It’s time for the Nigerian Dream

The dawn of a New Year provides individuals and organizations an occasion to review their activities and make projections for the year. This is the secret behind the success of many persons and groups. Failure to observe this is also responsible for the failing of many. Those who don’t embark on self appraisal with a view to making amends where necessary remain stagnant for a while before the inevitable decline sets in. Those who assess themselves get better because they do new things that give them different results.

Nigerians are a religious lot. Consequently, when there are issues that demand taking the bull by the horn our leaders wax religious and seek refuge in eliciting hope in the citizenry through the deployment of words. But they forget that hope is not a strategy. It is when there is a strategy in place that there can be hope for change. But the irony of the Nigerian situation is that we have turned hope into a strategy. No situation has ever changed as a consequence of a people merely hoping for a change. All the changes the world has ever experienced happened because some people took decisive steps.

One area in which Nigeria needs to take action is with respect to carving a National Dream. I am fully persuaded that the divisive tendencies that seem to be our lot as a nation are a reaction to the lack of a dream to which we all can aspire. The agitation for the resuscitation of Biafra, the Southern Kaduna crisis, the killings in the Middle Belt region, the killings in Zamfara and Katsina as well as the agitations by Niger Delta militants are not due to our ethnic or religious differences, they are a result of the absence of a National Dream. There is nothing that pulls the people to the nation; there is no national agenda that is greater than their tribal or religious affiliation. Since nature abhors vacuums, where there is no dream, there will be hallucination. So, they choose to give vent to something in their community that has been able to arrest their attention. This is why integration has become quite difficult in the country. The antidote to regional or religious agitation is a definite and definitive Nigerian Dream.

Great nations are driven by well thought-out visions. Greatness does not happen by happenstance; it responds to deliberate efforts. Every country that is great today had, at one point or the other, leaders who sat down to answer some germane questions: What kind of country do we want to build? How are we going to build the nation of our dream? How do we want to be seen by the rest of the world? What kind of culture do we want to promote? How do we want to conduct our business? What will be our reward system? Etc.

Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, inherited a weak, wobbling and very corrupt country from the British colonialists. He and his comrades realised that if the future of the new country would hold any promise for the people, the leadership had to answer some very difficult questions and follow through with sincerity of purpose on the answers to the questions. They decided that they had to build a new country that would be very different from the one handed over to them. They decided to canvass an attitudinal change, focusing on three major areas of the Singaporean life, which are work ethics, social and religious harmony and political freedom. These were well-articulated and communicated to the people. The government did not just pay lip service to the vision; it took the lead in exhibiting commitment to ensuring its success.

In Singapore, as a result of the determination of the government to promote the right work ethics, people are rewarded based on their ability and not their ethnic or religious affiliation; nobody needs any godfather to move up. Neither quota system nor federal character has any place in the country; everybody gets their due. What this has done is to throw up the best people from the country and attract the best hands to the country; there is a healthy competition among all categories of people because they know that what they get eventually is a function of what they contribute. Most people put in their best knowing that the system would not allow their efforts to go down the drain.

I have searched the archives but I have yet to find a document containing the Nigerian vision or dream. In Nigeria, there is no national vision. There is nothing known as ‘the Nigerian Dream.’ What this presupposes is that there is no specific goal that all Nigerians are working towards, no concerted effort to take the country to a pre-determined future, no definite activity to inculcate in the people certain beliefs that will engender the right kind of attitudes which will fast track our development as a country.

What we had that was close to a national vision was the mantra introduced by former Information Minister, Mrs Dora Akunyili, ‘Good People, Great Nation,’ but it lacked the proper articulation to transform it into a national aspiration. What were we supposed to do to become a good people and our country a great nation? The former minister forgot to tell us.

The Nigerian Dream must be anchored on answers to the following questions, among others: What do we want to be known for? What do we want as the hallmark of our nationhood? What values do we want to ingrain in our citizens? It is when answers are provided to these questions and no effort is spared to make every Nigerian key into the answers that Nigeria will become a wholesome country and our journey to greatness will begin.

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