Nationalism is like a jar of colourful insects roaming from top to bottom, biting and kicking in an attempt to get out. You may shake them, pour a litre of water in yet they float and fight their way to freedom. Insects show a lot of courage and relentlessness in achieving their goals. They too show love for each other when carrying out their duties. For instance, in the anthill there’s a queen, a king and workers. Workers show love and allegiance to the queen and the caste system by seeking and providing food for the queen and other ants. In times of attack, they sacrifice their lives for the survival of the queen. Nationalism thus can be seen as an affinitive love for one’s motherland or nation based on descent, culture, norms, race, common heritage and conjoint historical experience.

Nigeria was once the green insect in a glass jar. Found along the banks of two great rivers, Rivers Niger and Benue, this insect was a treasure in the eyes of the whitemen. She was a source of abundant food as the soil was rich and fertile. She was also a source of huge revenue generated from taxing poor, illiterate locals. Above all, she was a huge source of slaves and able-bodied men to be recruited in the British army. Countrywide development edged in quickly with better transportation, education and infrastructure. Magazines and newspapers helped spread the new life. Thus urban dwellers carried political and nationalist ideas to the local communities. Soon there was a country full of freedom hungry nationalists.

1960 was a year of joy for most Nigerians as they gained independence from the British colonial masters. Everyone said Hello to a newly born “Nigerian nationalism.” No one, even the far sighted knew it would be short lived. The 1914 amalgamation proved to be a huge mistake. Various outstanding issues were swept under the carpet; most outstanding was the intolerance existing between the north and south, fear on the side of minority groups, growing corruption and hunger for power. In 1964, the first Igbo led coup occurred, this was followed by bloodshed in the North and a Hausa led countercoup.

1967 drew the battle lines between the Igbo secessionist Republic of Biafra and the Federal Government. The Igbo group blamed the government of negligence, oppression and killing of the Igbos, while the Federal government couldn’t afford losing the oil fields found in the south. My grandma recounts the constant beautification of the southern soil with heavy artillery, machine guns and trained troops. Losing majority of its territories and over 3 million lives, the short lived Republic of Biafra was forced to submit to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 1967 marked the beginning of deterioration of the “Nigerian nationalism.”

Today Nigerians bear a repulsive hatred for those of different tribe from theirs. An Igbo and a Hausa man cannot sit together in a public vehicle without harassing each other. The various tribes seek for power and dominance. Each tribe is bent on seeing their own in the Aso Villa. Today the country is faced with widespread corruption in all arms and tiers of government. There is embezzlement of public funds meant for rehabilitation and projects. These funds are meant for improving the lives and standard of living of the populace. The country has over 70% of its population poor. Over 60% are inflicted with diseases like malaria, typhoid, cholera and HIV/AIDS. Nigeria has one of Africa’s poorest infrastructure in terms of building and housing with over 50% of her populace without proper housing. Statistics also show that an average Nigerian lives on less than $1 a day. She is also faced with the old secessionists (Biafra) in the South-east, Boko Haram sect in the North, Niger Delta  militants in the oil rich South-South and various minority sects across the country. Doesn’t a country whose moral, cultural, economic and ethical values have deteriorated need a tint of nationalism? Of course it does, probably a tank full of it.

Nationalism will be a tremendous asset to Nigeria and the globalized world. It will help foster social unity. Feelings of the high and low class will be erased from the minds of many. The huge gap between the rich and the poor will be bridged. When this occurs the constant disparity between Igbos, Yorubas and Hausas will cease. Hence an Igbo man can comfortably marry a Yoruba or Hausa woman, Igbos and Hausas can sit and talk without burning the rooftop.

Nationalism will create the feeling of heroism and self-sacrifice in the minds of many Nigerians and citizens of the globalized world. No one wants to be a hero for a dead country. Nationalism reforms the country and enables various youth make sacrifices for the nation. It’s like bee workers sacrificing all they got to source for food for the queen and other bees. When attacked they fight back, in the process losing their lives. That’s the feeling nationalism seeks to create in the hearts of many.

Nationalism builds a country in an economic and financial fortress. By uniting various people with diverse ideas and work experience, the nation’s economy, markets and finance can be boosted. For instance if the Igbos have strength and valour, the Hausas have the money and the Yorubas have the knowledge, they can be merged to create a great and profitable economy where everyone benefits. This principle can be likened to a lichen, a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae where the algae being photosynthetic produces food for itself and the fungi while the fungi gives protection to the algae. This principle is also applicable to the highly developed and globalized world where great businesses and economies are made by mutualistic cooperation between parties.

The world is becoming rapidly developed with increase in technology, urbanization, better education and infrastructure. Despite these, we need to ask ourselves how close we are to our neighbours. In a general meeting, do we speak with multiple voices or just one? This illustrates the need for nationalism in villages, communities, cities, nations and the world. Nationalism is indeed an asset to the world.

We are left with a decision to make. Do we become the tiny variegated insects in jars, crushed in multitudes but with love, unity and a big heart of sacrifice? Or do we rather fold our hands and watch?








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