Nation Building, National Identity: What Nigeria Needs To Do? By Shomoye Abiodun
Research towards nation building shows that nation building theory was primarily used to describe the processes of national integration and consolidation that led up to the establishment of the modern nation-state-as distinct from various form of traditional states, such as feudal and dynastic states, church states, empires, etc. “Nation-building” is an architectural metaphor which, strictly speaking, implies the existence of consciously acting agents such as architects, engineers, carpenters, and the like. However, as used by political scientists, the term covers not only conscious strategies initiated by state leaders but also unplanned societal change. The concept of “nation-building” became for political science what “industrialization” was to social economy: an indispensable tool for detecting, describing and analyzing the macro historical and sociological dynamics that have produced the modern state.
The traditional, pre-modern state was made up of isolated communities characterized by an unsophiscated focus on local concern to the exclusion of wider context at the “bottom” of society and a distant, and aloof, state structure at “the top,” largely content with collecting taxes and keeping order. The acts and mode of tax collection was a department under any monarch within the jurisdiction, most times the taxes are in farm input form and not necessarily in cash. Through nation building these two spheres were brought into more intimate contact with each other. Members of the local communities were drawn upwards into the larger society through education and political participation, Nigeria’s case can be traced back to the amalgamation process, the successful amalgamation saw the Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa bundled together to make a single but much bigger nation. The state authorities, in turn, expanded their demands and obligations towards the members of society by offering a wide array of services and integrative social networks. The subjects of the monarch were gradually and imperceptibly turned into citizens of the nation state, they were stylishly debased of their powers and functions, rendered to an “unproductive” house arrest, and they were integrated into the government’s payroll. Substate cultures and loyalties either vanished or lost their political importance, superseded by loyalties toward the larger entity, the state.
Nation building in Nigeria’s context can be categorized into four phases, these phases are sequential, Nigeria has already surmounted the first three phases, though they are still subject of further assessment.
The first phase resulted in economic and cultural unification at elite level. The second phase brought over larger sectors of the masses into the system through conscription into the army, enrollment in compulsory schools, etc. The developing mass media created channels for direct contact between the central elites and periphery populations and generated widespread feelings of identity with the political system at large. In the third phase, the subject masses were brought into active participation in the workings of the territorial political system, nothing best explain this other than the 2015 general election.
In the last stage the administrative apparatus of the state ought to be expanded. Public welfare services should be established and nation-wide policies for the equalization of economic conditions should be designed.
A nation aiming to achieve the last phase of nation building needs to tackle some conventional limitations. As a nation, Nigeria can be said to be a typical example of a country with endowed atmosphere for the survival of hatred, corruption, nepotism among the citizenry. Though, all these retrogressive factors are subjected to gradual depletion from the society, if an only if the elites of the society are ready to embrace the evolutional move. The reverse is the case in our own clime, rather than ending hatred, the politically influential people have seen hatred as a tool to achieve their selfish interests.
The need for national identity in the process of nation building cannot be under estimated. What is then national Identity? National identity describes those common denominators and bonds of unity that bring a number of people together. It is fallacious to expect a lasting unified nation if national flag or the national image is merely a description of a selected region within a nation, who won be an ineffectual minority “in Nigeria’s pidgin parlance”?
The need for national identity becomes important and an unavoidable penchant in view of the heterogenous nature of the country, having over 200 different ethnic groups that shares little or no cultural values. The love for local identity has in fact surpassed the needed love for national identity. Without any form of over emphasizing, there is a horrible conflict of superiority between local identity and national identity. The facts that local identity is currently winning the conflict has resulted into survival of unhealthy ethnic rivalry, inter and intra-communal feuds, religious antagonism, little inter-ethnic marriage and other terrible order of the day.
How then do we solve the recalcitrant challenge at our forehead before the avoidable becomes unavoidable?
In order to promote and preserve national identity, certain fundamental issues have to be addressed objectively and with fairness. These includes the inane majority/minority ethnic group, national reconcillation and devolution of power within the three tier system of government and the total overhauling of the Nation Youth Service Corp Scheme whose glory has been over exhausted. Why keep revenue allocation formula if you want to cultivate national identity and make it super to local identity? The appalling and discriminatory revenue allocation formula should be smashed away from existence.
The important role education will also play in making achievement of national identity a reality cannot be undermined. It is indisputable that sentiment is generated and inculcated easily in the informal environment. Functional formal education which teaches history of people, civic education, constitution and the objectives and aspiration of Nigeria as a country should form an integral part of the academic curriculum.
By and large, evolving national identity and preserving same is not a rocket science and by no means a difficult task. It is a task that involves the leaders and followers alike in an atmosphere of healthy political competition and promising economy premised on sound ideological and philosophical frameworks. Eliminating “quota”, “national spread”, “catchment area”, “state of origin”, “LGA of origin” and so on should be done without any argument against it. I hope these factors could be seen worthy of consideration anytime soon by appropriate authorities, God bless Nigeria.
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