Social media has been agog with celebration and a display of national sense of unity and patriotism following the raising of the Nigerian flag and Nigerian cultural way of lifting the “basket of victory” by David Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi on 15 May, 2021 after the victory win of Leicester football club over Chelsea football club in the F.A. cup finals at the famous Wembley Stadium. It was a powerful and fascinating merger between culture and sports and it has left Nigeria being the centre of envy to the global world after all the depressing news bordering on the proliferation of ethnicity, disunity and inter-tribal disagreements in Nigeria. The question comes then, is there really any ounce of national identity and pride among Nigerians or was the act following Iheanacho’s win on 15 May a mere facade, an act put up due to the euphoria of that moment?
This and many more is what I attempt to reveal in this essay. However, for a perfect understanding, it seems worthwhile to turn our focus into what National identity and pride really entails- a simple and understandable breakdown of the phenomenon, even a clear and concise dictionary meaning.
National, as defined by The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, means something connected with a particular nation; shared by a whole nation and Identity by the same dictionary is “who something or somebody is”. Therefore, national identity could be said to mean ‘who someone is in connection with the nation he comes from and the cultures and traditions inherent therein’. Pride, on the other hand, according to Google.com is the feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or, the consciousness of one’s own dignity. Therefore in a nutshell, national identity and pride has to do with recognising where one comes from and having deep-seated pleasure and satisfaction in that knowledge.
National identity and pride plays significant role in nation building. It is not mincing words to say that a disorganised and disunited country hardly achieves progress. National identity and pride precisely brings about progress. Therefore, one can aptly say a country needs its citizenry to survive; weakness sets in when citizens becomes apathetic to their country. Such indifference to national affairs retards progress and drags the country backwards and it is only when citizens show commitment and strong love for their country that it is sure to be moving towards a united, strong and developing nation.
Nigerians have always been noted for celebrations of its cultural values and quite captivating patriotic acts within and without the country. Like Iheanacho, there has been countless showcasing of national pride until the recent past. This, eventually, has gone on a swift decline following the rise of corruption, the infestation of our culture by foreign cultures and decadence of values in our society. The Nigerian state has become so docile, parochial and hostile that it victimizes people unlawfully irrespective of their rights.
This, however, cannot be blamed on Nigerians. The state of Nigeria, the name in fact, is a facade which was put in place by the white colonial masters for selfish interests. The amalgamation was a ruse performed due to urgent need to assuage the issue of budget deficit which was on the increase in the North during the colonial era. The plan was to use the resources in the South to cancel off the deficit in the North. There was no plan of creating a united nation out of the two protectorates before amalgamation.
The South has continued to see itself as the victimised and the North as the ‘favoured’ section. This has been the foundation for our disunity, ethnic bigotry and tribalism, with all ethnic groups trying hard to dominate the seat of power, even to the point of being unfair to the other ethnic groups.
Even looking briefly into history, the issue of who would take over from Aguiyi Ironsi was rooted in ethnic struggle. Most military officers, including Odumegwu Ojukwu, contended that it was the tradition of military for succession to follow sequentially according to rank, therefore Brigadier- General Ogundikpe who was the next senior officer after Major-General J.T.U Aguiyi Ironsi was meant to take over but the Hausa faction stood their grounds and imposed the then Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon. The Yorubas felt cheated and Ojukwu felt aggrieved to the extent of saying that if Yakubu Gowon succeeded Ironsi, the loyalty of the east would not be guaranteed. This and many other factors precipitated into the Nigeria-Biafra civil war of 1967-1970.
Recently, the president Buhari’s choice to replace late Lt. General Ibrahim Attahiru with Maj. General Farouk Yahaya as Chief of Army Staff has sparked bitterness in the hearts of the Southern counterparts, particularly those of the South-East.
Even Iheanacho’s patriotic act at Wembley Stadium was not welcomed by all. Popular Nigeria critic, Igbo leader and fascilitator of the IPOB movement, Nnamdi Kanu, took to twitter to blast David Iheanacho and Vincent Ndidi for raising the “zoo” flag when they ought to be using their victory and inherent fame to buttress the struggle for Biafra.
State and ethnic identity has now become of higher priority over national identity. For instance, job seekers from an employer’s ethnic society are preferred over non- indigenes and given lavish positions even with poor qualifications. This has led to every state looking out for ‘their own’ man and has in turn, skyrocketed the issue of hatred and ethnic tensions in Nigeria.
However, hope is not lost but success depends on our acting now in line with the suggestions adduced below.
The ways Nigerians can move forward are; to avoid ill propagated news that tends to cause strife among us, to realise that there is blessing in our diversity, to respect everyone’s culture and religious views and to live in peace and tolerance with one another, investment in education and social amenities are key factors too, government must give ears to the masses and act fairly while improving the welfare of the citizens and lastly, doing away with greed and corruption.
In conclusion, Nigeria can only move forward with the conscious efforts of Nigerians. We must let go of all hatred, strife, enmity and mistakes of the yesteryears which pulls us back and focus on the big picture; the picture of a developed and better nation, a nation that is blessed with diversity and one which if given the chance would be phenomenally successful.
Emmanuel is a student of civil engineering at CRUTECH, Calabar, Cross River State. He loves writing fiction and currently has some books he’s working on and wishes to publish this year. He’s hearing impaired but jovial. He wrote in via firstname.lastname@example.org