We have spoken about the sacrifices of the early church fathers of Nigeria and the foundations they laid. We have also looked at the Nigerian gift of hoping against hope and the inevitable winds of change that will bring in a tomorrow that is different from today.
Yet the winds of change do not always bring a better tomorrow unless the people of God make the needed sacrifices. One of the most important things that must be added to the mix is wisdom, because hope that is against wisdom will only bring frustration. We are not speaking about the wisdom of this world but the wisdom of God. The word of God says, “Two cannot walk together successfully except they agree.” On the scale of nations and countries that agreement is usually known as the constitution.
A constitution can be written or unwritten but it is a contract with and between the people and the expression of an organizing principle which plots the success or failure of a nation. In Nigeria, we have attempted for decades to make millions of people walk together without recognizing any national idea, without agreeing on a common direction or a universal plan for our common progress.
In a sense Nigeria has been quite unfortunate because we started out life as a baby fashioned out of colonial convenience. The British Empire was the midwife and Taubman Goldie was the irresponsible playboy father who sold the child (most of the present territory of Nigeria today) to the British Empire for the sum of £865,000:00 on the 1st of January 1900. Our fate seems to have been sealed when Frederick Lugard (a former hireling to Goldie who had been dismissed for the mass slaughter of natives in Uganda) was recalled by Chamberlain the British Prime minister to act as the surrogate father of Nigeria. Frederick Lugard was the arrogant, violent and uninspired mercenary that fate chose to execute the amalgamation designs created by Goldie.
It took the sheer genius of British political engineering to weld 2 completely divergent territories together into one unstable isotope in 1914. Lord Harcourt described it as a marriage of convenience between the relaxed Northern husband and a diligent Southern bride. The Northern region had been a drain on the pocket of the British Government while the South was a cash cow to be milked. The organizing idea was not liberty, or truth or justice or the rights of man or any idea more vaulting than harnessing of natural resources by a colonial power.
The British tried to put a human face to the gunshot wedding by introducing several constitutions, Cliffords (1922) Richards (1946), Macpherson (1951) and Lyttleton (1954) but the cracks could not be plastered. A national idea and consensus did not emerge from these manipulations.
It speaks volumes that the Northern region rejected the Anthony Enahoro’s 1956 motion for national independence and the Southern region had to exercise patience until 1960 before the dreams of freedom could be realized. Even then the nation started out on a shaky foundation of distrust, veiled contempt, strife, animosities and violent exchanges. It is said that arranged marriages have been known to work but it is doubtful that such unions would thrive where the mischievous arranger had taken out time to fan the flames of strife by enumerating the faults and weaknesses of the spouse to one party in secret. The extent of British chicanery will never be appreciated until the time-lock placed on certain colonial archives is forced open. Time they say heals all wounds but it looks like time has served to add insult to injury in the Nigerian case.
Looking back over 50 years of Nigerian history the constitution has always triggered widespread violence each time it is opened up for discussion and year after year gives testimony to the inspired words of the prophet Amos that “Two cannot walk together except they agree.” Every single Christian knows that every successful marriage union has a price. It takes dialogue, love, patience, kindness, sacrifice and understanding. Where dialogue is banned, love brutalized and kindness is exempted there is little hope for that union. Nigeria’s years under military dictatorship worsened the equation by brutalizing the psyche of the unstable nation with its tactics of ambush, domination, subterfuge, espionage, decimation, brutality and total subjugation. In the words of a social critic “After almost half a century of independence, Nigeria, the most populous and potential superpower of Africa, has traveled in reverse gear! If Nigeria had been a motor vehicle it would have been scrapped and the scrap dealer would reject the metal because of its flaws. On every measure of performance for a state with its wealth of human and material resources. Nigeria has been a colossal failure – Nothing works as it ought. From housing, health, education, manufacturing, roads the historical record is almost blank. In 1000 years scholars will look back and sigh that there was no sign that wise men ever ruled!” In a nutshell Nigerian life has become a nightmare and there is no succor in sight.
Yet the necessary wisdom, tact and skills to set things aright is in our hands and within our power. It can be found in the church. Not the church of denominations but the Ecclesia within the churches that have been gifted to understand the wisdom of the cross. Those who have learnt to overcome hatred with love, strife with peace and curses with blessings. This is the power of the cross and the way of victory. If this is the road we must pass to secure a future for our children and set our nation on the path of peace then we shall surely rise to the occasion when the clarion calls. Love is our greatest weapon and love is our greatest defense.
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it. – Martin Luther King Jnr.
We do not seek the supremacy of the South neither that of the North, we do not clamor for one tribe over the other but that each citizen be as valued as the other.
This is what we have to offer and it’s a costly price to pay yet it’s a path that never fails.
Blood may have to flow in the streets of our nation before we attain our freedom, but that blood should be our blood, and not that of the oppressor – Speech, 1956 – Martin Luther King Jnr.