UNITY BEYOND WALLS OF NATIONALITY BEING A PAPER DELIVERED BY OLUWAKEMI STEPHEN ADEYEMI ON THE 29TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2017 AT A WHATSAPP DISCUSSION HELD ON THE WHATSAPP PAGE OF PRAYING FRIENDS

I consider it a privilege to be asked to discuss the theme UNITY BEYOND WALLS OF NATIONALITY on this platform of well-learned persons of different ethnicity, sex and background. I thank profusely my big brother and friend, Mr. Theophilus Akinsanmi who offered me the opportunity to discuss this theme. I have known him since 2015 during our stay together as sojourners in Yola at the Nigerian Law School. I consider it a privilege to have shared the same law school with him and to have gleaned from the wisdom God has given him. Also, most of the gentle men and ladies on this platform are people whom I got to know during my sojourn in Yola at the Nigerian Law School. Though, distance may have kept us afar, I must say that I remember fondly many of the good times we shared in fellowshipping together in Yola. I am sure that we will meet ourselves some day in good health and in influential positions.

I consider the topic for discussion quite apposite in relation to Nigeria. This is even more the case in the light of varying and discordant calls for restructuring, secession and maintaining of the status quo. Nigerians over the years have been inundated with talks of the indissolubility of the country Nigeria.

I must say that my experience down the years have helped to shape my perspective as to creating unity beyond walls of nationality. I was the Assistant Class Representative of the 2015/2016 set of aspirants to the Nigerian Bar of the Nigerian Law School campus located in Yola, Adamawa State. I observed as this set of young Nigerians from all walks of life ignored their differences, entered into cross-ethnic and religious relationships. I served many a people whose ethnic group I had not heard before my sojourn in Yola, Adamawa State. My sole and overriding goal was to make life easier for the gentle men and ladies I served. I sincerely hope, I was successful at this. There were no doubt issues that challenged our cooperate existence, however, members of this noble community did not hesitate to address the issues headlong. We were better for it and till date, members still meet in an online room known as OFFICIAL NLS Yola (a WhatsApp group page). As a serving youth corper in Ekiti who lives in the State Secretariat of Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship, I have seen Nigerians from varying nooks and crannies of Nigeria ignore their differences to live as one. Myself and my team have used the platform of Settled With Laughter (monthly program at the State Secretariat of the Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship organized by corp legal practitioners) to preach unity.

Unity can be built beyond the walls of nationality. The world has not forgotten the walls that divided East and West Germany from each other. Today, that wall is no longer there and Germany is better for it. Today, Germany is a ready home for people displaced by reason of the activities of Islamic terrorist. Together everyone achieves more.

To contextualize the theme into the Nigerian experience, the questions that call for answer include, is Nigeria really indissoluble? Is Nigeria a nation? A nation is a large group of people who share the same language, traditions and history, but who might not all live in one area. This is the definition proffered by the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 3rd Edition. Can Nigeria be said to be a people of similar language, traditions and history? Nigeria was described by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo as ‘a geographical expression’ and not a nation. Evidence is available to prove that this statement is true. Nigeria is multi-religious and multi-ethnic; she can be easily divided along this line. Elections which are tests of the popularity of a candidate are usually divided on the lines of ethnicity and religion.

It is possible to keep complaining about the fact that Nigeria is not a nation. However, this is not the purpose of this presentation. As the theme of this presentation suggests, the aim is to help build Unity Beyond Walls of Nationality.

In a 2015 article titled HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY NIGERIA: THAT WE MAY LIVE AS ONE, I had argued that: If Nigeria were a bus and Nigerians, the commuters with the leadership of the country the driver(s), the bus should have a direction it is heading for. Commuters come on board a bus knowing the bus is going in a direction they are heading to. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the Nigeria-bus. The commuters in this bus are people of differing ethnic and religious opinions. The bus is moving without clear-cut directions. Where there is no vision, the good-book says the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). Little wonder, why we still fight one another over frivolities of many a varying kind. Little wonder, each successive government comes up with action plan and vision statements that are left to be abandoned upon their exit of government. If we must live as one as a nation, we need a vision which every Nigerian can and will buy into. A vision is a picture of a preferable future that steers up action. Nigerians and not merely her leadership i.e. drivers need a rallying point which a vision is. How do you a gather a people of over 170 million together in one direction? By a vision. The good book also records God’s answer to the Prophet Habakkuk after the holy Prophet’s numerous enquiries: Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it (See Habakkuk 2:2). It still seems to me that if the over 170 million Nigerians will be able to break free from ethnicity which we are hugely attached to, Nigerians need to reconsult our vision statement which for all intents and purposes is the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). This is where, it really starts for Nigeria. And unless we get it right in relation to our constitution, Nigerians may not be inspired to remove from themselves the toga of ethnicity and nationality and embrace the idea of unity.

If there will be unity beyond the walls of nationality, leaders need to show sincerity when problems arise. Leaders cannot afford to sweep problems when they arise under the carpet. Consider the Apostles whose story was chronicled in the book of Acts of the Apostles. When they were faced with inequitable distribution of food, these leadership trainees of the Lord Jesus Christ did not hesitate to address the matter; they appointed 7 deacons whom they charged with this responsibility. The reality of our country is that we have not been bold enough to face the problems or questions that have come for answers by Nigeria. Take for instance, section 6 (6) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended): The judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section — shall not, as from the date when this section comes into force, extend to any action or proceedings relating to any existing law made on or after 15th January, 1966 for determining any issue or question as to the competence of any authority or person to make any such law. What made the 15th January, 1966 date sacrosanct that the Judiciary cannot look into it? We have not been bold enough to call a spade a spade in respect of the first coup of 15th January, 1966. We have not honestly answered the question of our indissolubility neither have we been honest about the agitations of the South-Easterners. Who killed the leader of the now terrorist group known as Boko Haram? No one knows yet. Who killed Chief MKO Abiola? How many barrels of oil is being lifted from Nigerian soil every day by oil magnates? How many barrels are being stolen? How many people call Nigeria home? We are a nation of dishonest people. This is unlike the Apostles whose story were recorded in the book of Acts. Indeed, And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a great number of priests accepted the faith. Acts 6:7 GNT. If we will move from a mere geographical space to become a nation, we need to be a people of honesty. Let us be honest with ourselves and we will then be on a path to ensuring unity beyond the walls of nationality.

In building unity beyond the walls of nationality, I consider it apposite that Nigerians need to bear in mind that primarily notwithstanding our nationality we are male(s) and female(s). Foundationally, we are humans. We are not Hausas, Igbos, Yorubas, Efiks, Ibibios, Nupes, Igbiras, Urhobos, Eguns, etc. We are first and foremost humans before we are any of the polarization we have given ourselves; be this polarization be on the basis of religion or ethnicity. Wisdom should tell us that we can unite for a common purpose if we can disregard our differences. In the folklore which was charactered by the rabbit and the turtle, it is passed down that when the race was on the ground, the rabbit won. When the race required the crossing of the river, turtle won. However, when both parties combined their resources together in running the race, they achieved success together. If animals different in nature can work together and build unity despite their differences, humans can definitely do better. Our differences do not depart from the truth that we are primarily humans. If this is understood, every other dividing line across ethnic or religious point(s) will fade into oblivion.

I consider it apt to glean from the wisdom of Paul, the Apostle whose missives permeate the New Testament of the Holy Bible. Paul urged the Philippian church thus: Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Philippians 2:2 CEV. It seems to me that one means by which unity may be built beyond the walls of nationality is when people are willing to be united and they work towards unity. Men and women who desire to live in unity despite their differences must see beyond their selfish interests and build unity. No society is completely homogenous. Ask the British who have had Northern Ireland leave them. Ask the Spanish and they will tell you there is a Catalonia with a people who do not want to be under the government of Spain. A people who want to live as one, must learn to build unity. One way this can be done in a country like Nigeria, is to make movement of people and goods from one part of Nigeria to another easier and safer. This could be done through better road networks, train system, waterways, etc. Yet another way is to secure the safety of Nigerians no matter where they maybe. People who voice statements tending to lead to a disturbance of unity should be listened to and addressed not with force of might or gun but by the force of reason. This is how Section 23 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) put it: The national ethics shall be Discipline, Integrity, Dignity of Labour, Social Justice, Religious Tolerance, Self-reliance and Patriotism. Among any people group, there will be voices that would rather go on their own. However, it would be wisdom for those who would rather stay together, to listen to the agitation(s) of that people group. Only by doing this, can those who want to stay together attempt to get the people together. Ask Rehoboam, the son of Solomon and king of Israel before the secession. His people came to consult him after his coronation as the fourth king of a united Israel after Saul to ask that he reduced the burdens of Israelites. He heard them. He however did not listen to the voice of wisdom of the elders who advised him to reduce the burden of the Israelites. He lost his control over the entire kingdom of Israel; he was only in charge of Judah and Jerusalem. He never regained it again. I refer the readers to 1 Kings 12 in the Old Testament of the Holy Scriptures. Unity does not occur automatically; people work it out. This is what we must do. Jesus the Christ had declared: Woe upon the world for all its evils. Temptation to do wrong is inevitable, but woe to the man who does the tempting. Matthew 18:7 TLB. That there will not be challenges to our unity is a lie. We must however come together and see how we can still work things together.

As I conclude, the strength of our hands is the fact that there are five fingers that work together. Again, the strength of a broom is that it is in a bunch. The strength of a human body is in the fact that all though different work as a harmonious whole to achieve the aim of ensuring that the human body functions well. The strength of our humanity is in our ability to work together as a united force. Again, reference would be made to the wisdom of Paul which he expressed in 1 Corinthians 12:12–31. It makes interesting read and I recommend it to everyone. Paul with the illustration of the human body emphasized the place of unity despite the differences that exist in us as a human group. The story of the tower of Babel is a story of the power that men can harness if only they will work as one. Genesis 12:1–9. It took the intervention of God for man not to achieve his dream of building a tower which reaches heaven. We must rise like the early church and work in one accord to build unity beyond the dividing lines of nationality.

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Legal Practitioner; Aspiring Economist

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Oluwakemi Adeyemi

Oluwakemi Adeyemi

Legal Practitioner; Aspiring Economist

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