Nigeria: Nationalism or globalism?, by Prof. Abubakar Liman

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Professor Abubakar Aliyu Liman
Professor Abubakar Aliyu Liman

The push and pull of conflicting forces of globalism and nationalism on the world stage are not without their challenges and repercussions. Scholars are not only studying disturbing trends on the international scene, but are articulating the implications of the ongoing change for their societies or whatever it is that constitutes their ideological leanings. Similarly, serious countries must have by now been bracing up for all possible outcomes, desirable or otherwise. Foreign policy experts are also everywhere going back to the drawing board to build scenarios and best options for their countries. However, what is not clear to us here in Nigeria is what our leaders are doing in the face of the unfolding realities. It appears that either we are not prepared for the gargantuan changes taking place on the global scale or the country is simply resigning itself to what fate has to offer at the end of the day. Clearly, our country is no longer proactive in its participation in issues that shape the destiny of our world, least of all developments around Africa that affect us directly or indirectly. It used to be argued that Africa is the centerpiece of our foreign policy, but not anymore from our passivity. Perhaps, this is the reason why even our neighbors are no longer taking us serious. We must not forget that we are here dealing with a country that is expected to provide quality leadership in Africa.

As the most populous African nation, does Nigeria really understand its mission in the world? I have my doubt on this issue. Just some decades ago Nigeria used to enjoy tremendous respect from other countries, but not any more, and this is happening for reasons that are entirely of our own making. Thus, to understand how we managed to earn very low ratings, and of course the reprobation of the world, is entirely our responsibility. It is all about our incomprehensible ways of making and marring Nigeria with our own hands. Nigerians are deliberately refusing to accept the idea of patriotism, defined here as expressing unalloyed love for the country, despite our diversity in terms of ethno-religious loyalties. Diversity is never something that is unique to Nigeria alone. But we do not seem to understand how to manage our differences where the love of country is involved. We also do not seem to understand how to manage and negotiate our cultural identities in the ambience of our common values as Nigerian citizens. As a potentially evolving modern nation, Nigeria needs to be serious with those values and ideals that were set to strengthen our national cohesion. We just need to put our act together. Again, we should rather dissipate so much energy depending the interests of foreign powers than upholding our own national interests. Thus, if we do not extend the type of love and solidarity we express when our nation is playing football to other spheres of our social life, we are not going to move in the right direction.

However, love for one’s own country does not mean mere emotional attachment to the country, but we must show our love for Nigeria through consciously positive actions. We must collectively resolve to make our tomorrow better than our today in our different callings, and in our different vocations. If we should continue to show negative attitude to Nigeria, we should also forget about any notion of moving the country forward. We cannot be shouting about not getting things right while we are just sitting back and doing nothing about them. Nigerians must love Nigeria for the sake of Nigeria. The country needs nothing less from us. We must also aspire to make things work in the country. Often, Nigerians have engaged in things that drag the name of the country in the mud without minding the implications of such actions. Our pervasive indifference to making the country great is not taking us anywhere. We do not appreciate that Nigeria is the only country we have. No matter how we like other countries or try to make those countries achieve their development goals, the way we conduct ourselves in Europe and United States, the fact still remains those countries are not our country. No matter the efforts we put to make those countries great we would always be treated with disdain as expatriates, as immigrants, who only enjoy few rights and privileges.

Now that globalism is facing existential threats from tides of nationalism in Europe and America, and a situation in which those same powers are no longer sure of how to handle the problems they have engineered in both developed and developing countries in the first place, how does a country like Nigeria respond to such uncertainties? Do we just sit back and wait to get soaked in by the upheaval of a collapsing global order? I am asking this question because there does not appear to be any plan from any quarters in the pipeline to protect Nigeria from the fallout of shifting sands of the history of terrifying happenings, and indeed the cataclysm of the epochal changes that are taking place on the global scene. The great source of worry here is over the manner in which Nigeria handles its affairs, locally and internationally. We do things without considering the best interest of the nation. We do things as if nothing is at stake. Again, we also do things as if nothing matters at all. This is the reason why we do not take planning of our affairs or development programs very serious. For us in Nigeria, we must strive to strike a balance between the forces of globalism and nationalism. I guess that is what every sensible is trying to do now. In any case, our total abandonment of national development agendas for the shark-infested waters of globalization has considerably affected Nigeria’s standing in the world.

We have turned from active participants in the affairs of Africa and the world to mere passive receivers of global flows in culture, business and technology. Benefits accruing to a country that relies solely on export of primary commodities are quite minimal. In its postcolonial history, this country has wasted so much time indulging in useless undertakings. The oil economy has wrought so much havoc on the psyche of Nigerians. Oil is the root cause of the mess that is Nigeria today. The biggest mistake made by Nigeria is to abandon every other thing we inherited from our colonial trajectories of development, because the military leaders of the time had erroneously thought nothing matters again insofar as oil money keeps flowing. Key sectors of agriculture and industry were completely neglected. The whole country was reduced to a situation in which all other endeavors were suffocated. Everybody became indulgent in the waiting game for proceeds from oil. We became so much embroiled in the politics of sharing formula. The federal, state and local governments would rather be carried away by the frivolities associated with oil wealth, as those who had access to oil money became engaged in the spending spree characteristic of consumerist culture.

Unfortunately for Nigeria, periodic turbulence of the oil market is directly affecting socio-economic stability in the country, especially in the context of the mammoth corruption caused by easy money accruing from that mono commodity. However, despite the feat attained by globalization process, the spirit of nationalism is on the rise from Europe to America, and it is spreading like bushfire to other parts of the world. The last time this ghost haunted the world about 100 years ago at the threshold of the 20th century, we ended up with the first and second world wars, respectively. For Africa and Nigeria, it hammered the nail into the coffin of colonialism. The resurgent spirit of nationalism has created a situation in which the entire global system is being targeted for destruction, especially with the emergence of Donald Trump as the leader of the lone surviving cold war era superpower. In his deal making approach to administering the great USA, Trump’s unilateralism has visibly thrown spikes in the wheel of those traditional alliances that accelerated globalization in the first place. This act has also reinvigorated far right movements in Europe and their anti-immigration politics of insularity.

To this end, the emboldening of nationalist politics is doubly strengthened by the emergence of Vladimir Putin together with a more assertive Russia. Indeed the coming into power of nationalist parties across Europe and elsewhere in the world, including Brazil, has heightened anxiety and uncertainty all over the place. What is our Nigeria doing to counteract the coming storm?