In the beginning when we started out as a nation, we were made up of regions composed of many tribes, cultures and backgrounds. We felt we were competing for the same “limited” resources even when there was ample evidence that there was enough to go wrong. The more we decomposed into states and local governments, the more common did words like indigeneship and state of origin come into play. Then, we went advanced and added words like geo-political zones to the Nigerian vocabulary. Funny enough, none of these words exist in the Nigerian constitution or any official document of the Federal Republic.
We began to use indigeneship and state of origin as parameters for schools admission, employment opportunities and ultimately, political appointments and elections. More painful was how narrow our definitions of these terms are. Once it could be proved that you or one of your ancestors came across the state lines, you were treated as a second class citizen. Unfortunately, we have no idea how bad these things have affected us.
A few generations down the line since Nigeria’s independence, there has been some real mixing up amongst us as people of Nigeria. States of origin are no longer feasible as a parameter in any affair because very likely, it is one’s grandfather that came from there and one has been there only once. Indigeneship doesn’t make any sense because one doesn’t even speak his indigenous language but rather, the major language of the area in which he grew up. This has prevented us from tapping into the greatest resource of any area: its people; simply because we are erecting walls when other countries are tearing theirs down.
If Nigeria continues this way, we will never have the excitement of seeing a president whose father is Kenyan, as it is presently in the United States of America; or a French president of Hungarian parentage. It cannot happen so in Nigeria when we continue to place emphasis on issues of no consequence such as indigeneship and state of origin ; when it’s so bad that my good friend Daniel Abubakar could be denied all the rights, privileges and opportunities of a Nigerian citizen in Borno State merely because he comes from neighboring Yobe State; or my friend Dotun Abu could have his desire to contribute to the development of Lagos State at the highest level truncated merely because his father hails from Osun State despite being born and bred in Lagos; when we give cabinet appointments based on geo-politics and clamor for new states in order to balance the “geo-political equation”, thereby making government bulky, inefficient and expensive to run.
We need to design the Nigerian language that we’ll begin to speak in the new Nigeria. A language where we emphasize states of residence rather than state of origin; where citizenship and residency take the place of indigeneship; where everybody is being given equal rights, privileges and opportunities to school, job openings and elective positions. Most importantly, we need to abuse the scarcity mindset that the resources are few and so, we must secure it for ourselves else the “outsider” will come and take it away. Let us collaborate, not compete. Rather than fighting for “our share of the national cake” and using these things as weapons of war, let us put heads together and make the cake bigger and more nutritious; because if we are to keep fighting for our share, the slices will end up being too little.
This Nigeria belongs to all of us. Our citizenship class should not change merely because we have crossed state boundaries, or at worst, local government borders. Let us change this status quo and begin to speak the new Nigerian language. Let us tear down these walls!! Let us begin to utilize the greatest resource God has blessed us with – the people of Nigeria, and allow everyone and anyone call wherever he is home irrespective of where he “originates” from. Only then can we begin to experience true economic, social and political development.
God bless you all, and most importantly, God bless Nigeria