I thank you so much for this illuminating piece. Please publicize it widely.
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2017 8:36 AM
Subject: USA Africa Dialogue Series - NIGERIANS AND THE WORLD: THE ENEMY WITHIN
I am quite amused by a lot of Nigerians who see the world through the foggy prism of their national condition. Take the example of how they now view United States and its politics. They completely ignore the fact that the United States is a superpower with wide influence all over the world and that its policies, favourable or not to Nigeria (depending on whoever is interpreting them), should not be the basis or at least the only basis of judging her politics.
With such a misguided view, you see them transport their local partisanship into world affairs. It's not uncommon to see people who supposedly supported Goodluck Jonathan during the election rail against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats while jubilating because Donald Trump and the Republicans won. Why, because to them, Obama, Clinton and the Republicans supported Muhammadu Buhari against Jonathan and it's God that has paid them back with a loss against Trump and the Republicans. The same mentality is exhibited by lot of those who supported Buhari and the APC. They think supporting Obama, Clinton and the Democrats is ideologically in line with their support for Buhari and the APC. So, you see them criticise the Republicans and Trump purely on that basis.
I have had to explain to people that they shouldn't be conflating issues. I have tried to explain the differences between national and international affairs and why it is imperative to intellectually step out there to take a full picture before expressing opinions about issues bordering on international affairs. But a lot of Nigerians are insularly ignorant and deliberately so - some because they are intellectually lazy and others because they simply cannot bring themselves to understand issues outside their self-created national circumscriptions because they erroneously think this is them being nationalistic or patriotic. They all seem unwilling to or incapable of leaving their comfort zone mentally. They jump on false news that supports their notions and try at every opportunity to shoehorn their prejudices into places where facts should be sacred with predictable consequences.
As we speak, we are seeing it all come to a head with this Donald Trump travel ban. People who believe that our government has been wickedly quiet over the Fulani herdsmen menace, including those who accuse the government of having a Muslim agenda, have suddenly found an ally in Trump. Apart from the spaced-out IPOB and Biafran activists who think Trump's rightwing, 'anti the other' politics will deliver for them a "Christian Biafra" away from 'Muslim Nigeria', there are those who now think Trump is the angel sent by God to save Christianity from the march of Islam. It's funny that Trump who has no idea of the Bible is the one they've cloaked with all these holy expectations. Of course, the man himself, playing to the gallery, has been talking in a pro-Christian way (while acting in very unchristian ways with his inhuman and inhumane policies), which though is dangerous to the world, serves his momentary political purpose with his base.
Now, having said all the above, I want to point out that my problem is not that people are mixed up with their views about American, Nigerian or world politics. I mean, people are entitled to their wilful ignorance, as far as it's at no cost to others or society. My problem is with the effect of all the misconceptions on our nation. Nigeria is in a very dangerous place at the moment, because of what we have been doing to ourselves over the years, things that have frayed our national fault-lines beyond our imagination. We have a very selfish political elite that's only thinking of draining the nation, an elite that has no compunction. They have driven the nation to the precipice of ethnic and religious tension that all it needs now for a mother of all conflagrations is a little ignition from somewhere, anywhere. In a world that is in chaos due to the great powers themselves going through political, social and economic turmoil in their polities and clearly with the instability in the international system, exacerbated now by the United States under Trump, what do we think will happen to Nigeria if we go the Rwanda route? Or is there anyone thinking we cannot go that route? Please, go read the history of the Rwandan genocide and you will know we are more than three-quarters of the way there already! We are close, very close and that is why I'm using this piece to call on people to simply step back, review their thinking and actions in public space and begin to work individually and collectively towards ensuring that the nation steps away from that precipice, no matter how hurt you feel and no matter how unjust you think you and your people have been treated.
I'm urging all young people to soberly begin to review the events of our world today and posit the country in its appropriate place. They should never allow themselves to become instruments in the hands of agenda-driven politicians and religious demagogues, local or foreign. They must understand that history is cyclical and that we have been here before leading to two World Wars at the end of which only countries and peoples who thought beyond themselves came out of it stronger and prosperous. Our nation depends on oil with massive environmental and ecological damage it's done to us so far in a world that climate change is no longer an esoteric concept. Desertification has stolen a march on development up North just as Boko Haram terrorism rules the roost. Despite the hoopla, globalisation is not going to go away, the world will keep on being smaller and Africa, the virgin continent, will become more open to international capital, no matter where it comes from. So, do you want to be slaves and strangers in your own land? Do you want to die fighting religious and ethnic wars when your mates elsewhere are looking to build on what Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Ma have built?
The world is facing a huge challenge with regional and international geopolitics at the moment, but nature has proved that challenges provide opportunities too. We must be looking at the opportunities. Becoming evangelists of alternative facts will not help us. We need to look behind the 'news', fish out the real facts, look at the real trends and begin to prepare ourselves for the future we see shaping up. In 2019, we will have another opportunity to redirect the course of our national history. I was reading a friend's page on Facebook and he said this:
"Come 2019, the 25-45 year old demographic will have the organisational tools, the numerical strength and access to funds to determine leadership in Nigeria!! As TD Jakes would say... Something's About to Happen!! #Organise" - Meekam Mgbenwelu
Maybe he's being overly optimistic, but the truth there should not be lost. You are the shapers of your own destiny. Your individual choice can direct your life amongst the many, but your collective choice is what will really take the nation to the next level. The question now is what are you going to do about it? You, young Nigerian, here is my advice: In a world where alternative facts are fast becoming the orthodoxy, strive with all your intellectual might to BE INFORMED, truly informed. This is important for your sake and the sake of your children, even if they are yet unborn.
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