rightly or wrongly) belongs to the Federal Government and irrespective of ethnicity, one has the right to buy land anywhere in the country.
2.04 Thanks for conceding that there is nothing wrong or particular to Nigerians having ethnic identities in addition to a national identity. I would also want to point out that though imposed in Nigeria, this was not so in some of your cited examples. The Belgians for instance, fought for their national independence as a collective while in the case of Spain, political alliances including marriages from as far back as the 1st millennium and the 14th century led to its modern status. I would also want to remind you that the referenced United Kingdom and Spain achieved their positions as the 6th and 9th largest economies in the world as a united collective. We should not jump on the bandwagon that they want to split up now. For centuries, they weathered the storms of progress together and this is the lesson we need to imbibe. What is this lesson you say? At our level of development and in view of global events, UNITED WE STAND AND DIVIDED WE FALL!
2.05 I can see it’s time to call a spade a spade and not a farm implement. The recent agitation for nationhood on the part of some nationalities in the world is nothing more than a reflection of what you are doing here – irredentism gone too far! This argument wants people to revert to Neanderthals who identify with only those in their cave system. If we continue breaking down all current nations and states into nationalities and ethnic groups because we are dissatisfied with our level of autonomy or how we are treated in the collective, where do we stop? If we agree to say a Yoruba nation or an Igbo nation, how long before we want an Egba nation or an Anioma nation? Or even an Owu nation or an Ika nation further down the line? I say let us build up our national identity, let us dwell on the ties that bind and let us strengthen the instruments of our unity. If people revere the dollar, it is because it is more valuable. What do we do? Make the Naira stronger! And of course there is nationalist sentiment to it, what else do you call the fact that a Tiv in the UK says that BACK HOME he uses the naira? As does the Ibibio in the US or an Hausa in China. The naira is at the base of our national economic system and is used in even the remotest markets in the nation, if it fluctuates, it affects every Nigerian. This is beyond “because it is necessary”.
3.02 A reminder please. YOU brought up Pan-Europeanism and I queried why you believe in it and not the Nigerian nation. Like I said in my rebuttal, the common European culture you seem to buy into is highly divisive especially among the same people that make up it. In fact, Christianity is the most controversial aspect leading to the exclusion of any reference to it or God in the recent European Constitution. So enough already! I have already spoken of Pidgin as an example of our wazobia and dressing is another. You’ll be right 90% of the time to say an Agbada wearing Blackman is a Nigerian but probably wrong when you try to guess his ethnicity. I would not also discount Nollywood or our religions which are no less Nigerian for being adapted. Bollywood is inherently Indian and there are Christians in S. Korea and Muslims in Indonesia. This takes nothing away from their nationhood or culture and infact the motto of the last is literarily, “many yet one” (Unity in Diversity).
4.00 I observed and want to point out that my opponent had no disproof to my assertion that social engineering for a national identity has been going on for decades in Nigeria since before independence and in so doing, no one has been compelled to drop their ethnic identity. I also put forward that majority of Nigerians have a common positive consciousness and a group memory of national events even though maybe not so dated. Again it seems my opponent concurs. One thing is apparent from his further arguments. He has completely moved base. From “Nigerian Nigerians”, we see “we Nigerians”, “our collective interest” and “our peoples”. From “never a nation”, it is now “no truly national…”. Even though I have to do some more persuasion to convince my opponent, I rejoice my esteemed audience because we have won a CONVERT! Nigeria IS a nation!
4.01 I accept that Nigeria was birthed by a foreign entity to serve specific interests but those reasons are not AS valid today as even 50 years ago and accounts for why it seems we got our independence on a platter of gold. The foremost nationalists decided at independence to remain one nation Nigeria and one assumes they agreed that our collective self-interest would be best served that way. The world has changed and continues to do so, there is ongoing political manoeuvring that the nation had tapped into with relative edge as presently constituted. However, it may be time to again systematically address the full ramifications of our nationhood and fashion out a position of stronger advantage in the new international arrangements.
4.02 There are truly national institutions in Nigeria and there are contiguous development plans but the question is how strong are they? Who are those building upon them and what are their credentials? What is the frame of mind of those they are supposed to benefit? There is definitely a lot of work needed to bring our nation to its supposed level. A place of progress, a place of power and a place of unity.
4.03 My opponent may regard national anthems and flags as props but they are still a part though not all of our national identity. They might be second hand but can they be internalised? I will tell a story. I once went with a friend to visit the grandmother in a rural part of Nigeria. My friend teased the old woman of a 1976 almanac that still had pride of place on the living room wall and asked if it was to mark a family birth or death. The granny replied Mba nu! E furo asambodo flag e se na enu ya? (Oh no! can’t you see the large flag on top?) This was a 60+ woman with basic missionary school education but she had been at one of the events where the flag was hoisted during independence and had since cherished it. It is also my experience that most homes have an old almanac, a current calendar or similar “trivia” which contains an image of the flag, the coat of arms, a government seal and sometimes the anthem and pledge. That the government does not pursue an active policy of integrating the flag into everyday life or that its agencies do not preserve their flags are just more symptoms of inadequate leadership and lack of maintenance culture in all aspects of our polity.
4.04 Spiritual attachments do not occur overnight nor do they come easily. I personally would not advocate that we attach spiritual relevance to our national symbols no matter how patriotic I am. However I would that as many people as possible recognise these instruments for what they represent, as figurative of our collective identity and respect them as such. My opponent has singled out the Aba women’s uprising as being the easiest to attack. Even though this happened at a time when the means of communication was very limited, I can assure him that it was very significant outside its area for those who cared to know. It has remained a subject of study and an unparalleled mythology in the annals of the Nigerian nation.
4.05 My dear opponent it is surely the fact; over 60% of Nigerians live in rural communities. But it would be stretching it too far to assume that they would or did not attend school. Nigeria has a literacy rate of almost 70% all of whom passed through primary school where nationalism is part of the curriculum. And even if it is just half of the 25 – 55 years population estimated at 60million that have fraternised in university and NYSC, that is sufficient. We are talking roughly 100million people who imbibed our nationhood as children and nearly 30 million who have been able to experience at least another state from theirs as adults. This is without doubt not any minority elite but a majority, a critical mass one might even argue. That said, not everything needs to be learnt in schools and colleges. Town hall and village square meetings can sometimes achieve more than any intellectual exercise can if well utilised.
4.06 As can be seen from the preceeding paragraph, there is no delusional reality and no two worlds. However there is no gainsaying the fact that hard deeds are needed to strengthen our collective identity. It has been started but needs to be sustained and necessarily be given more momentum in order to realize its aims.
I want to correct another of my opponents continuing misconstruction; China had never been under European supremacy. One cannot regard foreign concessions or treaty ports that account for less than 10% of land area or 1% governance as domination. My opponent then ends with an outright fallacy, “Only in Nigeria (and other African countries) do we have this prevalence of leaders whose Holy Lands are far from where they were born.” If I should start listing all the nations that reveal this notion for the misleading myth that it is, I might have to name virtually all the countries of the world. I will stop at asking my very intelligent opponent if he actually believes that Sultan Hassanal of Brunei is closer to Mecca than President Yar Adua or whether GW Bush is closer to Jerusalem than VP Goodluck Jonathan. Talk about faulty paradigms, there is another one right there.
My dearest opponent, I have definitely enjoyed this bout. A conversion already and not much of a struggle against persuasion. Looking forward to more agreeable rounds.
1.00 It has been a great pleasure for me to participate in this debate. I thank my magnificent opponent for her contributions...iron sharpens iron indeed. I also thank all contributors who have made this one of the most rewarding experiences I have had on NVS and, last but not least, I thank the Moderator for a job well done. I shall now make my last submission in this debate. In the course of this, I shall hopefully clarify the arguments I have used to support my position.
2.01 Aside from human, there are two other identities that are natural to me. I am an African and, I am Yoruba. These are two identities with meanings that come from the same sources I emerged from. My opponent has tried to claim validity for a third identity: the Nigerian, but, I have countered by saying that since no ancestor of mine had a hand in the crafting of this identity and, since I have never been called upon to ratify this identity, I see no reason why I should set great store by it.
2.02 Since the only account I have regarding the manufacture of this identity requires me to acknowledge the guiding hand of an alien species in my creation, deep down, because I have pride, I have rejected this creation story. I reject the creation story that tells me I was made by the British. Therefore, I find it hard to feel a natural affinity towards this Nigerian identity.
2.03 I have also said that since I well know the reason why the aliens who manufactured this identity did what they did, I see no reason why I may not question, at this moment in time when I am supposed to be free from the shackles of imperialism, the necessity of retaining the remnants of those imperialist shackles.
3.01 Truth be said, in spite of my stated opinions in the course of this debate, I cannot deny that this identity and the appendages that come with it (like a passport) are things that are convenient at this moment in time. However, to be of temporal convenience does not bestow an entity with a type of divine right that must never be challenged. I have the right to challenge the assumptions upon which the Nigerian state rests its claims of being a nation and, if the validity of these assumptions cannot be proved, then in truth, this Nigerian state exists as nothing more than an instrument of tyranny. And, no free-thinking human would give his/her allegiance to an instrument of tyranny.
4.01 Which is why I stated that "This Nigeria will never be a nation."
5.01 My opponent also tried to validate the idea of Nigeria as a nation by referring back to history. However, this required her to make leaps into the realms of magic realism as she somehow managed to present events and relationships that had existed prior to the invention of the word Nigeria as both Nigerian history and proof of Nigeria's long-time existence. Magical realism as I said, since for one to believe in such a re-ordering of history, one would have to be able to believe in things like sons that can give birth to their own fathers or, eggs that can be broken, fried and still produce a hen.
5.02 Like my opponent, I was born into this Nigerian identity. Like her, I am used to it. However, when I try to look for a reason why I should embrace it with the same unconditional natural love that I feel for my other three identities, the only excuse that I can find is that it pleases my vanity to be able to claim that I belong to the most populated country in Africa. It pleases my vanity whenever I hear it said that one out of every four Africans on Earth is a Nigerian. In other words, it pleases my vanity to be a member of something that is so prominent.
5.03 It is as pleasing to my vanity much in the same way that a wriggling fat worm at the end of a hook is pleasing to the sight of a fish.
6.01 My opponent tried to convince me that the flag of Nigeria was a national symbol. I replied partly by informing her that in truth, that flag was nothing more than a piece of cloth which Nigerians display because they have learned that countries must display national flags. The flag, I informed my opponent, is just another of our borrowed descriptions of reality. The flag, does not possess the deep spiritual meaning that all truly national symbols possess.
6.02 I gave as an example of this, the reverence with which the Ashanti regarded thier own national symbol: The Golden Stool. Unfortunately, at this point, my opponent made a terrible mistake as she allowed herself to be misled by an unscrupulous character (who I shall not name since I would not like to spoil my hard-earned reputation on NVS as one who is always painstakingly polite to all..).
6.03 This Machiavellian operator informed all and sundry that the Golden Stool of the Ashanti nation had been put on sale for $450. This was his way of showing that the Ashanti could not have much respect for this symbol of their nationhood if they were prepared to part with it for $450. What the Maradona failed to disclose was that the stool he spoke of was a replica! If the evil genius had ever been to Kumasi, he would have seen many such replicas for sale.....So much for the faking of a fact to discredit something that had only been presented as an example of what a national symbol truly was.
6.04 The Ashanti, if we remember our O Level History, went to war with the British because the head of the British invading force had possessed the liver to ask that the Golden Stool be brought before him so he could sit on it. The Ashanti gave the British a good thrashing (despite their disadvantage in weaponry) because these Africans did not hold the symbol of their nation in light regard. I doubt if any Nigerian will lose a minutes sleep over someone blowing out mucus on the Nigerian flag. Nor do I believe for one moment that Nigerians will come out with the same fury they did over the Danish cartoon nonsense even if someone made toilet papers in the same colors as the Nigerian flag.
6.05 In fact, the name of Nigeria is regularly besmirched by the world-wide media and the worst that happens is that Nigerians quarrel with each other because one side says all such insults are well deserved while another says the opposite. However, let anyone insult the Yoruba, the Igbo or the Ijaw in the same way Nigeria is regularly insulted and you will find that there is little disagreement over how severely the insults should be repudiated and returned to the sender(s). This, for me stands as proof that for most so-called Nigerians, allegiance to one's ancestral nation still takes precedence over allegiance to Nigeria itself.
7.01 Now, knowing this, I asked my opponent what country-wide institutions, movements or programs had been set up to inculcate a national spirit within Nigerians. She came up with moribund bodies/symbols like the Armed Forces, the Naira and, the NYSC. I did not want to point out that the youngest of these bodies had been operational for more than 30 years now...the others are as old as the Federal Republic itself. These bodies have been operational for this long, for a couple of generations....long enough for those born at their inception to have had children...long enough for them to have gained experience of the world and, to have learned fully well what the purposes behind the inception of these so-called symbols of nationality were. Yet, ethnicity and its many side-effects still play a part in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
7.02 How then can we deny the description of these so-called national institutions as moribund? My opponent also mentioned, in reply to another question, the name of Dr Dora Akunyili. This was my fault, I had asked her to name a him (or her). What I should have insisted upon was the name of an institution or the description of a set of effective country-wide programs. One tree does not make a forest. We remain optimistic but there is no reason to expect that at a given point in time, Dr Akunyili will not be made to move on and that the body she heads will not eventually become as moribund as the others.
8.01 There were also two other gambits that my opponent hoped would help her dislodge me from my convictions.
8.021 First, she said that Nigeria, though a conglomerate of multiple ethnicities, could lay claim to nationhood because other similar conglomerates like the United Kingdom were also nations that were made up of multiple ethnicities.
8.022 What she failed to acknowledge of course were these truths : (i) The Union between Scotland and England was ratified by the Houses of Parliament of Scotland and England in 1707. Please note that this union was not imposed upon the Scots and the English by Zulu or Japanese people; these Europeans sat down and worked out a program by themselves. In spite of this, in fact almost immediately after the politicians ratified it, a growing number of Scots protested against it...protests that go on until this very day even as the re-convened Scottish Parliament sits again in Scotland (many centuries following its dissolution) and, as a result of this national consensus, the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) continues with its program of achieving full separation from the United Kingdom. (ii) The Welsh Parliament is also once again sitting in Wales and the Welsh Nationalist Party (Plaid Cymrru) is determined to achieve full separation from the United Kingdom. (iii) In Ireland, one of the parties from the ruling coalition (Sinn Fein) is determined to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and to re-unite the whole Irish isle under Irish rule once again.
8.023 From the above, we can see that the British doctors who prescribed this type of multi-ethnic 'nation' to Africans no longer believe in its efficacy. However, the patient is stubborn. Now, we claim to know better. What a selective (and weird) manner we have when it comes to asserting our independence of thought!
8.031 The other gambit used by my opponent was to counter my recollections of bloody ethnic divisions by comparing such events to conflicts between Yoruba and conflicts between Igbo.
8.032 The fact that people fight amongst themselves does not invalidate their existence as a nation for as long as such an existence predates the reasons behind the conflict.
8.033 Such intra-ethnic conflict is what is properly known as a civil war. The reason such a term was invented was in order that intra-ethnic conflict be differentiated from inter-ethnic conflict. The fighting that occurred in Yoruba lands during the mid-1960s was a civil war. The fighting that occurred between Biafra and Nigeria was a war. It was not a civil war.
8.034 To see properly what I mean in the paragraph above, I refer you to the statement made in paragraph 8.032. The reasons for the intra-ethnic conflicts spoken of by my opponent do not predate the existence of the Yoruba as a distinct nationality or, of the Igbo as a distinct nationality. However, the reasons for the conflict between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and The Republic of Biafra were completely sourced from within the existence of Nigeria itself. Currently, it can also be said that the reasons for the ongoing conflicts in the Niger Delta are to do with the existence of Nigeria. Therefore, it can be said that while conflicts that are related to internal power dynamics may occur within an ethnic group in Nigeria, such conflicts cannot be likened to wars that are fought solely for the purpose of maintaining the existence of the geographical space Nigeria as it is.
8.035 While it may be hard for those who are far removed from the arenas in which these wars are taking place (and the arenas in which other wars to maintain the existence of Nigeria took place in the past), a recourse to the human ability to feel empathy would surely tell them that a body cannot describe itself as one nation for as long as integral parts of the declared nation remain outside of the benefits attached to the existence of the so-called nation and, are in fact subjected to hostile actions by ones who are allegedly fellow nationals. It is self-deception of the most destructive order to expect that a nation called Nigeria will come into being while groups like MEND, OPC, MASSOB etc. (groups whose words and actions are whole-heartedly supported by millions of Nigerians) have not being invited to provide actionable inputs into the project.
8.041 My opponent also persisted with her attempt to discredit my description of China as a country that had once being under European domination. According to her, because the Europeans had only ever occupied a fraction of China, they could not be said to be have been dominating the country. This is of course is the same kind of short-sightedness that causes some Nigerians to describe their country as a sovereign nation simply because the so-called head-of-state goes out dressed in agbada (or babanriga). The Chinese were under foreign domination because their political as well as economic capitals were under the control of European powers. If she would still argue a point of view contrary to this, I would like to see her explain why it was that in spite of the Chinese ruler's opposition, the British were still able to impose the trade of opium on the Chinese Empire.
8.042 It should also be remembered of course that during the British imperialist occupation of Africa, there were only ever a few British officers on the ground. The real estate that was actually occupied by Europeans in places like Nigeria was also fractional.
8.05 Then, in trying to justify the reasons why our Africans 'leaders' were right to look thousands of miles away from their own ancestral lands for the abode on Earth of their Creator, my opponent forgot that Europe had been in the so-called Holy Land of Judea for centuries before the birth of Jesus the Christ. The Greeks had ruled and settled in Judea during the time of Alexander and, other Europeans of Mediterranean origins (e.g Romans) had also been present as settlers and rulers in the Biblical lands for centuries before (and immediately after) 4AD. All this of course before we consider the truth that those who were in charge during the collation of the doctrines that we later inherited as Christianity were people of European origins. As for the Sultan of Brunei, if my opponent had looked a bit closer, she might have discovered that this man is actually one from a lineage that claims partial descent from the Prophet of Islam.
9.00 I end by reminding my opponent that I only state that which truly governs the outlook of many who though they reel out mealy-mouthed platitudes about their beloved 'nation' Nigeria, actually show by their actions that they do not have a milligram of belief in such a concept. I thank you all.
1.00 I thank my dear opponent for another opportunity to spar with words.
2.01 – 2.03 I will disregard the first part of my opponents arguments as it is off-topic and adds nothing to this debate. They are his individual feelings and have very little bearing on our topic which assumes a collective. I am sure he is aware that some people do not set great store by their family lineage how much more an ethnic or national identity. But make no mistake about it, from the first local representation in the legislative council in 1922 and onwards, most of the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria have had their ancestry participate in one way or another in the nation’s creation story and mythology.
3.01 This here is one of the reasons I loved this debate, my opponent is very honest. He is in denial and he says he cannot deny it. He admits to his national identity even if qualifying it as a temporal convenience. He forgets that his right to question the validity of nationhood rests solely on the back of this identity. If there was no Nigeria and he was not a national, there would be no right and nothing to challenge! I, personally would not pledge allegiance to an instrument of tyranny nor would I wish it on my worst enemy.
4.01 Which is why I have proved to the best of my knowledge the underpinnings of the nationhood of Nigeria. I insist that saying that “This Nigeria will never be a nation” is a fallacy and a null hypothesis.
5.01 One calls what he does not understand magic. My opponent says it is “magical realism” to present events prior to our amalgamation and the birth of the nation as Nigerian history. While I would point out to him that I never listed these events among our collective national history, I reiterate that they form part of what make us Nigerian. The Nigerian nation does not rule out the ethnic identities of its nationalities nor their influence on the current identity being forged. My opponents illustrations of re-ordering history reminds me of another story. A distant relation of mine was born with a rough black patch of skin on his abdomen; it was in the shape of a circle with a ragged edge. His grandfather had died of a bullet wound to the exact same spot a couple of weeks before his son (my relation’s father) was born.
5.02 I want to put it to my opponent that vanity is a bedrock of any identity to which one claims affinity. My opponent claims natural love for humanity, being African and Yoruba. How unconditional is this identity and can he deny that there is an element of vanity involved? For instance, what collective does he share with Caucasians or Asians or he is just proud that humans have superior intellect over other animals? Was my opponent there when Africa was so named or he is vain enough to believe that he is from the continent where black peoples originated? Does my opponent also claim the Arab legacy of Oduduwa or his vanity blinds him to this and some other aspects of his Yoruba heritage?
5.03 Frankly, I accept the vanity in my Nigerian identity and I wish that my opponent embrace his and revel in it. Like me.
6.01 Yes, the concept of flags is borrowed, just as is the language and the technology that enables this debate. And just as our exchange is real, there can be no denying the reality of the green white green as a true national symbol.
6.02 – 6.03 My dearest opponent, if I was misled, it was through no other character but you. You provided the link to the FOR SALE golden stool which was of such deep spiritual meaning to the Ashanti. Of course I knew that the picture was a replica (with more copies) and so said “for sale not even to the highest bidder but to all comers for a paltry $450”.
6.04 Thank you for the refresher course in Ghanaian history, no? OK African history of the Ashanti. Several nationalities within the Nigerian nation also went to war with the British and won a few of their battles at worse disadvantage. Bear in mind that today the Ashanti are a nationality within the Ghanaian nation and can not go to war with anybody as a nation. By the way, people own handkerchiefs in the same colours as the American flag and I doubt anybody loses sleep when they are used as meant for, not to talk of that nation going to war.
6.05 NOTE: Our debate is not about which identity takes precedence over the other among individual nationals. Is the Nigerian identity there at all and will it remain? The answer is a big loud YES! Note again that the Nigerian nation would not stand by and allow another nation (not any media) to blatantly abuse its integrity, population, territory or otherwise.
7.01 I have to repeat that as far as I know, it is not a part of the strategy of the Nigerian nation to obliterate the ethnic identities of its many nationalities. They are a part of what makes us who we are and they will continue to play a significant role in the activities and decisions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. What needs to be guarded against are those who would use these factors to foment trouble and disunity in order to achieve their personal ends.
7.02 Thanks for not seeking to tarnish the image of Dr. Akunyili or those who like her, work tireless towards the upliftment of the nation. True, one tree does not a forest make but we must not also for the forest lose sight of the individual trees that make it up including the saplings. If we must remain optimistic, we must put away those cynical ideas and retain only ‘the audacity of hope’.
8.01 At this stage, I have to point out that I have indeed dislodged you from your convictions, though you still persist in some misconstructions. Infact you gone ahead to take a few lessons in sophistry from the my friend Wigwe Agbo Yohann Odoh.
8.021 – 8.023 Make way, make way, one straw man coming up… I never said Nigeria is a nation BECAUSE other multi-ethnic nations are. You may have heard that correlation does not equal causation. This invalidates your argument in 8.022 even though it is fact. As for 8.023, yes, sometimes patients do know better than their doctors or haven’t you ever experienced that?
8.031 – 8.033 What a piece of negative historical revisionism. WHAT A PIECE OF BUNKUM! At best this attempt at such convoluted reasoning can be called a logical fallacy but really it is just arrant nonsense!
8.034 Let us consider this carefully. My opponent said, “The reasons for the intra-ethnic conflicts … do not predate the existence of the Yoruba as a distinct nationality”. Let me rephrase this, the reasons for the Ife-Modakeke conflict was sourced from within the existence of the Yoruba nation. This is not different from his next statement, “the reasons for the conflict between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and The Republic of Biafra were completely sourced from within the existence of Nigeria” rephrased as, the reasons for the Nigeria-Biafra war do not predate the existence of Nigeria as a distinct nation. Conclusion? The Nigeria- Biafra war was a civil war as accurately recorded by history! Let me also correct that it was not fought SOLELY to maintain the geographical space. Many fought and died for the ideal of our nationhood, what else explains the fact that some from the different warring geographical areas fought on the other side so to say?
8.035 As one whose roots and identity is attached to those arenas in which great conflict is taking place in Nigeria and where they took place in the past, I can authoritatively tell my opponent that this is beyond empathy. It is said that those who hurt you the most are those closest to you, and that is why relations in Nigeria are so acrimonious. It is because we share so much collective history that the hostile actions of our brothers hurt us so deeply. As for MEND etc. Kenn1 sums it nicely, “…our agitation and attempt to create a better and fairer nation does not mean there is no nation already. If, as you’ve admitted, there’s a nation in the physical (geographical) and legal sense, then it goes without saying that there’s a nation in the spirit sense as well. Every living form has a spirit and so is an entity comprised of people, no matter what you choose to call it...”
8.041 I maintain that the Chinese were never under European domination. Even though the British won the opium war and were able to get treaties that enabled them continue this deleterious trade, they never governed the Chinese. China was never a colony of Britain or any European nation.
8.042 This is more than real estate or the foreign peoples on ground in Africa during the colonial times. This is about governance in all its ramifications.
8.05 My opponent may not be a Christian but as a good student of history he should be aware that there have been Africans in the Biblical lands also from before and after Christ. The Queen of Sheba was a very close confidant of King Solomon and Phillip in the NT Acts, converted an eunuch who was a senior official of another Ethiopian Queen. Religion like I have earlier said, is a personal choice and not a basis for nationhood or leadership. If I accept that GW bush has European antecedents and that accounts for his Christianity, would my opponent also accept that the Roman Catholic Lula of Brazil and the Presbyterian president-elect of S. Korea quash his “Africans and Holy Lands” theory? Sultan of Brunei may claim to be descended from Mohammed but I am sure that not all leaders of the Muslim Far East can make the same claims. By the way, there are enough Muslim Nigerians with ancestral ties to Mecca (Yoruba included) and Arabia to make this a moot point.
9.00 I will conclude by reminding my opponent that though I do not presume to speak for many, I know that I have advanced cogent reasons for anyone to be convinced that Nigeria is a nation and there is a viable chance that it will remain so. What citizens such as he and myself should be doing is to work with this nation to achieve its goals and thereby positively impact on the collective of its component peoples.
Finally, dear opponent, the pleasure of this debate has been mine and I thank you for your intelligent contributions and those who were gracious enough to leave their thoughts in the related thread. My thanks also goes to the whole village, the topic of this particular debate has opened my eyes to why most of us write here and to see what we write in a clearer way. I strengthened my stand with ideas picked from some corners and my opposition was sharpened for what I read in others. It has been some time since I enjoyed such mind games and my position was made harder because I usually find myself singing my opponent’s blues. So I thank him for this opportunity to look at the issue comprehensively from another angle.
Thank you to the moderator and our esteemed audience…
Eja and Mulan. I am blown away. You guys are hot. And to think both of ya'll grew up in Naija. Now i know there is hope for our country if only our youngmen /women will stand up for what is right. Bravo guys.
I've produced my summary of the positions made in the debate regarding the central position - that Nigeria will never be a nation. So I've left off the points referring to events in Europe, America and Asia.
I'm not even sure it's a perfect summary - I'd appreciate it if the Debaters could go through and ensure that I haven't misrepresented any of their positions.
My summary of Eja's positions are as follows:
- Leaders of thought in Nigeria are not supportive of actions that would enable Nigerians to recognise themselves as Nigerians. Such leaders belong to one of several interest groups - groups which are divided by region, ethnicity or religion. The existence of such divisions works against the formation of a true nation, because any Nigerian leader will tend to serve the interests of his group rather than that of the nation. It is this tendency for leaders to put their ethnic group ahead of the nation that has led to the current dismal state of affairs in Nigeria. This state of affairs is not helped by the dearth of cross-ethnic and cross-religious groups and initiatives to help to bridge these divides - and even those that do exist are largely ineffective.
- The creation of Nigeria was an act of force by a foreign power, and neither Nigerians nor their ancestors had a say in it. In addition, the reason that this foreign power created Nigeria is objectionable to many Nigerians. Therefore, Nigerians identify more strongly with their ethnic group than they do with Nigeria itself. Indeed, Nigerians regard other Nigerians who are not from their ethnic group as foreigners, so they don't feel any obligation towards Nigeria itself. It also means they mentally divide Nigeria into the part that their ethnic group lives in, and the rest of Nigeria. And it means that any act carried out by a Nigerian is always viewed from an ethnic viewpoint.
Such a way of mentally dividing people is very real and not unique to Nigerians; the phenomenon has been observed in other nations with many ethnic groups. However, it is pronounced in Nigeria because most Nigerians tend to live amongst their own kind, thus reinforcing the Nigerian's belief in the primacy of his ethnic group.
- Each of the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria believe that their group must be fiercely defended against other ethnic groups in Nigeria. They also believe that such other groups deserve to be taken advantage of. These beliefs mean that it is impossible for these groups to coexist in peace and thus build up a united Nigeria. The evidence of these antagonistic attitudes is the ethnic and religious riots that have occurred in various parts of the nation.
- If the strong attachment that Nigerians have to their ethnic group could be broken, or if it could be replaced with an attachment to a non-ethnic group, then it might be credible to talk of the emergence of a true Nigerian nation. But there is no group or organisation that has the currently ability or resources to do break this attachment. And even if there were, there would be extreme resentment from each Nigerian at being made to drop his ethnic identity for another one.
- Nigerians only have a history of being created as a result of the conquest of the political entities that their ancestors belonged to. Such entities did not have a shared history of positive achievements. So there is nothing to look back to in order to inspire the Nigerian today about Nigeria - nothing that any Nigerian leader can use to rally his citizens together in times of crisis.
- There are none of the building blocks of nationhood visible in present day Nigeria - no common culture, no common history, no common language. And even if there were people interested in developing these, it is in the personal interest of Nigerian leaders who serve their ethnic or religious groups to act against any such initiatives.
- There are very few truly Nigerian symbols that one can point to - and even those do not inspire feelings of reverence in Nigerians, as they are used more out of convenience than out of desire. They certainly do not make Nigerians feel any less attached to their ethnic groups.
My summary of Mulan's positions are as follows:
- Nigeria may have been created by a foreign power, but it exists today as an internationally recognised self-governing political entity - an entity whose self-determination was won by people of different ethnic groups. As a self-governing entity, Nigeria's direction for nearly fifty years has come from Nigerians themselves. Under their direction, there have been several organisations which have been created since independence to foster a goal of unity, such as the National Youth Service Corps. And a majority of people have been affected in one way or the other by the various programs and policies of these organisations so that they have an awareness of what it is to be a Nigerian.
- There have also been a number of national symbols created since independence, such as the National Flag. Such symbols may not yet have attained the position of deep reverence amongst Nigerians, but this is unsurprising as it takes a long time for this to happen. However, even in Nigeria's relatively short history as an independent nation, there are signs that Nigerians do recognise these symbols as special.
- The history of Nigerians predates the advent of the colonialists, as Nigerians had been interacting long before then. Even during the era of the colonialists, there were several notable events in which Nigerians had a positive role. And since independence, this history has continued to grow to include various events that have affected people nationwide - events that are registered on the consciousness of Nigerians in a very distinctive and particular way.
- The history of Nigeria also includes several personalities who are viewed with admiration by Nigerians across all ethnic groups. Such a phenomenon would not be observable in a Nigeria that was divided with ethnic hatred.
- There are many areas in Nigeria where people not indigenous to the area have moved to and settled in; indeed, there are areas where the settlers outnumber the indigenes. The freedom and confidence of such people to settle in an area of the country far from their native home is a sign of recognition and belief in a Nigerian nation. And as Nigerians continue to interact with one another through such migration, some cross-cultural features such as pidgin are beginning to develop. These features could form part of the the building blocks of nationhood.
- The fact of tension and violence between the various ethnic groups in Nigeria is not sufficient reason to declare the concept of Nigerian nationhood an impossibility; after all, these are problems that beset any nation, even ethnically homogenous ones. Indeed, if we are to assume that the solution to the inter-ethnic tensions in Nigeria is for each group to form a separate nation, there could end up being an endless spiral of divisions as the people in each nations now realise that in spite of their common language, they still have very real divisions amongst themselves.
- The constitution or laws that have been drawn up since independence have always been written with the goal of furthering national identity; that such an identity has not been yet created is more the fault of the implementors than the constitution or laws themselves.
- There are few areas in Nigeria that can truly be described as ethnic enclaves with their own economic system. But these are the kind of enclaves that would develop in a truly disunited Nigeria.
- Just because Nigerians have an attachment to their ethnic group does not preclude them from also having a strong attachment to their nation. In other words, it is possible to be a passionate Nigerian as well as a passionate member of an ethnic group in Nigeria.
- Even if a Nigerian declares that he has no affinity to Nigeria, by using its symbols and observing its laws, he is still acknowledging its existence, its reality.
SLB the Moderator, thank you for the fantastic job. You were always present but never intrusive: The defining mark of a great referee.
I find your summary of my position to be most satisfactory. I would only ask that since you removed all reference to events/circumstances in Europe, Asia and America, the passage that read "There are none of the building blocks of nationhood visible in present day Nigeria - no common culture, no common history, no common language..." should have made it clear that what I meant was : There is no common indigenous culture, common indigenous history and, no common indigenous language.
This amendment illustrates the point I was trying to make when I brought in examples from the development of nations of European and Asiatic origins.
Thank you once again for this very enjoyable and rewarding experience.
May the natural springs of Kunustan never run dry.
Congrats on this fine debate, which should be a benchmark/reference point for future debates in the crucible.
Mulan, i'd like to debate you, but having seen what you can do, fear catch me no be small....
Big-K, no fear. You go enjoy am kpankpanrankpan even as she dey fire you wit koboko...
But no be say ah dey talk say she bulala me O....en-hen, make ah talk dat one solid gedegbe bifor Kenn1 come wit him boasting begin say tings laik "ah no talk am? Mulan na de greatest, Mulan na de coca in cola, Mulan na de dis, Mulan na de dat...Mulan na de ahhhhh!! wey dey inside cold water on a hot day..." etc. etc.
Big-K, no fear. You go enjoy am kpankpanrankpan even as she dey fire you wit koboko...
But no be say ah dey talk say she bulala me O....en-hen, make ah talk dat one solid gedegbe bifor Kenn1 come wit him boasting begin say tings laik "ah no talk am? Mulan na de greatest, Mulan na de coca in cola, Mulan na de dis, Mulan na de dat...Mulan na de ahhhhh!! wey dey inside cold water on a hot day..." etc. etc.
Ha! Ha! Ha! Fear is the key that unlocks the mind of the Villager!
By the way, I'll want it known that Mulan will be better, far better, than Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala!