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After the Polls: The Journey to a United Nation

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Sleep eluded me, yet it was still the early hours of the morning of April 16, 2011. I looked out of the window of the guest house where I was lodged in Lekki Phase 1, and I got a glimpse of the distant light of the moon, and I felt a consolation at the calm of the night. In less than a week I witnessed a dramatic transition of my position from been non-partisan to becoming a frontline apologetic for one of the Presidential candidates. I had been on a TV program called Showdown on Channels television to speak on the policies of the candidate that I supported and also expressed my opinion on other issues that were shaping the debate of the election. It appeared that I underestimated the power of the media, no sooner had I stepped out of the studio, friends and foes alike called my mobile phone expressing their thoughts on my public position, my colleague feared what impact it would have on the NGO project that we are working on. I was defiant.

The days that followed I was pitched in endless battle with friends on my blackberry, replying their broadcasts, and replying to their own reply of my broadcast; Facebook and Twitter did not do much to quell the debate. I was enjoying it all; it is not all the time you find young people talk about issues that affect us, for once politics distracted us, our interest switched from “entertainment” to “politics and policy issues”. For some friends our words had gone from friendly to outright insults (I sincerely apologise oh). In the heat of the moment, I tried to keep the perspective that we may differ in the candidate that we support, and as typical Nigerians, we demonise and vilify those who hold opposing views to ours. Regardless of our difference of opinion, what we did have in common was a passion and desire to see change in our country. The quest to change our nation will be the defining adventure of our lifetime (and this election proved it); else we would have failed posterity if we did not speak. At the end of the day, its not where we stand that matters, but in what direction we are headed as a nation.

No doubt, this Presidential election was a defining moment in the history of Nigeria. It was the first time most people ever voted. My friend’s mum at 56 voted for the first time. The 017 polling station at Lekki Phase one where I registered was packed, people queued as the accreditation was going on. This is perhaps the most participatory election Nigeria has ever experienced. I remember the presidential primaries of the Democratic Party in the United States; it was the youths who accentuated the Barack Obama phenomenon. Many thought it an excitement that would wane with time, but it waxed stronger. I hoped this fire will not be extinguished.

This election has actually given me the ability to understand the complexities that defines us as a country. I would have thought that as a people we would vote for anyone who can resolve the dismal standard of education, generate employment, fix healthcare system, and resolve the resurgence of militant groups which have polarized the country and, deliver on electricity, irrespective of where he is from. Some people did, I bet they were not in the majority. For some others, they voted based on the individual than the party that they are from, while a good number voted on basis of religion and ethnicity. Should this be the case? I don’t think so. But at the point when we choose to define ourselves by who we are and not where we are from then we are ready for change. We may all differ in tribe, religion, faith, background and views, but like I said to my friends, we hold a common hope where our future is concerned.

The post presidential election violence is not unconnected to the reoccurring religious and ethnic crises, and all these constitute a threat to the continued existence of our multi-ethnic nation, except something is done to end all these killings. We may seem indifferent because we may not know those who have been killed, but the painful death of some Corp members unsettles me. It is the very purpose of national integration that the NYSC scheme was instituted. It is to enable us gain an understanding of other tribes and ethnic group, so that we can deepen our unity, not to give their lives for something they know nothing about. The way in which the co-ordinators of the scheme try to down play these killings is not helping anyone. Shouldn’t they think of a permanent solution than to gloss over it? But I find myself questioning the relevance of the scheme in times of crises. Sorry I digress.  The most important question is what are we doing to stop this violence and ensure lives of innocent citizens are not wasted? I suspect that many Nigerians have come to a point where we can exist together; but this is only contingent on the end of the senseless waste of human lives. We would have made a major progress in our journey to nationhood at the point when our tribal allegiances should give way to national loyalty.

We can have tribe without tribalism, ethnic groups without ethnicity. We must aggressively put an end to these sentimental divides, be it tribal or religious. I am totally opposed to some unguarded statements certain people make such as ‘the North’s is leadership; the West, education; the East, commerce and, the South, trying to find their feet.’ Such statements have not served us well. There are no such things if we can see through the blurred conceptions. We are gifted individuals irrespective of our geo-political terrains. Let’s not emphasize our tribal affiliations but our collective nationalism. One thing is for sure, majority of Nigerians voted for a candidate that best can usher in a measure of healing to our battered country and deepen our sense of unity. The really question is, will the winner end this killings and bridge these divides?

Photo Credit: http://www.business-travel-nigeria.com

Ferdy Adimefe, is a Pastor at the Tribe Lagos and also a brand strategist.

27 Comments

  1. Someone

    May 5, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Cool

    • butterfly!

      May 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      true talk ferdy…

  2. ugbaby

    May 5, 2011 at 9:51 am

    lol!!!! no body is dragging to be the first to comment on this ‘serious national’ article! lol! if it were to do with relationships, entertainment, fashion shows and their likes, u will see alot of us dragging to comment and be d first to do so! how funny! whr r all of u???? tongue tied? or not intelligent enuf to comment on this issue? loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool! i wnt stop laughing ohhhh

    • yeha

      May 5, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      and madam, how different are you from them.Did you even comment on the topic at hand?mchewww

    • Kemchi

      May 5, 2011 at 5:56 pm

      Don’t mind all these people that like to feel very useful with themselves. Ugbaby, ngwa pls ‘educate’ us with your ‘serious’ comment on this matter of national importance!

    • Ready

      May 5, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      So right, yeha…People like ugbaby get on my nerves with their ‘comments’ on serious issues. Talking ’bout “not intelligent enough to comment” when it’s obvious from the comments on previous pages that many commenters on BN are intelligent people who are well versed in international matters. Abeg park well jo.

  3. dewowo

    May 5, 2011 at 10:05 am

    @ ‘The really question is, will the winner end this killings and bridge these divides?’ hmmmmmmm, the winner’s power to act is limited/restricted…he’ll be stepping on dangerous toes!

  4. TAMA

    May 5, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Hmmmm
    God help our country Nigeria

  5. Bi

    May 5, 2011 at 11:09 am

    @ugbaby I DID NOT SEE YOUR OWN INTELLIGENT COMMENT O, WHAT IS WRONG IF PEOPLE ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN FASHION OR ENTERTAINMENT, EVERYONE HAS A RIGHT TO BE INTERESTED IN WHAT THEY WANT TO BE INTERESTED IN. U THAT IS INTERESTED IN POLITICS LEAVE UR COMMENT AND LEAVE OTHERS ALONE, ONE OF OUR BIGGEST PROBLEMS IS HOW QUICK WE ARE TO BRING EACH OTHER DOWN, FROM THINGS LIKE PEOPLE DO COMPETITION FOR WEDDING IN NIGERIA(like its wrong to dream about your big day and make it a reality) TO NOT BEING INTELLIGENT TO LEAVE A COMMENT ABOUT POLITICS PLEEEEEEAAAAAAAASEEEE LET US RESPECT EACH OTHER, OUR INDIVIDUALISM AND UNIQUENESS, DO YOUR THING AND LET ME DO MY THING.

  6. goat

    May 5, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I doubt if he will be able to perform cos of the cabals surounding him,anyway,lets keep our fingers cross.

  7. partyrider

    May 5, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Brilliant piece..
    we can only hope and prayer the president elect delivers..and as for a united nation..hmmm alot must be done..

    • partyrider

      May 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm

      ***pray

  8. iREAD

    May 5, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Hmmmmmn. Thought-provoking piece.

    Like you, I was very disturbed at the news of the NYSC corpers killings. What bothers me most is that the killings were perpetrated by other young people. You know what that means? It means that ethnocentrism and religious bigotry has pervaded our generation. It means that our hope that ‘once this older generation of crooks and bigots have passed, rebuilding our nation will be accelerated’ is actually baseless and on very shaky ground. I used to and still am very careful about calling out the north and northern muslims instead choosing to see the root cause of their problems/propensity for violence i.e. poverty, lack of education and the fact that a lot of them have nothing to live for. However, the truth is, we cannot keep silent for ever. We have to deal with this issue, now. All over the world, Christians and\or democracy practitioners have developed a fear for muslims, constantly treading on eggshells around those of them that are incited to hatred, but at what cost?

    I feel strongly that the president has done little to deal with the perpetrators for instance, other than throwing around useless rhetoric. If your brother was one of the corps killed, how would you feel? If it was one of GEJ’s kids, how would he feel? I think it is time that we showed all ethnic\religious bigots that they will not be tolerated. I think it is time to start punishing perpetrators SEVERLY and even moreso their backers and inciters. And no, I know it is simply a northern problem as I have heard a few Southerners\Christians speak about the north in the most despicable way.
    The NYSC program should be a unifier but not an altar for sacrificing non-northerners of muslims. No. It has to stop. And we have to pull our collective heads right out of the sand.

  9. akudo

    May 5, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    i’m happy at the way nigerians participated in the last eletion polls, the violence the surfaced afterwards was really unfrotunate. but i believe that at this point, nigerians have realised that we have only two alternatives and that is either to get it right or disintegrate. no matter how we try to propagand that one tribe would suffer more than the other if nigeria is divided, truth is we all have something important to lose if we thread that part. so we’ve got to make nigeria work! am glad nigerians have embraced unity to a large extent, from now on, the future can only be green

  10. yeha

    May 5, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    At the end of the day we have to call a spade a spade.Nigeria is not ONE NATION , we never were and never will be.We were different nations, with different ways of life forced together as a country for the selfish reasons of our colonial masters “Britain”. The British carved out neighboring regions and then told us that we were a nation!!!!Nigerian politics is ethnographic, Nigerians are invested in their ethnicities ONLY. Majority of the people vote and act according to tribal sentiments.The map (showing the votes in all the geographical regions) of the just concluded presidential election attest to this. If all we keep hearing is “it is the turn of a south south person to be president”, “No, a hausa must be president” then we are NOT ONE!

    The country was founded on wrong reasons, so NO, nothing can bridge these gaps!NOTHING at all.

    • Bee!

      May 6, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      Yeha,
      I agree with you a hundred per cent. A lot of people feel one is pessimistic when one says there is no Nigeria, and there never will be. I propose a system of government, like that of the Emirates. Each region is autonomous to an extent, each state generates its revenue, nothing like one region accusing the other of spending thier wealth and so on……I’m not a government or politics major, I’m just theorizing here. But the truth, as far as I am concerned, is the sooner we count our losses as a ‘nation’ and move on, the better it will be for everyone involved. I know all our problems will not be solved overnight, but at least, it’s a step…..instead of continuously flogging a dead horse.

  11. http://dakkylove.blogspot.com/

    May 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    lovely article and it mirrors exactly what i wrote on my blog http://dakkylove.blogspot.com/ Secession theory,what do we do next split up or pretend the wounds are not there?? God help us.

  12. faith

    May 5, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    i live in PH…b4 the presidentail election…i used to ask my friends “who will u vote for?” and dey would ans ”Jonathan of course” n i wuld ask dem y?….n d reply i always got was ”he is not hausa”.they also wuld ask me who i wanted to vote for i wuld say buhari…peeps u need to see d faces of my friend…dey always looked at me like i had lost my head…the truth is dis tribal thing has really eaten deep into us n i dont know wat we can do abt it…

  13. Kemchi

    May 5, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    You took the words right outta my mouth Yeha.
    Sadly, there will always be people who will exploit our ethnic differences for their own selfish political gain, and those who simply refuse to put aside the politics of tribalism. Ethnic divisions and ignorance can make for a lethal combination, anywhere in the world not just in Naija.
    I remember when I turned eighteen, and my father took me to the polling station to register and then vote. I was so proud. However, over the years I have become disillusioned by the things I’ve seen and heard.
    Perhaps there’s still some hope for us. There’s a whole lot we can achieve going forward, if we would simply let go of ethnic and tribal sentiments.
    My heart goes out to the families of the youth corp members, no one should have to fear for their lives while serving their nation. If they can’t guarantee their protection methinks they shouldn’t expect them to go.

  14. mimi

    May 5, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    ” I am totally opposed to some unguarded statements certain people make such as ‘the North’s is leadership; the West, education; the East, commerce and, the South, trying to find their feet.’ Such statements have not served us well” If you hadn’t made this statement i wouldn’t have know… otherwise nice piece generally.

  15. Ready

    May 5, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    I cannot say that I understand what the families of the slain corpers are going through, but I do sincerely empathize with them. True, we were forced together as a nation, but Yeha, I disagree with the notion that we can never become a country. We need to treat this the way other countries handle their race/minority problems.
    We need to have dialogues with each other; air out our grievances, and have increased understanding of our differences. How many Nigerians can honestly say they understand another culture outside of their own or have lived in states other than those in our regions? Unlike in certain countries where people readily pack up & move to other states to live & visit, it appears that in Nigeria, we’ve never really tried to engage each other. Instead, the government & we the people have encouraged a hands-off, not my business approach to living in the country.
    This, in my opinion, is a time to reach across the aisle in every facet of the country; in the legislature, in our communities, in our schools, etc. We are one country, and should remain so, but we’ve got to change the way we’ve been doing things.

    • Beiro

      May 6, 2011 at 4:11 am

      I strongly disagree we are not one country. Some FOREIGNERS sat down somewhere and decided to find a convenient way exploit us. In 1914 an amalgamation took place and separate entities were forcefully joint together. How can we be one country?How?

      The Hausa people always want to lead…in Bauchi state, the Emir and Governor told their citizens that no matter what happened, Buhari must win.When he did not win they decided to go on a killing spree. The comments the governor made after the corpers death ” it was their destiny” just shows how most of the Northerns think. They do not value human life and they have no problem maiming their fellow human beings.They are intolerant of other tribes and I think it is time for everyone to go and have their autonomous government .Please let us stop fooling ourselves over this “we are one”.

    • Ready

      May 6, 2011 at 11:39 pm

      Granted, the British created one country in 1914, granted we operate based on different laws. But for economic and political reasons, we are better as one country, and that is largely why Biafra was unsuccessful in its secession attempt, and probably why the North hasn’t made moves to secede.
      Despite what happened then, somehow we have hobbled our way to regional hegemony and continental dominance. Africans/African Americans were forced to remain part of the U.S despite the vast difference in their culture & their requests for 6 states so they could form their own country, and yes, race relations in America isn’t perfect, but they get along fine. France has a large muslim population & even though they don’t always agree, they somehow get along too.
      When you continually make generalizations such as “they always want to lead” and “they are intolerant of other tribes”, you perpetuate the rifts between Nigerian tribes. I’m sure you didn’t arrive at that conclusion based on facts, you probably chose to view a percentage of the Northern population who cause havoc for us. I refuse to accept that ’cause that’d be like me agreeing that Nigeria is a country of 419s and yahoo boys.
      Like I wrote before, we can be a country by actually trying to be one and letting go of the status quo where each region just does its thing. It’s been 50 years of independence as one country & there have been vast benefits. Tell me, do you realize that a majority of our foodstuffs are grown/come from the North? You think living costs are rising right now, what’ll happen to food prices then? What happens to our revenue base? General productivity for Nigeria? And the pool where we get the military from?
      I understand feeling angry and frustrated, but we have to see the big picture here. So, yeah, I might sound optimistic here, but we can be one country if we actually tried.

  16. idu

    May 5, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I really think that the solution to the NYSC killing will be to boycott any state where NYSCorpers are killed. The core Muslim states have shown that they do not have religious/ethnic tolerance to handle anyone different than they are STOP SENDING CORPERS TO DIE .

  17. kay

    May 5, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    ferdy!!!!! really nice piece 🙂

  18. Dr. Prince

    May 6, 2011 at 6:43 am

    Good work you delivered up there Ferdie. I have always been of the view that the problem we have in this country, far from ethnicity and tribalism, is the delusion of religion, where a certain religious group considers non-members as infidels and ‘dan banza’ and so should not exist. We have to start from the leadership of both the church and the mosques. What is being preached in those mosques that makes them so belligerent and intolerant? If the problem is rooted in the diversity of our tribes or ethnicities, then why do people of the same tribe kill themselves during crisis? Simply because they don’t share the same faith. I have seen this happen in the northern part of Nigeria. Religion is the bane of a peaceful and united Nigeria.

    For NYSC and the dangers it predisposes our youths to, I would call for its comprehensive overhaul or outright scrapping. God bless the newly-elected government, God bless Nigeria.

  19. Timma

    May 6, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I was one of the first time voters and I went to carry out that duty for the first time cos for once I really felt it was time change and also felt the need to be part of the change. I doff my hat for the corp members that lost their lives for standing up for change though I also am uncomfortable by the fact that they were killed by fellow youths. The winner I want to believe will make a difference and we pray God help us all.

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