A Second Look at the National Motto, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

Nigeria is today such a terrible place, somewhat between Europe of the dark ages and the middle ages with human life becoming so cheap and disposable. What is responsible for this?

I was reflecting with a gentleman two weeks ago that one year had gone past since the killing of 280 men and women in Kano by terrorists and the day, 20th January came and passed without a memorial of any sort. In fact if anyone had remembered, it was the terrorist-organization which preempted this date with an attack on the revered Emir, Alhaji Ado Bayero on the 18th. Even in war, a battle in which 280 lives are lost is a landmark lost and that day and location will be sign-posted and a memorial instituted.

This is a nation, (do we really say we are a nation?) or collection of men and women who lose not less than 50 lives in road accidents, ethno-religious violence, robbery, banditry or pipeline fires each week. No inquest takes place. Sometimes public statements are made but this is not always the case. No attempt is made to establish responsibility or culpability. For this reason, no one can say these unnecessary deaths come from negligence or willful acts. If culpability were to be established, a case may be made for compensation to victims. A new law may be made to stave off future occurrence or a mandate created. This mandate may be by the creation of a new agency to deal with a given problem or a further mandate is given to an existing organization. When this is done, there is a good chance of remedial action being taken and future occurrence of the unwanted situation being averted. This country has a way of lapping every incident, every disaster and just moving on. Even the country’s mass media system is purpose-built for the peculiarities of Nigeria. The press which surveys the environment and works as a chronicler will announce an event or incident as it occurs. That ends the story. Nobody does a follow-up, no follow through.

Arising from these, we have become a country of anything goes. There is impunity everywhere. No respect for judicial decisions, no respect for agreements, no legal focus and no social equity. We don’t even have weights and measures in our transactions and therefore no ethical basis for exchange. Worse still, we have become subjects to characters parading themselves as leaders who don’t know the meaning of, and can’t even spell simple words like honour, integrity and honesty. When leaders sign agreements, they go to the courts where there is an ample number of willing judges who would absolve them of obligations under agreements voluntarily entered into.

That’s why we don’t even have defined national ideals as a society. We live like a people without a common cause. No common interest and no common ideals. Even the constitution does not give an idea of our national goals or ideals. The nearest to it, that is Section 2, which states the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy says at the same time that these are not justiciable. To quote the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola, “everything multiplied by zero equals to zero”.

Nigerians don’t even pretend to have a common-identity – well, except for the National ID which is still to go round the population many years after the commencement of its distribution.

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So when people say often, as it has become the fad these days that poverty and joblessness are to be blamed for the killings in the North and the other parts of Nigeria, you wonder from which planet they are looking at the issue.

A people who have not been socialized and culturalised into accepting a fair deal; a people who don’t have the format for the basic society and are not bound by common standards of behavior must first of all go back to the basics to redefine the basis of their existence before taking the leap of civilization.

All our problems arise from this lack of focus and inability to properly define who is a citizen and the relationship that binds a citizen to a fellow citizen. We talk blah, blah, blah and always focus on symptoms. Are you a citizen because you have been given National ID card or that you were born in Nigeria? If this is the case what stops the alien from a neighboring country from equally making this claim? Do Nigerians know their civic obligations to the state? What are these, because without they knowing the spirit of moving state; that social force that binds the citizen to public causes, there cannot be a sense of duty and obligation among the population.

Before one is accused of pessimism, I must say that this is not totally a hopeless situation. Nigerians can achieve happiness and this would come with safety, security and development of mutual habits of living as brothers and sisters in a community and cultivating and pursuing the highest virtues of civilization.

To help them move in that direction, government with the enormous resources and might at its disposal can help by focusing on the country’s motto  which professes the words “Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress” as the central theme of every concept, perspective, project, plan, philosophies, policy, art, sport, law and governance.

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