OOTC: Why I am an entrepreneur in the business of nation building (2) – Chude Jideonwo

Then there is the long-term advantage – and this is the more important one for the future of our nation: what roles can business thinking and the entrepreneurial spirit play in reshaping the Nigerian society?

To answer, you may first ask the more fundamental questions: what is the role of business, and how can business deploy its unique capacities to transform Nigeria in a way that civil society and public office has yet failed to do up until now?

The tragedy of capitalism has been that, business, a beautiful thing that – like other organs of society – is supposed to contribute to the building of the nation, has been narrowed to a vehicle solely for profit.

This is an aberration. Profit is the engine of business, but this engine has purpose: the purpose is to surrender to the discipline of the market, so that that it is forced to innovate, to iterate, to adapt; to respond to the world as it is, and make it into what it can be.

Nigeria’s problem, caused by its poor leadership is, at the base of it, a collapse of order, of the systems and the architecture that provides sustained value. It is a complete failure of systems thinking.

This is where entrepreneurs thrive. In the absence of systems, they create them. Where people look and see darkness, they see opportunity. From the stones of failure, they map out value. They bring order to chaos, and replace waste with profit.

Others see red tape, and the entrepreneur sees a virgin market; they see pioneer status, and they see first mover advantages.

Unfortunately, in response to this abundance of opportunity our country’s challenges throw up, what have a new breed of businessmen and women been focused on?

More e-commerce companies. As if we live in a different reality from the rest of our nation.

Is Nigeria’s problem the lack of yet another online mall, or is it a collapse of basic infrastructure, the social fabric and the demonstrable power of good governance?

Why are we so dedicated to solving the problems we do not have, when the problems that we have demand urgent solutions? Why are we dead-set on replicating solutions designed for other climes with different sets of challenges, when we have enough of our own?

It is to this voice that entrepreneurs must turn their gifts.

So the question is: how can we apply the fundamentals of business strategy, and the underlying demands of creating a national competitive advantage to regenerating our country?

The challenge is stark. We need investors and creators in health care, human resources, agriculture, technology, manufacturing, in entertainment and across sectors who can get right to the task of building solutions that will actually make governance work, and work for the people.

We have tried to work around governance as entrepreneurs – and all it has done is enriched our pockets while leaving us in an unsafe country with decrepit hospitals.

We have successful businesses all around us now, but what has their narrow focus on making profits done for us as a people – how has the massive shareholder value they have created helped move Nigeria to where it can be? Desperate times call for innovation.

This is where companies like StateCraft are proud to step in – its key product line being people-power; and, when this product line works at optimum, electoral victory.

Thankfully, it is not alone. Andela is solving the problem of our national human resource gap, BudgIT is solving the problem of corruption via access to government data, and my favourite company LifeBank is tackling head on the urgent life-and-death issue of providing blood for the many who need it in emergency situations.

Some of the companies above have not yet, like us, found a business model that drives their economic engine (i.e. who will pay for this product/service continuously), but it is a shame that many of them remain afloat today not by the urgency of Nigerian investment, but by the charity of foreign visionaries like the Zuckerberg-Chan Foundation, and the Omidyar Network.

Nigeria has a blood bank problem. Unlike South Africa that meets its donor needs on a volunteer basis, we only survive based on paying people for blood, and yet we are functioning at below 10 percent capacity, according to Temie Giwa, who founded LifeBank.

To solve this problem, she has decided to run a business, to ensure sustainability. That business functions as an enterprise marketplace for hospitals and blood banks, helping clients source for the best blood and blood products that patients need and delivering the product to patients on time, via an inventory of all the blood available in the country at any time.

She needs the financial runway to keep thinking until she arrives at a business model. But where are the helpers? Where are the investors?

Giwa’s business is literally – literally – saving lives. But she cannot scale yet because local investors are still stuck in an old, warped paradigm where saving lives is something separate from the demands of successful business.

This has to end. Old models must be overturned, old paradigms discarded, and traditional boundaries pushed forward – those lines that separate corporate social responsibility from the core of a business or that isolate advocacy from the core idea of what business should stand for.

Those are false lines, they are lines drawn by the selfish and the insular who have inverted the beauty of capitalism and distorted the pure idea of corporate value.

Business, like any other organ cannot, and in a new world should no longer, be separated from the public good.

Business, like other pillars of society – clergy, civil society – can and should stand in the gap where government has failed, driving social good, and expanding social value. The imperative is not to focus on profits as end for itself, but for profits to be incentive for innovation and creating the future.

It is possible.

Now, of course I understand the reluctance that business people traditionally have had for getting involved in the morass of Nigerian governance and its gaps.

Of course, you will face criticism, sometimes rabid, for problems you did not create and for solutions you are providing with purity of intention. Indeed, there is the great risk to be misunderstood in a deeply corrupt system, where profit is viewed as a dirty word, and self-interest is hardly enlightened.

And there will be those, caught in a cognitive dissonance, themselves disconnected from the imperatives of intervention, who will tell you that because you are in business, you have no business with building your nation.

But that is nonsense.

It is nonsense because whether activist or entrepreneur, painter or pastor, you are first and foremost a citizen – and it is immoral to focus only on protecting your business and winning contracts, feigning disinterest and blindness in nation desperate with need.

I was excited to convince one of the leading lights of the new entrepreneurial movement in Nigeria last year upon speaking at the Oxford Africa Business Conference.

“The first time I had the opportunity to speak to Chude of RED at length was at the Oxford Africa Business conference in May. It was a very pleasant conversation. At least, so I thought,” wrote the founder of iROKO TV, Jason Njoku, wrote after that talk. “Literally 20 mins later, he called me and mine cowards in front of 100+ people. That’s hyperbole. He didn’t call me personally a coward per se.

“He railed against all those men (and women) of means in Lagos who live in their gilded cages. Flaunting their prosperity, who speed past the problems of the masses. In a country where someone’s monthly salary is the same as an expensive meal on the Island. That those of means had a moral responsibility to do something about it.”

So yes, it is nonsense for anyone to tell you to mind your business. It is your moral responsibility to mind your country, too.

It is also nonsense because you have a unique talent, gift and proposition – the entrepreneurial, outcome-focused thinking that is crucial for a country of many problems.

And, most importantly, it is nonsense because the nation badly, desperately needs you.

At times of luxury, we can all afford the luxury of being part time citizens. But in a country so damaged, we surely cannot afford the luxury of disconnect, and we cannot rely on tradition and convention.

We need activist judges, activist academics, activist celebrities, activist lawyers, activist media, activist government officials (see former United States Attorney General, Sally Yates standing up to Trump or former Nigerian minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili being called ‘NADECO’ in the Obasanjo government), and we need activist businessmen and women.

At times like these, when governments have proven themselves incapable of doing the jobs they have been asked to do, it is time for a different type of thinking from other organs of functioning society.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg unleashed what I call his magnum opus on how he sees the world and the role of business in that world.

Facebook, according to him, is not just a technology tool to upload photos and publish videos. It is an instrument to remake society.

Facebook, as Vox.com put it in a review of Zuckerberg’s essay, is poised to be a platform on which to build a global civil society, crating a service that encourages communities and cooperation and political participation on a translational scale.

In short, Facebook is not just in business to make money, even though money is crucially important. Facebook is, cliché or not, in the business of changing the world; providing alternatives that address the limitations of governments and civil society.

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present,” Abraham Lincoln sagely reminds us. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, act anew.”

This is the kind of challenge that a new world poses to the inventiveness and innovation of businessmen and women.

And, for Nigeria and much of Africa, it is a desperately urgent call.

We can choose to answer it.

Or we can wait until this whole thing comes crashing down, on all of us, destroying the illusions of safety that we have, and the broken-down society that we have chosen to ignore.

I wonder what will happen to all those shareholder profits if that day and time comes.

*Jideonwo is co-founder and managing partner of RED (www.redafrica.xyz), which brands including Y!/YNaija.com and governance consulting firm, StateCraft Inc (www.statecraftinc.com). Office of the Citizen (OOTC) is his latest essay series.

Obiageli Ezekwesili: The Role Of The Church In Nation Building

I am delighted at the privilege of being asked by the leadership of FOURSQUARE Church to deliver this Diamond Lecture in celebration of sixtieth year of the Church in Nigeria. Let me specially thank Reverend Felix Meduoye,  The General Overseer of FOURSQUARE for the honour he bestows on me whenever he asks me to speak to his congregation of fellow believers in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Please accept my congratulations for the Diamond celebration which is happening under your inspiring and visionary leadership. I wish to also thank a dear brother, Femi Adesina who pressed on until my very swampy schedule opened up to enable me fulfil the promise I made several months ago when I could not be with you at a similar event in Lagos. Speaker of our House of Representatives-  Honourable Yakubu Dogara, delighted to have you chair this event. Other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for being here today to listen to this lecture.
The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, commonly referred to as the Foursquare Church, is a Pentecostal denomination founded in 1923 by one of the historically outstanding female preachers — Aimee Semple McPherson in Los Angeles, United States of America. She it was who described the basis for the naming of the Church from the revelation of Prophet Ezekiel as recorded in the Bible depicting the four faces of God that he ( the prophet) had seen. Pastor Aimee McPherson elaborated this even further stating that the four faces “were like the four phases of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the face of the man, she saw Jesus our Saviour. In the face of the lion, she saw Jesus the mighty Baptiser with the Holy Spirit and fire. In the face of the ox, she saw Jesus the Great Burden-Bearer, who took our infirmities and carried our sicknesses. In the face of the eagle, she saw Jesus the Coming King, who will return in power and victory for the church. It was a perfect, complete Gospel. It was a Gospel that faces squarely in every direction; it was the “Foursquare Gospel.”
The church propounds that its call is to preach Jesus Christ, God’s Son, as The Savior, The Baptizer, The Healer and The Coming King. In so doing, it seeks to glorify God, advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus as it undertakes His Great Commission of preaching the gospel and making disciples of all nations. Over the ninety two years of existence, the Four Square has experienced successions which have helped with its growth into a world wide church. Today, the Foursquare Church has more than 1,700 U.S. churches and more than 66,000 churches globally and meeting places in 140 countries and territories.
Nigeria is one of those several countries in which FourSquare has flourished since the Reverend and Mrs. Harold Curtis first brought the message of Four Square to our country in 1955 to three founding members Reverend James Boyejo, Rev. Samuel Olusegun Odunaike and Rev. Friday Chinyere Osuwa. The year of the inauguration of the first FourSquare Church is remarkable seeing that it was just five years before Nigeria gained her independence. The Nigerian branch of the Church has since spread in prolific growth not just across the entire country but also across the continent of Africa. The FourSquare Church is according to data considered one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Nigeria.
The Bible documents  the spoken words of God to His people, written to shape the sacred beliefs of those who were first called Christians because their observers declared that “they had been with Christ” as they scrutinised their conducts in the city of Antioch.  So, it is natural for most people to assume that Church when defined as “organised gathering of people as a group and under some clear leadership” is a phenomenon only of the New Testament. The reality however, is that the Church evolved from the Old Testament into the New Testament in the form we know it today. It can be said that Church started in the Garden of Eden where God used to come down to fellowship with the first man that He had created- Adam; but that ‘gathering’ was interrupted by sin. The fall of Adam and Eve, aborted the awesome plan of God for humanity as expressed in Genesis. God subsequently made several other provisions, ranging from Noah to Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses, to Joshua, to Deborah, to Eli, to Samuel, to Elijah, Elisha and several other priests and prophets that were to “gather” God’s people regularly in harmonious fellowship with Him.
The New Testament church as recorded in Acts2 started at the Pentecost in the Upper Room led by the twelve Apostles of Christ and the many other believers in His teachings who gathered in fellowship after His death and resurrection. This piece of scripture  aptly captures this classic definition of the Church in its characteristic attributes.  Acts 2:42-47 records:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
The definition of Church as an “assembled group of people who met regularly under an organised leadership” places the emphasis on the human beings and why they gather much more than the building in which they do so. It is perhaps for this reason that Apostle Paul counsels the Hebrews to “not forsake the assembly of the brethren” making it all about relationship rather than a visit to a location. It is the people in fellowship with God and among themselves  more than where they gather that makes a gathering  of faithful followers of Christ, a Church of the modern ages.  The Early Church of the Acts of Apostles  still remains the model by which any gathering of people as Church is measured in terms of their relationship with God and with fellow believers and non-believers.
When we read and observe the journey of the children of Israel as the ” The Old Testament Church” making their  way to the the Promise Land, we are awed at the similarity their gathering has with the New Testament church. Reviewing both the old and New testaments of the Bible to understand the concept of Church better, one cannot but remember the roles of certain prophets of God as they led the children of God to the land of promise. The priests and the prophets who ministered in the temple were no different from our Pastors in churches today with a congregation of human beings that are no different from the flawed men and women of that era; who were merely beneficiaries of God’s  grace.
In effect, church may have evolved from Old Testament tents of meeting, to temples and synagogues into the Upper House, peoples’ houses and then elegant church buildings; but the unchanging Owner of the Purpose  of every gathering of His people remains steadfast in what He wants from His people. Even as they journeyed through the wilderness as  His “…… treasured possession out of all the peoples” what He expected was that they “. . . shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” With the favoured admission of those who were formerly Gentiles through the redemptive grace of Christ, Apostle Peter still declares in striking continuity in the New Testament: ” But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” The people of God are created to be exemplary to all others. Simple.
In the Old Testament, Micah 6: 8 the prophet Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you?” And answers, “To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” Apostle Paul speaks similarly in the New Testament in Ephesians 4: 1 says “To the church at Ephesus Paul writes, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling.” Whatever may be the purpose that the people of God gather; if they be followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ; who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit; there is but one common denominator for both the Old Testament and the New Testament congregations. It is Holiness. There cannot be a “gathering” or “fellowship” of the people of God with God, without Holiness. In Leviticus 19v1-2, He repeated that same charge of Holiness which He had made to Abraham when He promised to make him “blessed to be a blessing” in Genesis. Without Holiness, God cannot be in the midst of those who have gathered to qualify it for His own definition of the Church that “the gate of hell cannot prevail against”.
The manifestation of the working of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament Church differentiates it from the Old Testament church. The Spirit of God brought great liberty to the individual who having confessed Jesus Christ as Lord is spoken of by our Lord as “being greater than the Great John the Baptist even if such a one were the least in the kingdom.  The importance of this is best appreciated as one reads the assessment that God made of the Churches in Revelations2-3 where it is the Spirit of God that is expressly talking to the Church via the revelation experience of John the Beloved, an Apostle of Christ. This is unlike in the days of old when God would speak to the Prophet or Priest who would in turn carry the message to the rest of the people.
History records that the Church in Nigeria is some 172 years old having started with the Catholic priests who were part of the Portuguese trade incursion into the coastlands of Nigeria. It was only after some hiatus, that there was the arrival of a more sustained missionary exploits of the Methodist Missionary Society in 1842 pioneered by the works of Thomas Birch Freeman. The Christian Missionary Society followed suit later that same year with the visit of Henry Townsend from Sierra Leone. Some years later the Catholic Irish missionaries arrived and much later down the line, Nigerians saw the emergence of indigenous churches that interpreted the Christian experience to have local relevance. Churches such as the Aladura movement in Western Nigeria, the Apostolic movement, the Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal movements were founded and thus the Church in Nigeria was fully formed as an organizational concept coincident with the era of independence. For example, the Redeemed Christian Church of God a mission in which my husband and I had the privilege of joining in the early 90s from our Anglican/Catholic backgrounds; is an indigenous Pentecostal/Evangelical church founded by Pa. Josiah Akindayomi sixty three years ago.
Each denomination of the Church in Nigeria flourished in  numerical growth and in an environment of relative religious freedom and constitutionally guaranteed secularity of governance, they individually carried on with their respective missions without the need for any collective structure. However, they did when during the military rule of General Ibrahim Babaginda, the Church in Nigeria collectively felt the threat resulting from that government’s signing up Nigeria as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries. The churches came together under the umbrella of the  Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in 1976. Today, CAN is constituted by Churches under five groupings that are the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, The Christian Council of Nigeria, the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria/Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, the Organisation of African Independent Churches and Tarrayar Ekelesioyoyin Kristi. The Christian Association of Nigeria enunciates the following objectives:
  • to serve as a basis of [action for] the unity of the Church, especially as [intended] in our Lord’s pastoral prayer: ‘That they all may be one’
  • to act as a liaison committee, by means of which its member churches can consult together and, when necessary, make common statements and take common action
  • to be a watch-dog of the spiritual and moral welfare [of] the nation
  • to propagate the Gospel
  • to promote understanding among the various people and strata of society in Nigeria.
A critical analysis of the role that the Church has played in the nation along the lines of living up to its objectives of Unity of faith and collective action; its spiritual and moral watchdog of the nation objective; its promotion of understanding and peaceful relationship objective; is highly recommended for not just CAN but for all church leaders and their denominations. Any such objective assessment will reveal the deficit in acting to realize these lofty vision of CAN. Whereas it has done relatively well in some aspects of its vision, the association of Christians has a long journey to being the mega rallying point of Christians as the light that we are called to be for the Nigerian society.
Nation building in its simple definition refers to the use of the power of the state to construct or structure a national identity. Nation building is especially used in relation to countries in Africa and Central Europe where territorial habitation of people forces disparate nationalities to belong to a country and yet feel no common sense of shared identity among themselves. So, in basic terms, one could say that nation building aims to unify diverse people of ethnic, religious and other pluralities who have found themselves living together in a globally recognised entity known as a United Nations member country. The process of attempting to unify  the diverse nationalities within a territorial construction to make it politically stable and viable, is something that would resonate for all Nigerians-North, South, East and West-  seeing how so much it describes our story in the 101 years of amalgamation and 54 years of independence of our country.
“Today is Independence Day. The first of October 1960 is a date to which for two years, Nigeria has been eagerly looking forward. At last, our great day has arrived, and Nigeria is now indeed an independent Sovereign nation.  Words cannot adequately express my joy and pride at being the Nigerian citizen privileged to accept from Her Royal Highness these Constitutional Instruments which are the symbols of Nigeria’s Independence. It is a unique privilege which I shall remember forever, and it gives me strength and courage as I dedicate my life to the service of our country. This is a wonderful day, and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience, compelled to watch one country after another overtaking us on the road when we had so nearly reached our goal. But now, we have acquired our rightful status, and I feel sure that history will show that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest pace: it has been thorough, and Nigeria now stands well-built upon firm foundations.”
The very gushing and giddy words of this quote were by the first Prime Minister of Nigeria Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on October 1, 1960.
Sadly,  the reality of our trajectory as a country is that we never transited from country to nation contrary to the poetic declarations of our first leader. To call a spade a spade, our nation building process has been extremely dismal in outcome and so fifty four years after, we are at the Diamond event of FourSquare Church which is only five years older than independent Nigeria; still discussing matters of “Nation Building.” Our Founding Nationalists, simply equated our becoming a country with attaining nationhood. Our founding leaders forgot  that a State- i.e. A country-  is not always a Nation . True, Nigeria became a self-governing political entity that negotiated a federal structure in cognizance of the near autonomy of each of its constituent ethnic nationalities. The painful fact however is that our independent Nigeria does not yet act like a Nation after five decades. The inability to achieve the consensus necessary for nation building has robbed us of the fundamentals of shared identity, vision and values known as “nation formations”. Research proves that these fundamentals  are what have helped other countries in similar circumstances as Nigeria to transit into the more progressive concept of “State Building”. It is after Nation Building that the phase of State Building commences with a focus on building the social, human and physical infrastructure as well as the critical institution. It is the State Building process that progresses a territory of unified people into citizens of an economically, socially and politically viable nation-state through what is known as a “Capable State”.
Countries with multiple divides do not just melt into one happy union. It requires deliberation and intentionality for diverse people with divergent interests, threats, opportunities and strengths to forge a common and shared framework for lasting unity of purpose. In some of the instances where this has happened either through wars and or dialogues/negotiations or their combination , it had required the elite of such countries to lead the rest of the people in a deliberative process of nation building. Nation building agenda envisions the forging of a  common identity that all have resolved to defend at all time with clear mechanisms for conflict resolution. For countries like South Africa and more recently Kenya, they adopted a people- led constitutional process as their pathway to nation building. It is the visionary power of the elite to move a people of diversity beyond the lowest common denominator of being mere citizens of one country into a “nation of diverse people”. It is what  makes the United States to stand out as a “model” multi-cultural society. Hence, even “with its multicultural society, the United States is also referred to as a nation-state because of the shared American “culture” and “identity”.
Some people may of course dismiss this crave for evolution from country into a nation and say it does not matter. For those ones, I recall the wise words Carolyn Stephenson, who is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. She could have premised her thesis specially for Nigeria. Professor Stephenson states that “ Nation-building matters to intractable conflict because of the theory that a strong state is necessary in order to provide security;  that the building of an integrated national community is important in the building of a state, and that there may be social and economic prerequisites or co-requisites to the building of an integrated national community” Simply put, if a people of diversity in a country truly wish to succeed, they must forge a shared identity, vision and values to realise their goal of building a strong, secure and viable nation- state.
That failure to immediately use the early days of independence to commence the nation building process is what I consider the biggest missed opportunity in the history of Nigeria. So, it was not surprising that shortly after the novelty of our political independence wore off, the troubling underbelly of our nascent 1959/60 democracy was revealed in the rather prescient reading of the situation at that time by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)  of the United States in a memorandum of 1966.  The CIA wrote thus:  “Africa’s most populous country (population estimated at 48 million) is in the throes of a highly complex internal crisis rooted in its artificial origin as a British dependency containing over 250 diverse and often antagonistic tribal groups. The present crisis started” with Nigerian independence in 1960, but the federated parliament hid “serious internal strains. It has been in an acute stage since last January when a military coup d’état destroyed the constitutional regime bequeathed by the British and upset the underlying tribal and regional power relationships. At stake now are the most fundamental questions which can be raised about a country, beginning with whether it will survive as a single viable entity. The situation is uncertain, with Nigeria,……is sliding downhill faster and faster, with less and less chance for unity and stability. Unless present army leaders and contending tribal elements soon reach agreement on a new basis for association and take some effective measures to halt a seriously deteriorating security situation, there will be increasing internal turmoil, possibly including civil war”. Does this not sound familiar to Nigerians of all ages?
The question anyone reading this should ask in the context of our topic is, “where was the Church in Nigeria at the time these lethal strains that became entrenched even up until today,  were brewing? How could the Church have been irrelevant in the foundational work of unifying diverse aspirations by woefully failing to influence the individual actors of that era considering that many of them wore and do in fact continue to wear their ecclesiastic garment as boldly as they wore and wear their ethnic cleavages? Even if the other end of the dialogue was the mostly Muslim North, could there not have been a way that the church would have helped to prevent the needless deaths that started and degenerated into a pogrom, claiming the largest number of our people in the civil war that predictably occurred?”
In a similar situation in Rwanda, the Church has had to face the scrutiny of its failings or even its complicity in the genocide that almost wiped out an entire ethnic race. I do not recall that the Church in Nigeria has reviewed or has been compelled to review its role in the 60s multiple tragedies of our country. The satanic seed of deep ethnic distrust, mistrust and hostility were sown unchallenged in that era. It pervades the Nigerian society today, engulfing all generations in their relationships. It also explains why other ethnic groups often withhold  empathy from any other of the groups which is faced with challenges at any given time.
Nigerians engage in what I call “equal opportunity suffering”. Not having received empathy in their time of pain, they see no reason to empathize when it is the “turn” of another ethnic group to suffer their “own pain”. Nothing is more revealing of the absence of the spirit of nationhood as this inability to rise beyond ethnic trenches and show humanness to another group, regardless of past hurts. What one has known from advocating for our abducted 219 Chibok School girls and the North East more broadly, reveals extremely deep divides that should not exist, were the Church in Nigeria living up to its Reconciliatory role.  Unfortunately, the Church is very woven into the fabric of inter and intra ethnic suspicions and conflicts. Such conflicts have become very common within the Christian fold in Nigeria, thereby robbing it of the moral pedestal it must have in order to play the role of reconciliation in a country where conflicts easily erupt and escalate unnecessarily.
I dare say that our protracted  failure to build a nation out of a country is what changed the course of Nigeria’s history and squandered the huge benefits that empirical research shows is possible for diverse societies. That our political elite could not speedily and “sincerely act” on the lofty ideals espoused in their nationalist struggle when they successfully united against a common “enemy” and brought us our independence,  is the reason our language remains divisive, churlishly clannish and religiously irredentist. Rather, our political elite turned their backs on the supposed “independent sovereign nation” and resorted to lethal ethnicity. Worse, they hid under their fiery brand of ethnic and religious politics to paradoxically unite in offering a toxic variant of leadership that is mostly  devoid of altruism. Now, what remains of leadership if it is lacking in sacrifice?
Rather than thread a collective path toward nation building, what Nigerians know as the prevalent character of the political elite class across board is that they frequently push the country to a precipitous slide that has become the lot of Nigeria since independence. It was within this context of elite failure that the 1966 military coup struck and unleashed a huge canvass of governance instability epitomised by a long period of military adventurism in governance, that abated only recently in 1999 with the coming on of the fourth Republic. It is only in the last sixteen years that our fifty four year old country finally got the longest season of the sins qua non democratic context that helps a diverse people to embrace their differences through freedoms of discourse, disagreement, dialogue and principled negotiation. The question however is, “will our country ever seize the opportunity for such relationship building  and use it to triumph over the pain and discomfort of a nation birthing process?”
There is actually an incentive for us to push ourselves toward this painful choice.  Not having deliberately engaged the best medium for shaping our consensus around a shared national identity, shared vision and shared values means that we will all continue to struggle to “Become”. It means struggling to become whatever is positively possible for each individual or group however defined. This is obvious because even in the last sixteen years of the latest cycle of being a Democracy,  Nigeria stays struggling to commence sensible and sustained “State Building” process. I mean, how can you possibly commence the structure of a house without laying the strong foundation required by engineering standards? That is precisely what we as Nigerians have been doing by pretending that we can build a “capable state” out of this country, when basic nation building remains an unfinished business.
The unfinished business of nation building has created room for the wily elite class to cleverly capture what passes for the “State” and push the larger population of the excluded who dot the entire landscape of Nigeria to the fringes of the benefits of governance. Such elite capture and “pocketization” of  the “pseudo state” is exemplified by the governance failures of the past fifty four years and this has engaged the curiosity of academic researchers around the world. Nearly all of Nigeria’s problem is traceable to poor governance and its more manifest symptom of cancerous corruption. Corruption is empirically proven to be the greatest obstacle to Nigeria’s development. Grand corruption which is the variant popularized by the elite of our society created the current endemic and systemic corruption. That in turn, has produced the most unacceptable levels of poverty in a country that evoked great expectation at the time of her independence. Today, poorer segment of citizens all over the country, who find themselves caught in the corruption-poverty-corruption trap are angry at the “crumbling state” that has failed to provide them the most basic services that people of other nations enjoy. Hence, regardless of what part of the country they come from, what language they speak, what culture they practice, what religion they believe, Nigerian citizens are gradually realizing that the ethnic jingoism of our majority of our elite may after all be purely self serving.
Over the years, the depth of poor governance and corruption by the political class and their private sector collaborators, and to a lesser extent the acquiescing religious elite, has worsened the cynicism, pessimism and skepticism of citizens about leadership. The leadership crisis has hugely eroded our Social Capital. No society can build for a lasting future  without some reasonable measure of Trust of government by the people. The values exemplified by leadership sets the standard for the rest of society. That citizens do in fact openly express trenchant cynicism about the uninspiring role that the religious spheres including the Church has played in bring forth a values- deficit and broken down Nigeria is heartbreakingly opposite of the standard set for the modern church by the Early Church.
 The collapse of our values and the depletion of our social capital have further sharpened the ethnic and religious fault lines and increased the tensions and conflicts among our diverse groups. Conflicts of all kinds have further deepened poverty among the poor citizens who were already excluded from the benefits of recent economic growth. Feeling abandoned by the “Nigeria- State”, our society is seeing a growing number of people among the excluded cynically following after the “examples” of their elite. They do so by engaging  in all manner of acts of criminality and wickedness in an obvious attempt at lashing out at a country which they believe has failed them.
And yet, the nation building process is one in which all of society  must play a role, because it happens faster when it is designed as an all inclusive process that leaves no one, no segment, no group, no gender, no class and no sphere behind. Lessons from other lands show that in negotiating and agreeing a shared identity, the religious sphere for its inherent capacity to build and nurture human relationships, has the potential to play a strong role. Therefore, the Church –  whether as individual members and/or as a group/ organisation-  has always had a central role to play in nation building. The church, dear brethren, has an enormous role in helping to foster the sense of shared humanity of our people, majority of who feel bound only minimally by a shared territorial neighbourhood. To agree on our shared humanity is in fact the best starting point toward nations building.
However, the question today is ” how well has the Church in Nigeria fared as a potential catalyst that helps propel Nigerians toward a positive trajectory and progression into nationhood?”
Let us even narrow this evaluation of the role of the Church to the fundamental premise of my considered opinion that Nigeria and Nigerians have been victims of an elite class failure. How  much of a restraining or constraining  influence has the Church tried to be to curtail the destructive  habits of our  “power elite”?  Has the Church not mostly acquiesced with this class of people in the manner it welcomes and honors those of us among their flocks  who should at the least receive a rebuke or moral sanction for conducts that detract from the behaviour of “those who have been with Christ”?
There is, even if not empirical; at least some reasonable anecdotal basis for probing the role of the Church in so far as the public piety of its flocks is concerned. The privileged class are traced to the grand ills of the Nigerian society in nearly all the instances of truncation of governance by coups. Here is a classic description of the “power elite” of Nigeria in the statement “justifying” the 1966 coup:  ” our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalist, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds.”
Every other coup that followed ( and there were at least five more); uncannily repeated that 1966 text of justification until the last one that occurred in 1993. One can thus reasonably conclude that what we today confront as systemic corruption only metamorphosed to current gargantuan scale as Nigeria’s elite class kept on perverting  the values of our country and distorting our incentive and disincentives regimes. It has been so since the painful 60s even unto this day that corruption which is the worst tax on the poor robs them of the opportunities of a good life.  Our elite class regardless of their origin, tongue and religion has been robbing the poor, who the Church in Nigeria, like the Early Church of the Apostles ought to protect.
So, sure the economy has been growing  at 7% every year in the last ten years but what quality of growth have we had with still more than 61% of poor in the land, 24% unemployment level with more than 40% level among the youthful segment? We have a negligible changed structure of the Nigerian economy since independence with the consequence that manufacturing has stayed at less than 15% thus narrowing the opportunity for rapid absorption of labour.  The massive unemployment and underemployment is because our indigenous private sector is underdeveloped compared to the countries of Asia and Latin America where small businesses account for more than 60 percent of the economy or 75% in America. Our private sector that thrives, does so mostly by depending on the distortion of policies, the corruption of the public sector and influence peddling while the small businesses suffer the severe adverse effects of failure of the same policies. Inequality and growing disparity between the few that have and those that don’t, has grown deeper. Regrettably the elite fail to understand the implications of such an unsustainable pattern of power and wealth relations in any society. Even  as the heinous effects of long lasting poor governance in the North East of Nigeria stares us in the face, our elite imperviousness remains.
All of the foregoing are matters that require policy, institutional, investment actions to solve. They are broadly the governance matters that constitute the State Building process. Our effort at tackling them without correcting the faulty foundation of “absence of nation building” has produced disappointing results. The corruption-poverty-corruption trap has thus capped the possibilities of our larger population of citizens while unlike the Early Church, today’s Church busies itself with materialism. When the Church in Nigeria provides a place of comfort rather than rebuke and sanction to any of the elite of the land who are culpable for poor governance and corruption, then it inadvertently becomes acquiescent in the entrenched inequality. It even worse violates the Word of God: “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15).
God cares about the poor. God wishes that His Church would also care about equity and justice for the poor, and stand on the side of the weak and vulnerable rather than with those who oppress them. A corrupted Nigeria will eternally rob the same poor that the Church should be protecting. Has today’s Church not mostly failed to use its Voice on behalf of the poor in the land by systematically living up to its “watchdog” roles in the same manner  as our Lord Jesus, John the Baptist, Prophets Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and several others? How ready is the Church to champion a credible sanction era to punish the cancerous corruption that afflicts our land? Would it not be a tragedy if the government becomes actually serious to lead such a corrective war to rebuild our foundations and what the church does is to “blow the trumpet in an uncertain way” such that the people fail to prepare for battle?
While the political and to a lesser degree, the business elite,  set the stage for the broken and faulty foundation of Nigeria, the rest of our society must also accept their fair share of the blame for helping to accelerate the slide, by their apathy, lethargy or indifference. The governed, be they men or women have a major role to compel their elite to act in always that promote the collective good of society. Those citizens who not understanding the power they wield and so fail to collectively deploy it in demanding for good governance and accountability for resources and for results from those that lead them, will surely pay huge costs for their ignorance. To simply accept and applaud acts that injure a citizen is injustice to both the person and the rest of society. When citizens of Nigeria fail to actively engage, participate and exercise their voice in helping shape the course that the country is taking, nation building will be further delayed. Such reorientation and mass mobilisation of citizens to become an informed and active force for good is one role that the Church has so far missed playing.
To return to the basics and compel this all too important and painful process of nation building, I recommend that the Church in Nigeria acting as a collective, can become the Catalyst that galvanises individual members, families, civil society to set out an agenda for a discourse of our common identity, vision and values. There is no better organisation of people to trigger a Values Renaissance as a lasting counter to the present “distorted normal” . What happened to virtues like honour, honesty, integrity, character, dignity, hard work, kindness, sacrifice,  selfless service and such like?
The distorted VALUES of the failing Nigerian society has seeped so badly into the church such that we are reminded that “if the foundations be destroyed or broken, what will the righteous do”? Is it not the case that we also have crisis of leadership values in the church today? Should we not first repent for failure to be the SALT,  THE LIGHT AND THE CITY UPON THE HILL.  Reading Prophet Hagia’s first and second chapters, one will conclude that like the children of Israel in his time, we the Church of Nigeria of today sit  in church praying to all become prosperous while the vineyard (Nigeria) that God had given us over grows with weeds. “Consider your ways”, the Prophet roared then. Where are our own Prophets to roar at His church?  If today they will emerge,  then God will return to us!
Who better than the Church can boldly take this agenda to the top of our national discourse with a determination to force our deliberation of the ideals upon which vibrant and successful nations emerge? The justification for the Church to make such a bold move is the urgency necessitated by escalating inequality engulfing the land but which the political elite class that should provide leadership is too distracted by their power squabbles.
But, the Church also is distracted! The Church is distracted by its material needs and greed. The Lord understands that His children would have needs but His assurance in the four books of the Gospel is that if we kept the matters of the kingdom— such as nation building – by being the standard bearers in our nation as the “Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World”, excelling in our “Ministry of Reconciliation and Peace” unto which He has called us, then ALL THESE OTHER MATERIAL “THINGS” ( Note that He belittles them as mere “things”) shall be added unto us. God forbids that the Church will become irrelevant because it joined the people of the world to mind the irrelevant things and not the Lord’s  mandate! Our Lord goes further and warns that should His Church busy itself with “things” then it is no longer the “Assembly of the people of God” but a gathering of heathen.
 I believe that this awakening by FourSquare calls the Body of Christ to deep retrospection and introspection in order to unreservedly uncover and discover where we missed it and veered into the path of craze for perfidious acquisition. How did we, who should lead as His Light become the LED, into darkness? How did the Church become so “at ease in Nigeria” that we are now misled by our political and business elite who should have been under our positive influence? One pathway out of this quagmire is for the Church to judge itself and admit that it has fallen short as a cleansing ground; and that in order to qualify to function as a cleanser in this land, we would all need to plead with the Lord of the Church to mercifully come into the sanctuary and purge His people. But, is the Church ready for the painful purging?
When evil is prevalent in a society we know that God  keeps for Himself a Remnant.  There remaineth a REMNANT as Prophet  Isaiah declared in chapter  10 verse 20. How come FourSquare Church has tied its entire Diamond Anniversary to the issues of the Nigeria condition? It is because the Church senses that a new season has come.  It is a season of opportunity to “do a new thing that can spring forth!”. As Solomon said, there is a time for everything under the sky. A time to be indifferent and a time to become involved. A time to ignore and a time to no longer ignore. A time to sit in church and just pray and a time to both pray and work like Prophet Nehemiah and like the four carpenters that Prophet Zechariah spoke about. The season we are in, is the season when the salvation of Nigeria is closer than when we first began. The season for a new birth has come and so there is a restiveness in the spirits of the people of God. We shall both pray, groan in the spirit, travail and walk our beliefs for the birthing of the New Nigeria through deliberations that will transit us from country to NATION.
When Nehemiah heard the news of the broken walls of Jerusalem, his heart was burdened at what he was told-  not just for the city but for the poor in the land. Nehemiah had no reason to be so distressed because after all, his situation as the King’s cupbearer was remarkably privileged for one who was in captivity. Yet, his sorrow knew no end. He prayed, asked God for a strategy and received it immediately, because God loves and supports those who care about His vision. Nehemiah, set out on the journey back to Jerusalem determined to succeed. Of all the tools that Nehemiah needed for a successful reconstruction effort— money, men and material– a good read of his book shall reveal to us, that it was none of these that brought the prophet his successful and on-target delivery of his mission to rebuild the broken walls. What did bring the completion of work despite all the challenges he encountered, was RIGHTEOUSNESS. Nehemiah new how to do the RIGHT THINGS. He did not engage in the wrong things while praying to get a good result. In nation building, we know that it is “Righteousness that exalts a nation while sin is a reproach to any people”. It was the Church -as in the members of the Church and not the buildings;  that Christ commanded to become known for “a pattern of well doing”.
Today, because it is very appropriate to nation building, I have decided to use the concept of righteousness as the pattern of “doing the right things” even by a person or nation that is outside of the Christian Faith. We have an example of a country like that – of a people who do not confess our Lord Jesus Christ – as majority of our Christian folks do here in Nigeria.  It is a nation with similar multi- ethnic, history of colonisation and poverty challenges like Nigeria had in the 60s at independence. That nation, is known as Singapore. Together with Nigeria and many other developing countries, it started on the Development journey with Gross Domestic Product  – GDP per capita of less than $500 in the 60s. By first resolving the nation building process and then moving on to the state building process with leadership that “did the right things consistently” , Singapore today has a GDP per capita of $60,000 compared to  our beloved country’s  $2300. No wonder Singapore is an upper income economy offering majority of her citizens the highest quality of life.
Where then are our own Nehemiahs? Where are our Deborahs? Where are our Daniels? Where are our Ezras? Where O country of Nigeria, are your Modecais and Esthers who have made up their minds to not bow but to rather dethrone the STRONG MAN OF CORRUPTION that is sitting over NIGERIA? It is time, Church! This is the season!! It is time to:
To WALK!!!
To BUILD …………. Until we become a Nation. ….. Until our New Nigeria emerges. Until the Nigeria of God’s dream comes. Until Nigeria becomes a praise in all the earth. I BELIEVE.
Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili
September 17, 2015

– See more at: http://www.opinionnigeria.com/the-role-of-the-church-in-nation-building-by-obiageli-ezekwesili/#sthash.2Ofhht2C.qmf6qJ5R.dpuf

Olalekan Adigun: On Federal Character And Nation Building

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, African statesman, President Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania strongly advocated what he called “Nation building” for fragile post-Colonial African states. The fragility of these states soon became obvious and was exposed in several lights: Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi declared himself President-for-Life; In Lesotho, Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan voided the 1970 election which he had lost; King Sobhuza of Swaziland abolished the Parliament and the Constitution and reinstituted a monarchy. This was also the period when Zambia and Malawi were dissolving the Central African Federation coinciding with the merger of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form present-day Tanzania. Large number of African States soon fell into Military dictatorship. In Nigeria, series of events led to collapse of democratic institutions in 1966 and subsequently, a bitter Civil War.

There is the usual temptation to reduce the meaning (albeit incorrectly) to: national integration, national development, political development, or national consciousness. The term includes all these but to reduce it to any of them is to commit the “reductionist” fallacy. Simply put, it can mean the systematic process of making a people, who hitherto are from different cultural, ethnic, religious, racial, or national backgrounds, to feel they belong together under a nation. Karl Deutch, in his book Nation Building identifies five stages of achieving this “systematic process”. First, the group exists as a tribe, with its distinct language and proud culture, and will resist any attempt to integrate it with other groups. The next stage is to incorporate them forcefully into other group with the use of naked force. The third stage is for them to minimally accept, often with the use of force or threat of it, the new arrangement by cooperating minimally. At the fourth stage, their level of resistance is reduced to the minimum and their cooperation and obedience have risen astronomically, though they still keep their cultural identities intact. The fifth is when the group becomes almost indistinguishable from other groups within the state. This is when total assimilation is achieved. The last two stages will require minimal use of force. As a post-colonial nation, the first three stages ended with colonialism. The last two have proven difficult in Nigeria either due to deliberate colonial policy or shameless neglect by leaders at independence.

At this point let us bring in a familiar concept, Federal Character. It was one of the post-Civil War integration effort introduced by the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) in 1978 and formed part of the 1979 Constitution. Despite it featuring in the 1999 Constitution under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in Section 14(3) “…to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons  from few states or a few ethnic or other groups in Government or in any of its agencies” only a few people have bothered about it until recently when President Muhammadu Buhari make some “key appointments” leading to public outcry in some sections of the country.

We must be quick to admit that like many other provisions of the Constitution, the federal character was meant to correct some challenges experienced in the past, this writer argues it created further unexpected problems more than it could solve. Rather than promote national unity, it has disunited us than we were before.

In my understanding, federal character assumes that, in appointing a person from any part of Nigeria into a position, that person first and foremost must “carry his or her ethnic group along” in the scheme of things. Invariably, the appointee represents his “constituency” not necessarily his portfolio(s). It looks more like “just get someone to fill in that position so long as he comes from that state or region.”

I will buttress this point with composition of the Federal Executive Council under President Goodluck Jonathan. Just in fulfilling section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution, President Jonathan appointed Senator Musiliu Obanikoro as Minister from Lagos. There is nothing wrong in that, but allocating Defence Ministry to someone with dubious expertise in that portfolio only makes mockery of the so-called Federal Character. Are we really serious about fighting Insurgency?

There are those with the argument that federal character is to foster unity among Nigerians by giving every ethnic group a sense of belonging. This looks like a fine argument on its surface. The “sense of belonging” in this sense is that “our son” will be in government and “our people will be carried along.” If this is the “sense of belonging” they speak about with much approval, then I beg to disagree. Rather than federal character uniting Nigerians, it has done more division than the so-called purpose it was meant to achieve. It has in the process of its operations created a class of ethno-regional lords, local godfathers and their appendages to exploit national resources without any corresponding contributions!

And that reminds me, how does Jonathan’s 16 years in political offices translate to improved infrastructure (e.g. water supply) in Otuoke? Did Obasanjo’s 8 years as President in any way translate to good roads in Otta?

Like I wrote earlier in this piece, nation building cannot just be reduced to national integration on which the strength of federal character lies. Who cares if George Bush is President and his two sons-Jeb and George Walker-are Governors in Florida and New York respectively? Who loses if John F. Kennedy is President and his younger brother, Robert is Attorney General? This is a place where one’s track records and qualifications are far better than just “where you come from”. This is what genuine nation building looks like!

The talk of federal character reminds me of the time I was seeking admission into the University. You have great advantage if you come from the so-called “Less Educationally Developed Areas” even though there are far more qualified candidates (in terms of their JAMB scores) than you, but were denied admission on account of being so unfortunate not to have come from a “Lesser Educationally Developed Area”. Do we still need to look further to know why we have so many half-baked graduates from our Universities? That is what you get when you sacrifice merit for mediocrity!

Now, we must ask ourselves, “What are our leaders always thinking about when they are making decisions?” The answer to this question came recently when I thought of Professor Charles Soludo’s speech at the 2012 ABTI-American University Convocation in Yola. He noted among other things that the Federal Executive Council (speaking from his experience as the former Governor of the Central Bank) is many a time like mini-United Nations where each member represents his State of origin or his region but not his portfolio. When a nation continues to remind you of where you come from you need to start asking whether it is building any nation at all. How then do we build a viable nation with an out-dated ideal like federal character?

As I wrote this piece, I came across the poem by a Ugandan poet, Henry Barlow, Building the Nation, where two nation builders-a driver and a Ministry’s Permanent Secretary- “built” the nation differently. Both suffered terrible stomach ulcers-one was caused by hunger the other, by over feeding. If federal character teaches us how to be “carried along” along ethnic lines, it’s only a matter of time before some people begins to suffer from constipation or a stomach ulcer from overfeeding!


Olalekan Waheed ADIGUN is a political risk analyst and an independent political strategist for wide range of individuals, organisations and campaigns. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria.

 His write-ups can be viewed on his website http://olalekanadigun.com/

Tel: +2348136502040, +2347081901080

Email: olalekan@olalekanadigun.com, adgorwell@gmail.com

Follow me on twitter @adgorwell

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of www.omojuwa.com nor its associates

Teaching History in Schools as Part of our National Development – @Lanre_Olagunju

Evil, they say, prevails when good men fail to act; but there seem to be a kind of evil that doesn’t readily come to mind when we flaunt this saying. It is the evil caused by good men who lack basic knowledge about the past. From the way Nigeria falls repeatedly into cycle of errors, it is obvious that Nigerians collectively are yet to learn anything substantial from history. If we have, we haven’t acted upon the lessons that history provides.

The entire nation seems to be united at this point for true change, but this change certainly is a long term one that’d require a clean understanding of our history. So we know where we are as a nation, where we are heading, what to do, and how to do it better.

It is difficult to understand how as a nation we think we can come close to sustainable change without the knowledge of history – forgetting that time past is part of time present, and time present is part of time future. If we must discover sustainable ideas and solutions to our national issues, educated Nigerians who analyse discuss and proffer solutions need to engage more with the past.

Sadly, our educational system has been seriously lagging behind in this regard. If this generation is ever going to break out of this cycle of failure, ethnicity, scarcity mentality and mediocrity, we must first understand the forces that birthed these problems. Else, the change clamoured for would remain a wild goose chase.

The time to revisit this long abandoned human-centered recipe which is fundamentally needed for growth and development is now. That Nigeria has undyingly remained a giant by mere name-calling is a sign that we lack a perfect sense of our potentials as a nation, which perhaps might be reawakened by a sense of national consciousness. It would always remain a daunting task to attempt searching for what is not known. Young Nigerians with the zeal to sincerely see the nation experience true transformation are daily increasing in number; in fact many are on the path to re-writing the nation’s history. But I am afraid we will suffer from collective amnesia as we blindly grope into the future without a guide post of precedence to shape our different course in the respective area of influence we have chosen. How well can one re-write history that is not known?

The social media which has successfully played a key role in social-economic awareness among many Nigerians will not essentially cover up for the lack of history or the knowledge that it provides. No it won’t! As a matter of fact it will only amplify it, given that social media is a platform which amplifies knowledge or ignorance.

Studying Nigerian history in schools as a compulsory and fundamental academic requirement and discipline is very vital for the country’s development at this crucial point – if the country is serious about genuine development. At all levels, our schools seriously need to re-introduce the Nigerian History into curriculums. History is consciously used to inspire nation building in many developed nations, and this places a huge gap between the advanced nations and under-developed ones.

It’s a common slogan that the Nigerian educational system doesn’t breed young people for national transformation. Well, the problem might not be with the school. The real problem might be that, many people in the schools – both the students and teachers – are not aware of the country’s real problems. Hence, the whole essence of the school falls as a waste in the long run.

Motivational speakers and revolutionaries inspiring change amongst the upwardly mobile Nigerians need to know that mere motivation focused on awakening the can-do spirit is not enough. Young Nigerians need knowledge of the past. The past is not a dead past, basically because that past is still living and taunting us as a nation, sadly that past is still in our present.

When we pay more attention to our history, maybe we would clearly see that Nigeria in the real sense of it is yet to be a nation even after 100 years of amalgamation. Maybe with full knowledge of hindsight, we would now realize that we can’t keep seeing this country from the prism of tribalism and religion just as every generation including the present one has mostly done. Perhaps with knowledge, we would clean our hot tears carefully and then move beyond the lamentation that Nigeria was founded based on a business and selfish interest of the British, until we move beyond that, setting out to calve out a dream we can call the Nigerian dream might remain difficult.

Lanre Olagunju is an hydrologist turned freelance journalist and blogger, he is an alumnus of the American College of Journalism. He is @Lanre_Olagunju on Twitter.