Choice cannot be made without options, without a process of actualizing the choice made. It is also impossible to choose without facing the implications of options chosen. We must therefore be careful in making our choices. Similarly, the paths of our choices are many and varied. All paths, we must understand, lead to a certain end. Paths are indeed the ultimate guarantors of our destiny. This of course reminds me of that excellent rendition made by Ben Okri in his classic novel, The Famished Road in which he eloquently argues that all paths lead to different destinies. There is thus, for instance, the path to paradise which may or may not necessarily be strewn with beautiful roses. There is also the path to eternal damnation, which may present itself as cunningly alluring, even though it is deceptive because of its potential to mislead the wayfarer to hellfire instead of blissfulness.
Many a time, our choice of path wholly or partially depends on the very object of our desire and covetousness. According to Shakespeare, there is always a world of difference between appearance and reality in most circumstances. The way we imagine or think how things ought to be may not necessarily be what those things are in actuality, so to say. Precisely, what we do not know is the fact that most paths are not what we think they are. Apart from their deceptiveness, paths can also lead to unforeseen eventualities. But one thing that always appears to be eluding us is the idea that what we hope to become and the very process of becoming itself can really give shape to what we choose to be.
Everything that is happening to Nigeria today, whether good or bad, whether done by groups or individuals, can be categorized as a product of our own choices. What becomes of our nation will solely be contingent upon our conscious or unconscious choices, including choosing to make or mar the country. In all sincerity, do we really think balkanization of Nigeria, as vehemently canvassed by some vociferous ethno-religious warriors, is the answer to our intractable crises of nationhood? Are the problems afflicting Nigeria beyond solution as some of us seem to be convinced about it? Exactly, who is responsible for our failures as a people, as a group, or even as a nation? Who is benefiting from the deplorable state of things in Nigeria? These questions are germane because of so much ignorance that is polluting the air.
To worsen our situation, misinformation, propaganda, social and cultural profiling of the other have become the order of the day. These negativities are encouraged by a compromised media right from the inception of our journey as an independent republic. Consequently, the path of perfidy we have deliberately chosen to trot is militating against development and progress of Nigeria. We are collectively guilty because we have for sometimes been ignoring wrong signals from those who took it upon themselves to be doing things that are starkly injurious to our corporate existence. As you and I know by now, our choice to remain silent has turned out to be the inescapable grid upon which Nigeria is spinning dizzyingly and uncontrollably in dangerous directions.
Seeing Nigeria as motley of people and cultures of irreconcilable differences only betrays our deep ignorance of history, society, culture and human propensity to excel under a favorable environment. Our lack of knowledge of social behavior either as individuals or as groups in our different locations in Nigeria has tremendously helped to aggravate our brutal conditions. Our being and difference, I would want to believe, are better enhanced through our appreciation of one another. We need to show understanding to those individuals that do not share our common bond. Diversity in terms of cultural pluralities, multiplicities and ethnicities could be a source of inestimable social development and progress in multicultural settings.
As it is, autochthonous groups, cultures and identities are more likely to freeze in time and space than would their counterparts that are everywhere experiencing processes of conflation and miscegenation of conflicting identities. In different locations of the world, pristine identities are fast giving way to a new way of life that encourages diversity and plurality. Call it the process of globalization if you will, but it is real and happening in our urban locations. In the contemporary world, recoiling into our autochthonous cocoons would likely produce unintended consequences and friction from the mere fact of insisting to view reality only from the prism of our cultural or religious dispositions.
Modernity, despite its discontents, appears to be encouraging the logic of diversity and plurality rather than ethnicity, purity, essentialism and sense of exceptionalism within its operational spaces. On the contrary, puerile arguments consisting of half-truths and naked ignorance spewed by virtual illiterates seem to have made serious inroads in different quarters of Nigeria. The democratization of communication technology, including the interactive predilection of the new media and social media platforms, is a welcome development in a world in which information has since metamorphosed into knowledge, power and wealth, all rolled into a single bundle. However, the negative impact of our postmodern information revolution is threatening to outweigh its use-value.
In Nigeria, for instance, uniformed, unenlightened and uncultured individuals have appeared to be carrying the day through their promotion of false narratives, claims and counterclaims on issues that we know very little or nothing about. The tribes of cyber malcontents are everywhere energetically insisting on hammering their point of view or myopic agendas into our heads. Our obnoxious intents of reversing the march of history through our postcolonial trials and tribulations are everywhere characterizing the core of public discourses in Nigeria. But one thing that must be avoided by all means is to allow the country to be hijacked by this army of unschooled, untutored buffoons that do not understand the implications of their actions.
Today, the retrogressive trajectories we are being goaded to follow after getting used to the idea of our postcolonial modernity are those that would throw us back into a state of uncertainty and insecurity. There is no guarantee that when we are reduced to our unspoiled essences, to a state of romantic glorification of our simple autochthonous hubs we cherished with so much nostalgia, our society will prosper progressively without friction or conflict. We tend to lend credence to a naive argument that our seemingly pure, unadulterated and uncontaminated communal patterns of existence could provide concrete solutions to the hydra-headed hurdles we must cross in our collective journey towards attaining defined national goals and development objectives. All modern nations must have at one point in their journey passed through difficult stages that are overwhelmingly complex. But with diligence, dedication and focus, the inescapable structures and values of modernity can easily blend with existing traditions.
We are also refusing to acknowledge the fact that there are many important landmarks recorded under the postcolonial political arrangement we are conveniently turning into a punching bag. Of course, we seem to have forgotten that Nigerian society has since transcended the simplistic fixations we are manifesting with the absolutism of our foundational essences. This is the sense in which I argued before now that Nigeria is a carefully planned historical project that is independent of our collective or individual will. Therefore, I do not in the least believe that Nigeria is a mere geographical expression, the accident of history it was said to be by our own late sage, Obafemi Awolowo. Many scholars have since repudiated that thesis in the light of convincing scholarly opinions, facts and information gathered on age-old patterns of relationships between communities, groups and cultures across territories that have once formed our pre-colonial history.
Here we are ensconced in our miserable patches where we are even scared of our own shadows. We deny the entire history of our coexistence in order to satisfy the selfish proclivities of our elitist class. Despite the attempts to sever harmonious co-existence between communities, just look at how ordinary Nigerians from diverse backgrounds are peacefully relating with one another in the social arena, such as market squares, schools, churches and mosques in towns and cities. Thus, the tensions and divisions we are currently experiencing are the handiwork of powerful elites who deny the generality of our people sufficient means of education and enlightenment. The people need to understand the true nature of things to avoid being swayed by recalcitrant few.
As I have argued elsewhere, the tiny clique at the helm of our affairs is doing everything possible to ensure that Nigerians have never united on a common cause. The elites do that out of selfish reasons. Our self-centered leaders are surviving through acts of official brigandage as they always seek to load it over the majority of dispossessed Nigerians. They do not want to lose the privileges they have been enjoying from their stranglehold on Nigeria. In so far as Nigerians remain disunited, the dominant elites would definitely continue to have a field day in their insensitive rape of the nation. The charge made by Chinua Achebe that the trouble with Nigeria is purely and squarely that of leadership is unarguably germane. God has richly endowed Nigeria with human and natural resources but we have nothing to show for it. Our resources are enough to take us to places if not for serious deficit in quality leadership. Time and again, leadership is identified as the bane of Nigeria’s development and progress.
Some Nigerians are submitting to the mantra of self-annihilation only because they are apparently oblivious of current geostrategic permutations in our contemporary world where turning the hand of the clock is not an option for anyone at all. Survival of nation-states is increasingly dependent on the abilities of regional countries to forge mega alliances and economic corporations instead of tearing themselves into smaller and powerless fiefdoms. In some instances, physical boundaries have to be collapsed to create free flows and unencumbered movement of peoples, goods, services, values and ideas. After all, globalization is all about promotion of the logic of postmodern conflation of entities, spaces and identities. The future of communities can be secured, for good or worse, as they join the global train. Smart nations have been carving out their own niche through the ample opportunities provided by irreversible processes of globalization.
Mr Liman is professor of Comparative Literature and Popular Culture at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria