I mentioned the fact that our young people don’t know a lot of the history of how we got here. With the benefit of the internet, they are not exactly ignorant, but also, history itself is a very tricky subject that has several versions. Oftentimes, the truth is first murdered and its carcass presented as history. Winston Churchill famously stated that ‘it is the prerogative of the victor, to rewrite history’.
Even the angle about the military writing our constitution, let us look closer. Great Britain, our colonizer, does not have a written constitution but they have common law. A country is a product of its history. Britain has been plundered and ruled by the Romans, the French, the Germans, the Danes, the Huns (Scandinavians), and all sorts. The tranquility we see there today did not appear from the blues. The parliament did not emanate from the blues too.
There was a civil war in Britain in 1642, culminating in a coup d’etat in 1649. Many kings have ascended by killing their brothers in many monarchies around the world, but in 1653, England’s most prominent military man, Oliver Cromwell, seized the government and deposed the monarchy. In fact, that act is credited as the very beginning of republicanism – government by the people for the people – all over the world. That is what we are enjoying today as democracy.
We are not hearing that the British seek to obliterate some of the acts of their leaders past. There are ways to work around these issues. On the basis of history alone, we have no excuse to split Nigeria. In fact, many of the admired countries in the world have seen a lot worse than we have – wars, famine, diseases, plagues, misgovernance, impositions, plundering, piracy, oppression and what not. These things are not to be desired, but life is also not a bed of roses.
I also do not think 61 years in the life of a country is too long such as to call for its disintegration. Indeed, under 3 years of focused, communicative, inspired government, we can pull this country together. I believe. Someone like the Late Magufuli tried it in recent times and I was shocked to realise that truly, Tanzania experienced transformation in spite of all the controversies. His death remains a mystery though.
AN ENTREPRENEURIAL VIEW
When I left the meeting I kept thinking about why I wasn’t seeing the gloomy picture that many people are painting about Nigeria. Maybe there is something wrong with me. Here I am, a struggling businessman/consultant, getting battered by Nigeria, frozen out of many places by this particular APC government where the playing field has never been so uneven, with my fortunes dwindling daily from what it was, cheated and robbed from a political party that we formed and invested so much in.
Even if I wasn’t hopeful of becoming a business success again in my time, I still cannot but see through the eyes of my children and every young, confused, innocent, energetic, networked, passionate Nigerian out there that there is no need splitting this country, or daily selling the idea of how the country is finished. I see that the idea is very popular with those who wish to hang the cause of their shortcomings entirely on Nigeria, but we can see that even abroad there are serious problems.
Oftentimes when we end up activating our Plan B and we get abroad, we are shocked by the severity of existence in some of those countries – especially for black people. Many people are suffering in Nigeria, but we still have social capital for example. This means people step up to help one another. Our communal culture helps. Our diversity – no matter that it has been mismanaged – helps a lot. Millions of Nigerians come from communities where their lineage has been marked or ostracised and where they have been foretold never to rise above a limit in their personal quests, but when they prove themselves to someone who knows nothing about ancient tribal issues, they soar.
This is one of the advantages of diversity, which will disappear once we reverse to ethnic conclaves. The diversity of ideas with which the country is being run, which stems from the mishmash of cultures, is also something we could harness rather than throw everything overboard.
I realized that I only see Nigeria through the eyes of an entrepreneur. Maybe that is what the Chinese, the Indians, the Europeans, British and Americans, and the Lebanese, who come here see. They know they could do a lot more if there was security, but they hedge their risks and continue maxing out their profits. In fact, they see that one of the best ways of making money is simply by organizing Nigerians into rows and columns, using their systems to generate order, since we are unable to do the same ourselves.
That is why they say ‘build it, they will come’. An entrepreneur knows that there are risks everywhere, but he wakes up daily, with hope clenched in one fist, and ideas in the other, and he faces the market where competitors are a dime a dozen. The fact that the race is in a cut-throat alley does not matter that much. In fact, he knows that catching the cut-throat thieves – or even encouraging them – itself is a business from which some may make profit.
A true entrepreneur never says never. He/she sees opportunities where others see nothing. I want Nigerian youths to be like the Biblical Joshua and Caleb, two spies who came back out of the 12, and said ‘absolutely, the land is full of milk and honey!’ The same land of which 10 others said there was no hope. This is what I am – not about the prospects of making money here per se, but the prospect of making this place a land of great people and positive news; a land whose people will be respected, not scorned, everywhere.
An entrepreneur is ready to put together ideas, innovation, solutions, knowledge, information, technology, and other factors of production, so as to achieve something new and desirable. He may get glory… or glory may tarry. But he/she perseveres. Nigerian youths must persevere for this patch of earth in which God has planted their heads. Those who go abroad and daily sponsor the disintegration of this country (just a few, not all), are only being myopic and many are projecting their personal failure on land that is really without fault.
Lastly, and apologies for another religious analogy, it always occurs to me, that in this big argument, I, and a few in my corner, seem to be saying to King Solomon “please do not cut the child in two. She is definitely my child and I would rather see her live than die from being cut in two, to be barbecued by cannibals. I believe that once there is life, there will always be hope”, like that good woman who contended for the baby.