Wednesday, September 30, 2020 12:40 pm
By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
A sleeping giant is a bad sight to behold. Nigeria happens to be widely acknowledged as the Giant of Africa.
China used to be the apt example of a giant that was fast asleep, which made Napoleon Bonaparte to reportedly quip: “Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will shake the world.”
China has now woken up, and as predicted by Napoleon, the most populous country in the world is shaking up the globe – from cutting-age technology to coronavirus!
Like China, Nigeria has the population and the manpower, but sleeping sickness is the issue at stake.
I have just put together a book of sixty creative nonfiction piecesentitled How Not To Be A Nigerian to mark Nigeria’s 60thindependence anniversary.
It’s cool by me for the book to be read as the needed wake-up call to rouse the black giant from sleep.
There used to be so many dreams about the old country, but after so many disappointments over the years it’s little wonder that the venerated novelist Chinua Achebe took his exit with his last book: There Was A Country.
One can hardly ever forget that Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka wrote a book on Nigeria called The Open Sore Of A Continent.
It would all so easy for me to rehash all the woes of the country in this piece, but I have chosen instead to dwell on sparks of light that can make Nigeria work despite the darkness forged bythe country’s infernal political leaders.
All the rage today is the dismemberment of the country into diverse republics such as Biafra, Oduduwa, Kwararafa etc.
At this time that the nation is being fecklessly torn apart by mundane ethnic concerns, bigotry, hate and terrorism, there is the urgent need to get all Nigerians to the conference table to negotiate the future.
The Nigerian matter has gone beyond writing for laughs – there is no more need for satirical writing here.
Let’s tell ourselves the truth in plain language: danger is afoot, and no make of sugarcoated penmanship can save the land.
No less a personage than Nigeria’s Vice-President Prof Yemi Osinbajo has expressed his fears that Nigeria may be heading towards a break-up!
It is incumbent on President Muhammadu Buhari to read the crimson handwriting on the Nigerian wall and change his ways.
It is my belief that the bonds established by ordinary Nigerians across ethnic borders in the intervening years have grown beyond the antics of our untrustworthy leaders.
Nigeria can in no way be singled out as the only diverse nation in the world.
India, for instance, has its share of diversities and even mutinies, but it still holds aloft the torch of democracy.
Nigeria is in dire need of genuine leaders today to build her democracy in a manner that can afford all sections a meaningful sense of belonging.
Leaders of stature all over the world such as Pandit Nehru, Lee Kuan Yew and Nelson Mandela offer ready examples for new Nigerian leaders to emulate.
The dream to build a formidable nation that should stand the test of time must not be compromised on the altar of the small-mindedness of a parochial sectional leader intent on causing monumental damage.
Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, for instance, boldly made the mark of taking his then fledging nation from Third World to First World status.
Dr Mahathir of Malaysia repeated the feat.
With responsible leadership it is possible for Nigeria to defeat all debacles and shoot well ahead in the comity of nations, without bending the knee to defeatism.
The problems of the country ought to be seen as challenges that can be mastered by a committed leader and followers who believe in the cause.
It is the willingness of the people to bond together based on shared values that strengthens the commonwealth.
After a frank national conference, the people who have been made to believe can always douse the evil seeds of discord.
The way forward is of course to readily subjugate self in favour of the general good.
The railway tracks that travel all the way from Sokoto up north and down to the south through Eha-Amufu, Umuahia and Port Harcourt, and from Maiduguri through Lokoja to Ibadan and Lagos must over the years establish so much binding mores amongst the diverse Nigerians.
It is such a pity that we are today abandoning such arteries of national unity in the parochial hokum of taking the railway to Maradi in Niger Republic.
The migration of Nigerians to all nooks and crannies of the nation even before the amalgamation had built together uncountable Nigerians who call anywhere they reside in the country home.
Let there be referendum, let there be national conference, for the only thing to fear is fear itself.
Succumbing to the fear of fear is How Not To Be A Nigerian. Well, that’s the title of my book.
-Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, journalist, poet and social critic, writes from Lagos