The word “Unity” before independence has been a sacred word in the terms of Nigeria’s socio-political history. It is the root of our nationhood as shown in our national motto it appears to be the purpose of our creation and independence. Unity might show greater good, many think that our diversity is a blessing properly by resounding it like any other word whether in the economic or political scene. In recent times, it has been rephrased to, “Nigeria’s Unity being non-negotiable”.
Without trying to live in self-denial I use to cherish the concept of unity and how it should be the basis for our growth and how it will be the rallying point for social cohesion, faith in each other and ourselves, and the major factor for peace and progressive development (Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress). And today after four years of learning and observing the trend and asking questions about Nigeria, I have concluded that unity as a word is our first and major challenge and all others stem from the resounding call and mention of Unity, National Unity and what have you.
Unity of Purpose as citizens is not a bad idea and this is only possible when we recognize the fact that we might have cultural and racial differences but we are same as Nigerians, humans and a nation under heaven and God. Unfortunately, what unity does and has been doing since amalgamation is to show our differences more than addressing the challenges that come with it. Unity makes it clear and obvious that we are not just one Nation of Nigerian citizens but we are a country of over 250 ethnic nationalities and 400 languages. Yes, unity is there to make us look beyond those difference but it does more to say that we different and divided.
It is in the efforts to unite as Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba or Ijaw, Efik, Nupe, Ibibio, Edo, Benin et al more vicious challenges like nepotism and favouritism start coming in. It is the unity that breeds corruption when one is obligated and conscious that he is different from another person who is not his tribe and must compromise for his kit and kin. When there are a notions and fixed mindsets on how different we are, one has a likelihood to break laws and rules for those who are same as he/she is.
It is this same unity that teaches people to be religion-conscious, to see a distinction that being Nigerian cannot solve. We make terrible decisions for God in the name of religion, bias and unity. The word seems sacred but unfortunately, it has caused more damage than good and I will tell you why.
Why didn’t we choose other terms and mottos like social justice, honour, strength and equity? These all are universal, immune to corruption so long as we understand what they really mean with an explicit definition. Whereas unity underlines our differences, others like social justice and equity will treat issues as good and bad, will treat issues as humane and inhumane. We won’t have to deal with tribe and religion so long as one goes contrary to the law that negates social justice, equity and honour he/ she will face the law. Universally accepted terms will do a lot for us It will erode the differences of tribe, religion and forces of nepotism and favouritism.
Unity to What End?
As much as Nigeria needs structural adjustments in our federalism which bothers more on political and economic issues, we fundamentally need to address the social issues. We need to define the things we hold dear as a country. It is our faulty system that makes leaders show condolences to foreign nations in terror times while citizens die every day in Nigeria. I have asked myself severally what value we place on life in this country.
Any efforts to restructure without dealing with the fundamental issues of principles, values will only be futile. Remove unity from our national motto, let us shift focus from unity, faith and peace before progress. That is a long road to achieving greatness. We can achieve it speedily by accepting to do good and working against bad in all ramifications.