Archive IF THIS IS MY LAST: On Sentimental Nation-building

IF THIS IS MY LAST: On Sentimental Nation-building

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591px-Symbols_of_ReligionsNations are not built on individual sentiments, be it negative or positive sentiments. That’s the premise on which I will begin my write-up. Nigerians are one of the most sentimental people in the world; we expect things to be done or actions to be taken ‘un-professionally’, in fact, we take the idea of ‘paddy-paddy’ lifestyle to a new height. We always expect our laws to be tied to culture, religious beliefs or tribal beliefs; nations that hope to rise above being labelled a “third world country” cannot be built this way. In Chancellor Williams’ book, “The destruction of Black Civilisation”, he wrote: “Notwithstanding the remarkable civilization they developed even millenniums before Christ, and the amazing rebuilding of empires in spite of the great dispersions, notwithstanding all of this, African people fell far behind in the forward march of the rest of mankind because, in addition to the destructive forces of nature on the continent and the hostile force from without, they, the African people, further enshackled themselves with their own hands through certain aspects of their social institutions and beliefs that stood as roadblocks to progress even where conditions were favourable.”

Ours is a nation of multiple diversities. For so long, we’ve kept on telling ourselves that our leaders divide us with religious, tribal and cultural differences, but the truth is that no one needs to use any sentiment as division, we are already a divided people, we are only making daily attempts at uniting ourselves.

Despite the diversities however, emphasis need to be laid on the fact that laws that govern us as a nation cannot be subject to our individual whims and caprice; it won’t always agree with our beliefs and we must learn to accept that. The recent anti-gay bill passed into law unravels the fact that we are still confused people. The jubilation that greeted that law shows clearly that certain issues still need to be addressed. Nobody is giving moral justification for the act, but what should be understood is that in making laws that govern a nation of multiple diversities, things like morality can’t be used as basis. Ask the supporters of the anti-gay law, their arguments are hinged on the fact that God frowns at the act IN THE BIBLE. My question is, are all Nigerians Christians? Should both Christians and non-Christians be judged by Biblical injunctions? See, no one is holding brief for Gay acts, but there must be a clear divide between acts that are judged by conscience and acts that are judged by law. If every act that doesn’t seem agreeable to the Christians’ way of life is criminalised, and all acts that are not agreeable to the Muslim’s way of life are criminalised, we will end up having a nation of very confused people ruled by laws that are highly contradictory. Nations cannot be built on sentiments. Perhaps if the US hadn’t threatened to sever certain ‘diplomatic ties’, most Nigerians won’t follow the law this much, but despite that, we must understand that issues that necessitate the leadership of this country taking a stand against western powers are numerous, but this is not one of them. If Nigeria’s President wants to take a stand against western leaders, let him start by rejecting all the IMF policies that he has been implementing in this country which has plunged Nigerians deeper into poverty, let him start by parting with this neo-liberal system that we run that has taken us nowhere, not by using Gays as scapegoats in his attempt to redeem his image in the eyes of un-discerning Nigerians.

Also, despite most of the US’ flaws and their ruthless acts in Africa, I will always commend their stand on the issue of ‘separating Church from State’. A nation that wants to grow must take those very important steps. A situation where we see schools approved for children to study and be educated turned to religious homes can be very bad. The reason why there are layers in the society is for the layers to play their part correctly. A situation where you end up having ‘Ansarudeen High School’, ‘Jesus is Lord Nursery and Primary School’, ‘He is Lord Secondary School’, etc must be discouraged. Children must have that freedom to study away from whatever religious beliefs they hold; the churches and mosques are enough to teach a Child religion, just like a child is meant to learn morals at home, the school is a place where you get the academic education and not where people are segregated based on religion.

Finally, if anybody thinks making religion or sexual orientation as basis for building our nation is proper, we can only hope that just like we claim the 1999 constitution is full of flaws, we don’t end up scrapping all these laws made based on sentiments when they begin to backfire. Nations cannot be built on sentiments, such nations don’t make progress.

James Ogunjimi
Ogun State, Nigeria
February 2014

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