By Iweka Kingsley
“If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 – 1963), U.S. President. Address, American University, Washington, D.C.
Make no mistakes, Nigeria is a place of differences and there is nothing anybody can do about that. It is not going to change- not now, not ever. It is what makes us both beautiful and fascinating. It is perhaps, a hard thing to comprehend, how that so many variations can exist in a single place. But it does. However, being characterized by differences does not pose a disadvantage in anyway; rather, it presents opportunities for us to maximise the options that are readily available to us. With over 250 tribes spread across the 36 states in the nation, we are exposed to differences in dressing, cuisine, customs, methods and lots more. We are presented with over 250 ways to view the world.
Diversity is not restricted to the aspects of tribe and religion alone. There are certainly other aspects: political, socio-economical, educational, and so on and so forth. All of these other aspects apply to Nigeria one way or another.
All around us, we see the manifestations of diversity at work, in style, in creation, generally in output. However, we have not fully utilized the advantages of diversity to our benefit as a country. It is our inability to utilize diversity effectively that heralded the various diversity oriented crises in Nigeria. It shouldn’t be that way.
We as a nation can achieve much from diversity if the right mechanisms are adopted to blend our differences to yield positive outcomes for us. I have outlined below, five points that could help the unification of Nigeria’s diverse elements.
PARTIAL DIFFERENTIATION: It is rightly said, that our strength is in our diversity. It is therefore necessary that we do not disregard the differences that characterize Nigeria. We should not in any way, try to alter them and what they represent, so that they conform to a general pattern. If we do that, we would lose the beauty and essence in variety, and thus arouse a conflict in the scheme of things. We should embrace these differences and find expression for them in the transformation process of the country, so that they will strengthen the bond we share and move the nation further. We cannot have a distinct and united voice if we are not distinct yet united. Let us preserve those attributes that distinguish the various elements of our nation and commit those attributes to effectual use.
EMPHASIZED INVOLVEMENT: For every right, there is a corresponding responsibility. The people must have more than a sense of belonging, they must have a duty as well, a role to play, a place where their differences matter and function. If they see that their efforts count for much and are essential for common progress, they will be inspired to do even more, channeling their efforts to positive use. There must be an agenda that addresses the issue of no involvement of various constituencies in the federation. If the people do not have a role in the scheme of things, then they may as well constitute a nuisance to the programs designed to move the nation forward.
ABSOLUTE INTEGRATION: To ensure political stability, it is essential that every citizen, irrespective of tribe or status, has a voice and can be heard. The House of Representatives should therefore institute programs that duly allow for interactions between them and the people they represent. They should know firsthand, the cries of their people and how they can be pacified. They should also know firsthand, the strength of their people and they can foster progress in the country.
COLLECTIVE SHARING: Eventually, the major reason for most crises can be traced back to issues dealing with improper funding or a lack of attention from the ruling government. To deal with this, a proper formula has to be adopted that ensures that every state, every local government and every constituency is provided with sufficient funds for its development projects. The crisis in Niger Delta arose because the region generates most of the country’s revenue, but receives little attention and funding from that revenue. Therefore, every effort from any area in the nation should be appreciated appropriately. There should be a result-reward program to encourage the deserving part and inspire the rest to give their best to the country’s development.
EARLY INDOCTRINATION: For there to be a full manifestation of unity, there has to be a full understanding of it. The unification process has to start early enough. It should be emphasized in homes, in schools, in religious centres and indeed every facet of human interaction. It should grow with us as we progress in life, being reiterated at various points along the course. With this we would be able to raise a new generation of Nigerians who sincerely embrace their neighbours, regardless of whatever differentiate them. Eventually, the role of the young ones would be to sustain the PEACE that would have been established by these efforts.
I have no doubts whatsoever of the possibility of peace reigning in Nigeria. With exemplary leadership and a people who are willing to serve their fatherland, there should be no hindrance to achieving the PEACE we seek.
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