Monday, May 24, 2010

BRICK BY BRICK – My Response To Naysayers

Recently I have been inundated with articles of prophecies by “prophets” and notable Nigerians who foresee Nigeria disintegrating. Many people agreed with this and have sent me private messages saying some of our passion is misplaced and Nigeria is not worth the trouble of saving – nothing to celebrate, they say. Please do not be offended when I call all this arrant non-sense.

I begin by quoting from a book, “Our Hopes, Our Dreams – A Vision for America”, by Gary L. Bauer. I only laid hands on this book yesterday, 6th of October.

“Historians and philosophers have come up with many ways to judge a great nation. It’s possible to look at the size of its GNP, the strength and reach of its military, or the gleam of its cities. By those measures and many others, America is a great, great country that has drawn millions of pilgrims across stormy seas. But it’s also possible to measure a nation by the health of its children and the strength of its families, by the safety of its streets and the values of its culture. On any given night in America, too many children cry themselves to sleep. Too many long for the arms of a father who isn’t there; too many have been damaged by pornography, drug addiction, or venereal disease; too many have been abused and exploited. Too many families are broken, too many schools aren’t educating, and too many homes have bars on their windows. By those measures, the United States is falling far short of our Founders’ dreams”.

He went further to provide some poll results. Over half of Americans believe their country is heading in the wrong direction – and they are not talking economic terms, but rather, the state of Americans’ hearts and soul. So, even though Bill Clinton left America with 8 million new jobs and a sound economy, people still thought something was wrong. Even after George Bush went into two wars and proved America was still the world’s only super-power, people felt something was wrong. Even after voting him out of office and bringing the much prophesied and expected change, majority of Americans are now beginning to say Obama is not the Messiah they yearned for. This is the America we compare ourselves with. So, what is really wrong?

This is the measure of the problem Nigeria is facing today. Many people asked for leaders with integrity, but they would not go out to vote Gani Fawehinmi as President of Nigeria; they could not even deliver him his own town. We asked for a righteous leader, but Chris Okotie got less than 100,000 votes in each of this presidential bids. We recognise Pat Utomi’s intellectual credentials, but he only got 18,000 votes all over Nigeria, with over 50 million registered voters. Many of our pessimists neither have voter’s cards or got up from their sore backsides to vote on election days or remain to see the votes tallied. Then someone comes up and declares Nigeria will disintegrate.

With all respect to our members with Architectural or Building Engineering degrees, and seeking their input if my summation is in error in those lines, I will attempt to use the building of a house as an analogy of our nation in development.

A house is a structure that consists of 4 primary dimensions;

The Foundation
The Pillars
The Walls
The Roof.

Each is critical to the full development of the house and they are built in subsequence. That is, the foundation comes first, then the pillars, then the walls and finally the roof. Furthermore some necessary sub-structures come together for the aesthetics of the house to become manifest. Like;


In between all these is an instrument called the “Scaffolding”.

Now the following indicate the usefulness of these dimensions to our house of Nigeria.

Our Vision and Values are our Foundations Our Laws are our Pillars Our Citizenship is our Walls Our Faith is our Roof

The windows, plumbing, electricity, furniture are all the social services and amenities (Programmes) that we require to enjoy the beauty of the building but they do not define the building. The scaffolding is a tool that helps whitewash (brand) the building, but its absence will not affect the integrity of the structure.

What has gone wrong in Nigeria is that the four foundational dimensions stated above were never developed in proper order. They were not developed by the competent and certainly were never developed with an eye for the destiny of this nation. The white people amalgamated and ruled us under a name, and under a British Parliament, but left us with a name and three regional parliaments - a bad foundation. Our inherited Laws did not take into cognisance our cultural values as a nation and were designed for the Anglo-Saxon temperament and historical realities. When we moved into the American governmental methodology, we came to the same impasse; The American constitution was developed by a group of people with common background in Europe, who were looking in the same direction. Nevertheless, 50 groups of settlers amalgamated rather than disintegrated, forming the United States of America.

Our citizenship was dual. Parents were careful , following their community leaders teachings, to brand their children first as Yoruba, Ibibio, Kanuri, Igbo, etc, before they grew up to find that they were born and live in a country called Nigeria.

Our faith was not consolidated around a nation, but around our groups. All our national religions are not even of domestic origins, and our domestic religions divide more than they unite. So what would have been our roof of faith is several layers of asbestos, designed to protect each group according to their level of communal growth within our nation state. The scaffolding of external aid, advice, help, IMF, World Bank, AU, UN, etc, are only of temporary benefit and cannot help us overcome very defective origins. Thus, with a defective foundation, it goes to say that people expecting all the social amenities of electricity, good roads, health, sound education, etc, are wishing on a star.

However, our generation are so diversely trained, exposed, experienced and capable, that there is no problem that we cannot fix. If the 20plus Km 3rd Mainland Bridge could have sub-terranean solution not requiring a demolition, what foundation is there that a faithful and committed people cannot redo. We do not abandon our buildings just because they leak water – we fix them. We do not abandon the house because the windows are cracked – we replace it. We do no migrate just because the pillars are stressed – we rebuild it. Prime land is so expensive that, even if you are not happy with the structure, you do not abandon the property. The Hebrews and their first cousins, the Arabs, are still fighting over the piece of real estate their grand-father Abraham left them 3600 years ago. They did not abandon the property nor wish its destruction.

Nigeria can never disintegrate. Here are some practical reasons;
- Over 1 million people died in the civil war, and we are still together.
- We overcame the various coups and military putsches .
- We are so well intermarried now.
- The NYSC, Armed Forces, Para-Military Forces, etc have a great esprit-de-corps devoid of notable tribalism.
- Many Nigerians are now settled/integrated across the whole of Nigeria.
- Over 20 million Nigerians in the diaspora, sending in $Billions and itching to return home.
- There is nothing to disintegrate to; The various states/regions will just disintegrate further taking many communities back to the dark ages.
- We will all lose investments, friends, families and more people will be poorer than they ever were and will never have the chance for success again.
- The leaders who are leading us in this dangerous thinking of disintegration are of the generation that created a terrible foundation of nepotism and tribalism. They never served in the armed forces, or NYSC or any nation building institution, so they want to be President of a small State where they can continue in the dictatorship they could not perfect at the national level. The people will suffer more in their small hamlets than under Nigeria.
- We are a prayerful nation, evidence of hope. Hope always manifest, in due time.

What we need is devolution of powers, a realistic constitution, common values, a people oriented vision and social programmes to keep us along the long haul. But the majority of us have left this decision, characteristically, to the few ambitious and uninspired cliques who gather at night to do for us what we chose not to do – rule.

There is hope for Nigeria. This is why I keep asking our members and all Nigerians to develop the spirit of volunteerism. America was made successful by the activities of individual and non-governmental initiatives rather than by people in power at the centre. The main job of a president is to set direction for a nation – and when he/she cannot do that, the nation moves on with its many entrepreneurs and private initiatives and programmes. A nation is made great by the sum of all the great individuals within it, not a great political party of president. The nation is made rich by the sum of all its tax-paying millionaires and the jobs they create, not the civil service. Nigeria can only be fixed by the sum of its citizenry that are doing something to fix the leaking roofs, the cracked windows, the broken plumbing and the shattered kettle. Holding out for someone else to do the fixing is a self-imposed life sentence to remain in stagnancy. Besides, practice make perfect. If you are doing something now, you grow to become un-expendable in that field.

What you put in life is what you get out of it. Let’s get up and make Nigeria work. It is our job, not that of the PDP, AC, ANPP, LP or whatever umbrella nomenclature we operate under. And if we do not rise up to get involved, then we have no right to complain or prophecy evil upon the land. The faithful will eat of the good of the land. It’s a promise.

Peace upon Nigeria. God bless us indeed.

George H. Ashiru
NIGERIA: Town Hall Meetings Project (THMP)
(c) 2009

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