April 17, 2017 § 5 Comments
Kenneth Amaeshi, PhD
The Nigerian social media space is full of hate and bitterness. The comments on blogs and online articles are usually very revealing. You don’t need to look far or search hard to stumble on them. They have one thing in common – trustlessness – which can easily be harnessed and mobilised for national disunity.
Nigeria suffers from trust deficiency. Trust is at its lowest ebb. It is very difficult to trust any of our public institutions: the police, the legal system, our politicians, bankers, the education system, our hospitals and health system, and so forth and so on. No part of the country is spared. It will not be false to say we are currently witnessing a crisis of trust, which has continued to eat deep into the fabric of the Nigerian society.
The most dangerous of it all is the inter-ethnic and inter-faith trust deficiency on which our feeble democracy is built upon. No wonder it was allegedly rumoured that Nigeria could break-up before 2015. Although 2015 has come and gone peacefully, the tensions and signs upon which the alleged break-up rumour was founded on are still very much around.
Unfortunately, the feeling and culture of distrust are deeply entrenched. The North does not trust the South. The South does not trust the North. Muslims and Christians do not trust each other either. This is a problem, which can be solved by the following simple ideas:
- Let’s challenge our worldviews: there is a culture of over-sensitivity that has grown overtime in Nigeria, probably due to our history marred by civil war and ethnic rivalry. To rebuild trust, we should be more open about our thoughts and feelings whilst respecting others. We should also be prepared for our thoughts and feelings to be thoroughly scrutinised and constructively criticised. We should be more open to our past and historical baggage. It is in sharing our views and off-loading our past that some of our biases could be counteracted, our fears assuaged, and trust rebuilt.
- Let’s reach out beyond our comfort zones: research has shown that the more we remain firm in our established networks and circles of same friends, the more limited and entrenched our views will become overtime. In this modern age of social media, we have massive opportunities to reach out to new groups and views. Although this may come with the threats and fears of stepping out of our comfort zones, the rewards may be actually more rewarding and psychologically soothing. If possible, make it a point of duty to join a new and diverse forum to learn more about Nigeria and Nigerians. Reach out to new friends outside your ethnicity and religion and learn more about their worldviews, orientations, and beliefs. Follow and constructively engage with a politician outside your region and religion on the social media. Invest more time and resources to learn about Nigeria and her history. Ask questions, constructively challenge yourself and others, listen, and keep an open mind.
- Let’s be actively involved in politics: to be actively involved in politics does not mean that we should all aspire to be elected politicians. Those who are gifted in this respect and who have the genuine intentions to serve the country should be encouraged. However, for many who are neither gifted nor prepared to go down the route of being elected politicians, there is every chance to be involved. Democracy is a deliberative political system, which requires citizens to be knowledgeable and well-informed. To be actively involved in politics would, therefore, imply some sense of political awareness. It also implies making very good use of one’s votes with the understanding that the power to elect credible leaders who will work for the interest of Nigerians is with the people. Civic knowledge and awareness will also entail that the electorates are able to make sense of political promises and rhetoric in order to make better and well-informed decisions.
- Let’s celebrate and reward politicians and leaders who stand for a free and fair one Nigeria: oftentimes, there are few people who come across as true Nigerians who are de-tribalised and inclusive in their faiths. Unfortunately, these people are often vilified because they do not fit the normal paradigm and expectations of how we want “our people” to behave (i.e. giving us undue and undeserved privileges). We need people who are sincere, patriotic, and visionary. Irrespective of where they are found, these people should be celebrated as role models. The more such people are publicly rewarded and recognised, the more others will want to emulate and replicate their behaviours. We obviously need true role models – the Mandelas and Obamas of Nigeria.
Trust is expensive; it takes time to build, but very easy to destroy. With new challenges and courage, let us be prepared to work towards rebuilding trust in Nigeria. It may not be an easy exercise; but collectively, we can achieve it. Most successful democracies and economies are founded on solid trust. Is it something beyond us? Why can’t we rise above our biases and build a better country through trust?
We can definitely do it; for Nigeria is ours, and Nigeria we serve!
Amaeshi is professor of business and sustainable development and director, Sustainable Business Initiative, University of Edinburgh Business School, United Kingdom. He tweets @kenamaeshi