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Tuesday, 26 September 2023 08:22

[OPINION] Think Nigeria first! - Ehi Braimah 

LAST Sunday, the main activity of the day at the Archbishop Vining Memorial Church Cathedral in GRA, Ikeja, Lagos, was the National Harvest. It is an event parishioners look forward to every year because of its capacity to create joy, happiness, merriment, and excitement for young and old people. It is always a special moment when parishioners pray for Nigeria and ask for grace for themselves.

The mini-Nigeria atmosphere in the church auditorium is usually festive and vibrant; the colourful display of costumes projects our rich cultural heritage and diversity. The overarching theme of unity is evident: although we come from different regions and tribes, we belong to one nation.

During the procession by each state, the dance steps are beautifully choreographed responses to the popular traditional music from that part of the country. This is followed by a Love Feast and fellowship on the open ground nearby after the church service.

The different food types exhibited is a recognition of our diversity and the excellent culinary skills of our people. You could walk into any tent and sample the food of your choice in a show of love and demonstration of goodwill from your hosts. The simple act of sharing and caring are a manifestation of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness (John 1:17).

When we talk of mercy, kindness and compassion, they are scriptural verses but they are also values that build great nations. Unfortunately, we have allowed tribe and region in the absence of love to define who we are, and these sentiments keep pulling us back. It explains why Nigeria finds it difficult to reach its full potential.

At the church service, one of the hymns was, “There shall be a new Nigeria.” I was fascinated by the hymn and there was an unscripted earnestness on the faces of parishioners as we sang the hymn with this chorus: ‘New Nigeria, New Nigeria I see/Our story is changing for good/A great nation shall be born.’

Indeed, a great nation comprising different tribes and tongues shall be born. The hymn has five stanzas, with each stanza deliberately crafted to inspire the congregation. I am aware a popular prayer point is, “May God not forsake Nigeria,” but when we look around us, what do we see? We do not see a nation but a collection of tribes and multi-ethnic groups.

It is imperative that we change the way we think and behave. We must think of Nigeria first in all that we do. If we can think it, we can do it! What is currently being practiced is that we prioritise where we come from over our national identity.

In a country with three major tribes and more than 250 ethnic groups and 220 million people, why is it difficult to forge a national identity and speak with one voice? My view is that it is the responsibility of the federal government to create a national identity project that would promote citizenship and serve as the glue to hold everyone together so that Nigeria is a no longer a “mere geographical expression” as the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, noted in the past.

The hymn we sang in church last Sunday should be translated into all the indigenous languages for national mobilisation. I say this because we do not have any other country to call our own, and it is only Nigerians that can build Nigeria under the right transformational leadership that would inspire greatness in every Nigerian.

The task of nation-building will begin when we forge and defend a national identity with a new zeal, consciousness and earnestness, and run away from protecting territories. To be clear, where we come from are important but we must always see ourselves as Nigerians first.

A new Nigeria is on the lips of most people. Chief Afe Babalola is a legal luminary and founder of Afe Babalola University. At 93 years old, Chief Babalola does not need to grandstand or impress anyone with his comments. He has been an advocate for a new Nigeria based on a new constitution where politics will no longer be a “transactional business.”

If most Nigerians are depressed and refusing to commit to the concept of a new Nigeria, it is because they are treated like refugees in their own country. They also believe strongly that nothing is being done to tackle elite conspiracy which, to a large extent, is the bane of Nigeria’s underdevelopment.

How many Nigerians are proud of Nigeria or ready to die for Nigeria? I am interested in the outcome of this survey because the number of people leaving Nigeria in droves has become worrisome.

Most of my friends and associates who live abroad used to tell me about five years ago that they would love to return to Nigeria but they don’t say that anymore. They ask me: return to what? They even tease me to “ja pa” and join them to become a diaspora Nigerian.

I am worried about the elite conspiracy against Nigeria which has devalued the lives of Nigerians for so many decades. This club of vested interests that capture and divert state resources are usually protected from the long arm of the law.

The poor continues to pay the price of a dysfunctional society that does not inspire any hope. The basic things of life are always absent because we are wicked and unkind to each other. Most patriotic Nigerians know that a “Think Nigeria First” campaign in any form will only make sense when the rich stops stealing from the poor.

When this happens, the stolen funds can be used to develop infrastructure, provide constant electricity supply, build schools and hospitals, and so on. Who is ready to join me to launch “Think Nigeria First” campaign?

Thinking aloud, it occurred to me that it is possible to rename “stolen funds” as “money held in trust” for Nigerians. Let the “owners” borrow us part of the money to address our current economic challenges. In truth, some of them can write off Nigeria’s debt because what we owe is chicken change to them.

With a debt overhang of N87 trillion, are the members of the vested interests club happy? I don’t think so because I know they are patriotic citizens who love Nigeria more than the rest of us. It does not really matter, especially now that we are at their mercy.

This club of vested interests know how they made their money and they are eating alone while the Nigerian economy is bleeding. This is not fair at all; they should think of Nigeria first before they think of how they spend our money.

Even if one dollar sells for N5,000, they can afford to buy millions if not billions of dollars. Most Nigerians are selling off their properties and travelling abroad because of the foreign exchange rate variance. I don’t blame them; they are only obeying the first law of nature which is their survival.

The elites are also amassing wealth because they are keeping the money for us, not because they are thieves.

The increasing number of multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians – over 133 million people, according to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) – are daily thinking of their survival before anything else. Why can’t these elites who conspire against Nigeria and hold our money in trust for all Nigerians not have pity on poor and hapless Nigerians?

As our 63rd independence anniversary draws near, what will be President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s message to Nigerians? Mr. President knows that a majority of Nigerians are not happy; they are worried and struggling to survive in a dire economic environment where hope must be renewed as quickly as possible.

Congratulations to all Nigerians. We cannot give up on Nigeria even if the country keeps behaving, disappointingly, like a sleeping giant. Our economy is resilient and it will bounce back with the ongoing reforms.


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