What does it mean to be a Nigerian? What comes to the mind of people especially non-Nigerians whenever they see a Nigerian or hear the word 'Nigeria'? What does it take to be a Nigerian? What lies within you that gives you a subliminal feeling of intricate compassion, cohesive group logrolling, deep empathy and an intimate sense of belonging that you are an essential part of a formidable group and an impregnable fortress forthrightly forging ahead on the sure-footed path of national progress and advancement, rather than as an involuntary immigrant from the empyreans regrettably sandwiched amongst a cluster of annoying, neurotic, frustrated jerks in an unpalatable contraption, nay, a mere sociopolitical assemblage immersed in a geographical expression?
This is the national spirit paradigm and the nationhood question-the love for the nation, the spirit of patriotism, the sense of togetherness and the passion to be counted as a closely knitted part of a group, a nation and a going concern heading somewhere.
Let me be more epexegetic.
When you see an American, you see a person birthed in a land of promise, of free enterprise, of the pursuit of Happiness, the motivation for greatness, a land of dreams, a home of wonderful opportunities, a place where leaders are not masters and followers are not slaves, a place where those who work are Kings and those who don't, get fat as contented slaves and puffy beggars, a nation where the rich is not idolized and the poor is not ostracized. Same standards and equal opportunities for all.
An emblem of true democracy where a black man, nay, a mixed caste emerged its President. A nation where Professors aren't better in finances than hardworking porn stars and Senior Executives don't earn more respect than club Strippers. A nation of poisoning liberalism and free knell for adventure epitomized by its legislative imprimatur on same sex marriage and the recent public nudity legal approval. There is both compensation and comeuppance in the cosy kitty of the nation, America. An average American towers in thought and remains conscious of his heritage as a citizen of the world's most powerful nation. It is country first! 'God bless America' is as important as America- God's own country. You don't need a flag to be American, you need a fledging mentality.
A Briton too knows what it takes to be British. When you think of Britain, you think of a land of civilization, a hub of western education and a society of awe-inspiring conservatism. The Great Britain, for instance is a nation of orderliness, consistency, palace of monarchs and a carefully and thoroughly planned society. With arguably the best transport system in the world, a politically stable clime, many world class varsities and the commonwealth nucleus, the United Kingdom which strangely was the colonial master of great and powerful countries like the United States of America, China and our very own Nigeria, Africa's giant and the world's most populous black nation ranks as a pace setter among-st nations and her citizens act this everywhere they are found.
This is the British national spirit, taught unconsciously in schools and at home, such that an eight year old pupil already knows what it takes to be British.
This same national spirit resonates through the United Arab Emirates, Dubai- the hub of business tourism, France- the hub of romantic tourism, Italy- the home of sophisticated designs, Rome- the Roman catholic citadel, Jamaica- the janjaweed of Rastafarians, Egypt- the beautiful pyramid, Saudi Arabia- the oil-rich Islamic Island and many other nations.
Can this be said of Nigeria? What exactly is the emblem of our national spirit? Is it the land of the rich Politicians? The oil rich den of militants? The haven of political corruption? The place where the rich rise and the poor dies? Oh, I get it- the home of yam-eating goats.
Until we have a national spirit, our constitution counts for nothing and could be deemed lacking national direction...
The constitution of a country is thus not just the supreme legislative document of a nation hurriedly churned out by the leader(s) via their legislative hegemony to govern the led, it is the abiding spirit of legislated set of conducts emanating from the people- the volkgeist- the German loanword meaning "spirit of the people" or "National character" for a unique "spirit" possessed collectively by each people or the nation. It doesn't have to be written or documented, but ingrained in the people as their unique set of rules as decipherable from their indicials of acceptable behaviour. This is why a nation like the United Kingdom with no single document that can be referred to as her constitution, save a few scattered specialized bills, known in legal parlance as an 'unwritten constitution' can have a functional system, a high patriotic national spirit.
Thus, the constitution is more of a spirit, than a document, If the spirit is not there, what you have is a sham piece of paper! It is instructive to note that what we call the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a successively amended hasty document foisted on the people by the artificially engineered legislature to make rules of governance and administrative governance for it. You can not keep on amending a defective, sham piece of paper and desire that it works. That's like attempting to beat sense into a Barbie doll! The opening statement in the constitution, popularly called the preamble which states: "We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Having firmly and solemnly resolve, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God, dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding, And to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people... Do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution:- " is a sham. The constitution is fraudulent, its manifestation can't be any better. This constitution didn't emanate from the people- It cannot effectively guide the people. A total refurbishment won't cure the inherent defect, an absolute re-enactment of a constitution that reflects the spirit of the Nigerian people as imprinted in their hearts and as documented in the constitution is therefore desirable.
It can be argued that our problem in Nigeria is that of execution of the constitution to the latter, a leadership challenge and lack of sufficient political will to enforce the constitutional stipulations, rather than the inadequacy of the constitution or a dearth of the laws, but this reinforces the fact that Nigeria lacks a functional national spirit- which is the basis of forming a workable constitution and effective national institutions.
Equally, without a worthwhile national spirit, a great leader cannot emerge- It is from the pool of unpatriotic followership that the cup of ineffective leadership is fetched. There are so many things that reinforce the flourishing of the national spirit- they include: national success, achievement, growth, trust and confidence in the national leadership, better standard of living, welfarism and national care. We are more likely to have the back of a nation that cares about us. When the people are treated like social orphans, they don't give a hoot about their nationist parents. Let the welfare of the people be the final law.
When we are proud of a nation, we would be proud to identify with it. What most people tag as being proud of their nation is actually empathy for the nation of their birth they can't be genuinely proud of. The topical questions remain- Are you indeed proud to be black? Does it give you great joy that you are a Nigerian? Are you only identifying with Nigeria because you have no other place to call your own or you are not ceased of a better choice as we all live where predestination bestows on us or you are only defending the Nigerian enterprise simply because you are fighting for your identity rather than because your identity is worth your trouble?
Are you excited to be a Nigerian or you are just following the flock as a choiceless dreg of the earth, an involuntary creature of the Creator regrettably tossed from Heaven by the Supreme Deity and foisted on a people with neither focus nor direction? Is there really anything to be proud of as a Nigerian or as an African? If you had a choice or an attempt at reincarnation, would you have chosen or choose to be a Nigerian? Did you wail on peeping at your birth and discovered you were arriving in Mushin rather than Miami? Did you attempt to beat a retreat? Did you come with your head at childbirth rather than step out with your legs because you wanted to ascertain your earthly destination and either crawl out If you like it or beat a retreat into your mother's womb If it's a scary land of many shades? This is a time for deep thinking and sincere reflection.
Do you make genuflection to Nigerian leaders, Nigerian symbols and flag out of loyalty, patriotism and respect or out of fear, favour, pity or opportunity?
Nigeria needs a national direction, a collective goal, a central national policy aim that every Nigerian will pursue together. If we don't know where we are going, how do we get there, go there, know where and how to get there and know when we get there? How do we experience a change of national circumstance when we are not conscious of our national focus?
Nigeria through her agencies of government must conscientiously embed the duo of national spirit from where the national brand can be obtained and the national direction- our national anchor, mission statement, creed of the nation, national objective, our socio-political and democratic orientation for national growth and rebirth in the citizenry. The National Orientation Agency, the Department of Civic Rights and Education and the Federal Ministry of Education have pivotal conjoined responsibilities in this regard in the areas of awareness creation, development of citizenship education curriculum for primary school pupils and secondary school students before they fully form their character without a piece of national spirit in it in a bid to catch them young. It is easier and better to train a child than to repair an adult.
Nigeria will rise again!
God bless Nigeria!
By Tosin Ayo - A Nigerian Legal Practisioner