NIGERIA’S CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS
“NIGERIA’S CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS – CONSTRUCTING SOCIAL BRIDGES, CONCRETIZING RELATIONSHIPS AND BUILDING NATIONAL REPUTATION” A PAPER PRESENTED BY MIKE OMERI, (fnipr) THE OBOWU OF KEANA, DIRECTOR-GENERAL NATIONAL ORIENTATION AGENCY AT THE INDUCTION CEREMONY OF NIGERIAN INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS (NIPR) IN LAGOS ON TUESDAY, MARCH, 26, 2013
I want to appreciate the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations the organizers of this event, for the invitation to present a paper on an auspicious topic such as this one.
As we take time to reflect on our centennial celebrations, signifying a hundred years of our journey as a people of common heritage, permit me to share from the thoughts of a foremost Nigerian Patriot and Nationalist, A. A. Nwafor Orizu as expressed in a speech titled: “Toward Freedom we March” which he presented at a Public address to all tribal unions in Kano, in February 1946;
“Life is a propeller. It moves steadily without concern for its expenditure. It creates and gives others only as much as it can expend from the wealth of its reservoir. We are helpless before the onward march of life we possess. Our moral power can only be our own in the measure we are willing to live and die in the service of others. Beyond this, our mortal frame is not our own for we have only a few years to live, after which we form the crust of the mother earth where our flesh and bones decompose and sink in silence”
“The voice of Freedom” (Selected Pre and Post Independence Speeches and address for African Independence 1940 – 1984)
It is the opinion of Nwafor Orizu that; in every age, a battalion of men are born. We call them a generation. They all start the march of life – moving independently and collectively. Some of them are born great, some of them achieve greatness, others among them direct their passage through the avenue of obscurity and insignificance. Among the obscure, you find underlings who accept life with apology and abandon, who question every principle of innovation and progress, who go about pointing out where great doers have done wrong. They are not doers so they never could do wrong and no one has time to discuss or think of them. Among the great, you find scientists, authors, investors, millionaires, saviours, emancipators, reformers, and statesmen.
Orizu further opines that; what makes life most interesting, however,, is that whether one is great or small, creative or detractive, whether the angels of God praise one or the devils band plays the music for the other, we are all subject to the inevitable force of onward march unto the state of everlasting good-bye to the bitterness and sweetness of life depending on how we choose to live it. We must not allow ourselves to be condemned to a life of total focus only on the negative.
As we reflect on our centenary, let me call to our collective consciousness that Nigeria is indeed, a critical part of the forward march of life and I agree with Orizu that we, as one people must resolve to march towards freedom, freedom from want, freedom from intimidation, freedom from hypocrisy and freedom from fear. We must march towards gilded consciousness; consciousness that we are God’s creation and that it is our sacred duty to give new life to ideals bring light into darkness, generate bravery and courage in the face of intense but curious security challenges, show restraint and respect for each others belief or opinion.
NIGERIA’S CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION
I commend the initiative of the Government of the Federation in conceiving the idea of recognizing and celebrating our centenary as a people. The decision to let the private sector drive the process of this celebration is also worthy of applause as it will indeed galvanize the citizenry towards collective ownership of the project and ignite creative action for empowerment.
One of the greatest challenge we face as a nation is the penchant to over play the negative things that happen in our country while neglecting to celebrate the positive things, thereby portraying our country as a place where only bad things happen. The rest of the world is fast accepting and embracing this negative stereotype stigma which is self inflicted.
The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over” – Joseph Goebbels. We at the NOA are not promoting propaganda, rather we have come out with a charge for Nigerians to do the right things always so that together we can transform our country into a nation recognized across the world for its high reputation.
The centennial celebration will offer a unique opportunity for us to take a well thought-out walk down memory lane with a view to identifying the intrinsic values which our fore-bears identified and which made it possible for them to make progress hand-in-hand inspite of their political, religious and tribal differences.
It is imperative to recall that on January 1, 1914, the Northern and Southern protectorates were formally amalgamated into one country, thereby establishing modern day Nigeria. January 1, 2014 will therefore mark one hundred years of our union as a nation.
Not withstanding our struggles and challenges; Nigeria is privilleged to be at the verge of witnessing one hundred years of existence as one united nation. Not many nations in Africa or indeed the world have been this privilleged. It is indeed an epoch worthy of celebration by Nigerians and lovers of our great nation. The celebration will offer an opportunity to focus on our country, its history, people, achievements and aspirations for the next century. This is the position of the Secretary to Government of the Federation and I agree with him completely.
It will be a fatal mistake if we decide to take our nationhood for granted. The detractors who are canvassing the idea that Nigeria has nothing to celebrate and that the planned centennial celebrations will serve no good purpose should do a re-think in the light of some of the issues already canvassed in this paper.
I have always maintained that this nation is blessed beyond measure. For instance, whereas America is investing huge financial resources in order to achieve its desire for cultural diversity, Nigeria already has the advantage of being a melting pot of cultures, of multiple ethnic nationalities, and different religions woven together in a united and strong nation. We are endowed with a population of men, women and youth who have shown that they can hold their own any where in the world. Permit me to quote the words of the Secretary to Government of the Federation Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, (GCON) concerning the centenary celebrations.
“This centenary celebration presents us an opportunity to count our blessings as a nation, celebrate our dexterity and resilience as a people and resolve to launch into the next century with renewed determination, hope and expectation”
Constructing New Bridges
Indeed, it will be fool hardy to posit that we do not have challenges as a nation. The truth however, is that the challenges we have faced in the past and the challenges we face today are no worse than challenges faced by many other nations of the world.
At the National Orientation Agency under my leadership, we have adopted a multi pronged, multi sectoral approach to constructing social bridges that should heal some of our national wounds. Some of the platforms established under my watch include:
1. The Inter-faith dialogue platform; under this scheme, I have visited several states in the North, South, East and West of Nigeria. I have interacted with leaders of different religious groups and held dialogue sessions across the country.
It will interest you to note that from Kano, Katsina, Plateau etc in the North to Bayelsa, in the South-South and Imo, Anambra in the East and Lagos, Ondo, Osun in the south-west, we have found through the interfaith-dialogue sessions that Nigerians of different religious persuasions are desirous of living in peace with one another. When I visited Imo State for instance, I went on a Peace advocacy visit to the Eze Owerri and was pleasantly surprised to note that members of the traditional council who were sent to receive me, were people of Northern extraction, (Hausa), who had lived in Owerri for many years and had become completely integrated into the fabric of the traditional rulership. I want to use this opportunity to advocate that Traditional Rulers in other parts of Nigeria who are yet to adopt this strategy for constructing social bridges across tribes and religions should embrace this strategy.
Furthermore, in Katsina, I was pleasantly surprised when the Governor disclosed to me that the concept of “Sabon Gari”, a place where citizens from other parts of the country are resident in most Northern cities dose not exist in Katsina. People from different tribes and religions co-habit in the same neighbourhood, making it difficult to target one particular religion or tribe for attack without affecting the other. These are samples of significant efforts towards constructing social bridges across the tribes and religions. The action identified in Imo and Katsina State as promoted by state government ands traditional institutions will lead to concretizing relationships if adopted widely in Nigeria.
Any keen observer would agree that at the level of the elites and the middle class, relationships and strong bonds of friendships transcend tribes and religions. For instance, former President Obasanjo as a solider had strong friendship bonds with late Major Nzeogu and Late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua both of whom were from tribes other than Obasanjo’s Yoruba tribe. Many of us seated here today have concrete relationships with friends who are neither from the same religion or tribes as our own. It is therefore curious to note that the critical mass of ordinary Nigerians from different parts of the country live in suspicion of one another. The question that arises here is, who is promoting these Inter-tribal and Inter-religious suspicion? Who stands to benefit from a Nigeria that is divided along tribal and religious lines.
Most countries that have survived the kind of curious security challenges that Nigeria is passing through today have succeeded in doing so only because the citizens came together in unity with determination that cuts across tribal and religious differences. I want to use this platform to reiterate my call on all Nigerians to resist the attempt by a few persons to drag the nation into another unnecessary civil war.
The NOA has initiated an exchange visit for our traditional rulers believing that this will help towards breaking down barriers and encourage national multicultural relationships.
Building National Reputation
I will like to start discussion on building national reputation with the words of Robert Green “So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it with your Life. This is the fifth law in his book, 48 Laws of Power. We must therefore collectively build a positive reputation for our country Nigeria and guard it.
Our reputation comes from what others believe about our outside. Our character represents who we are on the inside. The goodnews though, is that if we focus on being better on the inside than on the outside, over time, we will also become better on the outside.
The task of building national reputation falls within the ambit of the mandate of the National Orientation Agency. Every Nigerian has a role to play in this effort and that is why the major thrust of our re-orientation campaigns since I assumed leadership of the Agency has been, “Do the Right Thing: Transform Nigeria”. I am a strong believer in the greatness of Nigeria. Imagine a country where most of us do the right thing in our various fields of endeavour, imagine the kind of reputation such a country will have among the comity of nations. Most of the time, when the issue of National reputation is discussed people tend to look to government alone. We must challenge ourselves individually as citizens of this great country to do the right things wherever we find ourselves. The people in government are Nigerians drawn from different parts of the country. They did not come from a different planet.
It is the aggregate of our actions as individuals in private sector, religious sectors and government sector that will determine the kind of National reputation that we project.
It is in realization of this that we launched the “Do the Right Thing campaign” which we have been taking to different sectors of our national endeavour.
For instance, if government creates roads and individuals decided to carryout actions that damage these roads, we will become known as a country with bad roads. Similarly if the government is making efforts to ensure stable power supply and individuals go out to steal cables and vital power equipments, then no matter the efforts that government is making, we shall be seen as a country where there is hardly ever power supply. This is just to draw your attention to some of the individual actions that can lead to bad national image.
In order to engender a nation where citizens are proud of their country, we advocated for the adoption of the second stanza of the National Anthem as National Prayer, this has been accepted by the Federal Executive Council among other institutions.
The media, will have to change their reporting style as a critical national duty towards fostering the desirable national reputation. The current trend that focuses largely on putting every negative event that happens in this country on the front page of Newspapers will not enable good national reputation. Similarly, politicians should make efforts to fulfill their electioneering campaign promises once they win elections and assume leadership position.
I am not an advocate of government’s control of speech, more so that President Goodluck Jonathan has in the spirit of transformation, signed into law the freedom of Information Act. However, in protecting government’s reputation, some surveillance tools must be applied. Writing on Fight Fire With Fire: Reputation Management for governments. Strategies for countering negative publicity and protests on social media channels Monica Guy argued that government should know the IP addresses or geo-location of anti government social media users, know who they are and their mind set. I MUST STATE CLEARLY HERE THAT MY OPINION IS THAT GOVERNMENT USE THIS INFORMATION TO DEVELOP CONTENT TO COUNTER ANTI GOVERNMENT CAMPAIGNS AND NOT TO HUNT.
In order to achieve the desired good national reputation, every Nigerian must commit to doing the right thing to transform Nigeria.