After the Polls: The Journey to a United Nation
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