Nationalism is defined both as patriotic everyday feelings and the advocacy of independence for one’s nation. The forces of nationalism were what turned Nigeria from a British colony to the polity we know today.
However, since decolonisation, nationalism has taken a backseat in Nigerian politics. Early nationalists had considered gaining independence to be their primary objective. Now that we have independence, nationalism as an ideology is no longer valued or considered a necessity in Nigeria’s political arena.
But the truth of the matter is we may need nationalism now more than ever before. Regional, religious and ethnic cleavages now threaten to politically break our dear country apart, while dependency on foreign investment keeps our economy weak.
Tribalism has always been a prominent feature of the Nigerian politics. Doing more harm than good, tribalism has been an ever-present cause of civil conflict and major political unrest since Nigeria’s inception. According to the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, more than 11,000 deaths have occurred in Nigeria due to ethnic violence between 1999 and 2013.
Worse still, tribalism hinders democracy. A report by Dr. Surajudeen Mudasiru of Lagos State University revealed that the outcomes of the 2015 general elections were heavily influenced by tribal affiliation, particularly in Lagos State.
Needless to say, ethnic divisions are bad for Nigerian society and politics. During the colonial period, the British took advantage of these divisions to make Nigeria weak, volatile and easy to rule. We need to take the opposite approach in unifying our country in order maintain peace and democracy.
Nationalism will also improve Nigeria’s economic prospects. Several of Nigeria’s problems stem from the inflows of foreign capital into the country. Nationalising more Nigerian industries and encouraging domestic enterprise will ameliorate these effects and defend our economy against the unpredictable global economic climate.
Contrary to most issues facing Nigeria, the need for a nationalist revival begins with everyday citizens. No piece of legislation or government policy can inspire national consciousness, it needs to come from the people. So, fellow Nigerians, I challenge you to stop voting along ethnic and tribal lines. I also implore you to avoid stereotyping other Nigerians based on religion or tribe and avoid showing day-to-day preference and favouritism for those of your tribe.
Nationalism is likely the cure-all medicine we are looking for to fix our country’s issues. An increase in national sentiment and unity in Nigeria should provide political stability and promising economic prospects and guide us towards what can only be a prosperous future. May God Bless our beloved Country, Nigeria.
Funmilayo Adetokunbo A-A, a political and International Affairs Analyst, writes from Somerset, England, United Kingdom.