I was born in Nigeria about three decades ago and since that time, I have witnessed many October firsts come and go. It has always been a day where the diversity of culture, religion, political affiliation, opinions and a potpourri of divisive factors mix to form the perfect shade of green – the green that represents our national colour.
On this day for the past 55 years, we have maintained the illusion of the spirit of unity which honestly is quite infectious; so infectious that most people of different nationalities let go of their prejudices and misgivings against us as a people for this one day and join in on our usually vibrant and vivacious festivities worldwide. I dare say on this day every year for the past 55 years, we have made the world green with envy.
It is a day the Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and other numerous tribes share a singular identity regardless of our peculiarities. It is a day we forget about what divides us and celebrate what binds us. It is a day that you find the most beautiful display of patriotism: politicians make promises to be better leaders and we, the people make promises to be better citizens.
Its all good and green until October 2nd. Life goes back to normal. The Igbo man becomes a citizen of the Igbo nation, the Hausa man becomes a citizen of the Hausa nation, the Yoruba man becomes a citizen of the Yoruba nation as with the rest of the other tribes that make up Nigeria. The Nigerian identity disappears overnight and as it leaves, the feelings of mistrust, nepotism and bias which were lurking nearby – on holiday apparently – return in full force.
Promises on both sides of leadership and followership bend dance into the atmosphere like a thick smoke dispersing with strong winds until it is no more. Once again, we start at each others throats and the result is always the same; 1 step forward, 364 steps backwards and the cycle repeats itself over and over again.
It has been said that only a fool does the same thing the same way everytime and expects a different result each time. Its not about painting faces green once every year, or cutting green cakes with different numbers every year, or making empty promises or resolutions every year to be abandoned less than a day later only to return to status quo. It is about divorcing ourselves from the influence of those divisive factors. We all can never raise the bar of Nigerian unity high up while holding tight onto the weighty baggage of ethnicity.
You want to know the sad truth? Nigeria is just 55 days old. Go figure!
In the meantime, while I’m still in the spirit, I wish all Nigerians a happy birthday. In a few hours, the white flag goes down, the truce ends and we will be right back where we started…or not hopefully.