Africa Must Redefine its Identity

Published on 19th January 2009

At nearly 44 years old, one civil war, multi-ethnic and tribal groups, on going inter and intra ethnic clashes, experimental parliamentary government, unstable and hardly understood presidential leadership, longer-than-necessary military rules, 15% of Africans residing within its borders, human and natural resources that are the envy of its neighborhoods and the world, Nigeria is yet to find an endearing place among its people and has not earned the respect of the world.

What needs to happen for Nigeria and its leadership to do the 'right thing'? What is the 'right' thing? Nigeria reminds me of a child that is taking a bath and happens to have a strand of soap foam enter the eyes. In reaction, it cries out for help and in doing so kicks the water that would have helped take care of the situation.

Is the country neglecting its talents and reaching out beyond its borders for help? A resounding 'Yes', and justifiably so. But what does not reside in Nigeria to help in moving the country forward? For people to realize their potential, they must have an effective leadership and governance designed to help them develop themselves. Nigeria's leadership, past and present, has not enjoined the populace in realizing its dream of governing. Good governance has eluded Nigeria. It does not matter what section of the country or group runs the country's affairs, the result of the leadership has been dismal.

But should Nigerians give up? No! They ought to imbibe the spirit and mantra of 'Truth Before Cant', 'All Before Self' and 'Change Over Stasis.' Nigerians must adopt a practice of selfless service, go the extra mile, see that justice is done and do things in the interest and benefit of the masses.

For good governance to exist there are certain attitudes and practices that need to be hoisted and promoted among the various groups that make up the nation. No one group or groups must embark on the notion that they alone have the 'God-given' position to govern. In every group are men and women whose disposition in life is necessary in providing  leadership. We must neither promote one group over the other nor overlook any group in the overall scheme of things. If we believe in 'One Nigeria', it behooves our leadership and ourselves to reach out to all and not a fraction. Nigeria will never realize its potential when some elements in the whole promote sectionalism or fractional advantage because of their number, might or religion.

One thing that has helped successful nations is 'TRUST'. When we trust, we become reliable and responsible, and we can account for the resources in our care. Accountability is one of the core challenges that faces the nation at its micro and macro levels. It does not matter what the political subdivision is; local, state or and or national governments, there is hardly accountability. Because we hardly account, we are Corrupt. It is common knowledge that Nigeria is considered the most corrupt nation and people in the world. Whether this is true or not, is another issue.

Corruption in its basic definition is; decay, bribery, dishonesty and error in judgment as well as action. When one of us gets into office or position of authority, what do we do? We celebrate the arrival and opportunity to milk the system and make money for ourselves. We do not celebrate the service to be rendered but what the service hardly rendered will do for the individual's ability to get rich at the expense of the nation.

It is no gainsaying the obvious that leaders whose ill-gotten wealth is stashed in foreign accounts hardly enjoy the benefit when they leave office. We must fight corruption using all available resources within and outside Nigeria to make sure that our leaders are not robbing us.To deal with corruption, we must embark on building  the civil society and its attendant institutions such as effective and independent  legal system. We must ensure that common wealth is used judiciously in serving the people. We must not spare anyone of our leaders whether in office or out, if we determine that they have stolen from us.

In order to do this and more, Nigerians in Diaspora must play significant and quantifiable roles in marching the country forward. And how will Nigerians in Diaspora help?

Nigerians in Diaspora can be taken as those who are fortunate to have escaped the bad leadership that is plaguing the country. By their presence in these countries where at least public service is noble and corruption is dealt with, they must educate themselves as to these values and how the system works. We must make sure that anyone that is found to be corrupt or enriched himself/herself with our public resources serves a deserving time in jail and if they relocate to another country, pursue legal action against them. By so doing, we will be sending a signal to the world.

We must invest in education - not learning letters and numbers-but  equipping the minds of Nigerians to be cognizance of their nation and the role they can play. The leader is bad because the people led are bad or chose not to care. The head cannot claim to be 'good' if the rest of the body is sick and rotten. 

In furthering our civil institutions, we must create an identity that is suitable for Nigeria and that is Nigerian. Nigeria still finds itself enjoying, imbibing and wishing for the societal and cultural attributes of its former colonial master.

The United States of America is successful because after it severed ties with UK its colonizer, it sought and developed institutions and values that are different from that of its ex-masters. In Nigeria, we are still enamored by such British values as 'Sir', Your Excellency, titles and letters before and after our names, a class system built on hereditary and not competency or service. Until we develop a positive identity that is opposite from what the colonizers left behind, we may continue to be a dependent people after several years of independence. We have what its takes to be a viable and valuable nation with varied interests and higher standards. It is about time we saw some good in doing GOOD when given the opportunity to serve.

Nigerians must downplay tribalism and reach out for well meaning and God fearing Nigerians that are willing and able to overcome the conventional wisdom and do what is RIGHT.

It is not going to be easy but for sure we can do well for ourselves in our lifetime if we overcome our doubts and prevail over our shortcomings. We are a good bunch but we just don't know it. We need not be the 'one with soap foam' in our eyes crying for help when all we need to do is reach within the available resources to take care of the problem.


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