Four (4) simple ways to preserve the unity of Nigeria

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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



§ 5 Responses to Four (4) simple ways to preserve the unity of Nigeria

  • Ifueko Okauru says:

    Dear Ken

    You are right about the issue of ‘trustlessness’ as you put it. You have chosen and interesting topic to write on.

    It would be nice to know, from a research point of view:
    1. At what point did we really trust ourselves?
    2. Who is expected to trust who?
    3. To what extent is the ‘feeling’ of trust a direct consequence of the money in your pocket and what you rightly characterize as one’s comfort zone?
    4. To what extent do we know the reality we face as a country?

    My hypothesis is that there are several realities and trust is an outcome of the perception of one’s reality especially when you suddenly get more knowledge than you hitherto had

    So many questions ….

    Perhaps we should reframe the issue from ‘trust building’ to ‘each of us taking actions borne out of principles that address fundamental issues of justice and opportunity for all regardless of what group you represent’.

    Perhaps we should see ‘trust’ as an outcome and not as an end in itself.

    My two cents.


    • Anonymous says:

      Dear Ifueko,

      I completely agree with your submission.

      Trust is an outcome; it can also inform the process of delivering an outcome. Take for instance your suggestion on acting to promote justice and opportunities for all irrespective of one’s group. To make this work in practice, one needs to “trust” that many others would do the same. Otherwise, one runs the risk of being treated as a fool. It is possible that some people would still act based on principles irrespective of what others think of them. This number will be very small, though. Majority will go for self-interest, first. Only very few people would like to be considered as “fools” and or “naive”. So, “trusting” can be seen as a sort of game, where inter-actor “co-operation” is required for it to work. Many Nigerians resort to “protecting” politicians from their ethnic groups, no matter how bad they are, because they don’t trust that members of the other ethnic groups won’t do the same. In that regard, we end up with a zero sum game (ie lose-lose scenario, according to Stephen Covey). Trust, as an outcome, and “trusting”, as a process, should both lead to win-win outcomes to be meaningful. That’s what I have tried to explore and encourage with this piece.

      Your questions are very interesting and good food for thought. I will definitely reflect upon them. Many thanks indeed for the stimulation!

      Best wishes,

  • Ifueko Okauru says:

    Pls correct typo in my earlier post..
    ‘You have chosen an interesting topic to write on.’

    ‘an’ not ‘and’

  • Dennis N says:

    Very Good write up and opinion, but nothing is simple in Nigeria. I think you held back on the stark truth and was very careful to buttress your points. The point blank truth is that the Nigerian people, young and old have a deeply set mindset that borders on irrational thinking and in some cases insane.The simple points you have laid out will never be understood by any leader and even if they did understand it ,they would ignore it due to the overall mindset. In this case Ifueko Okauru presented the right questions and he/she did not shy away from the real question as quoted: To what extent do we know the reality we face as a country?The General challege for us all is who is prepared to adopt your 4 simple steps as a way forward with commitment deviod of socio-political challenges, Minds open to constructive solutions with co-operation, acceptance and agreement with practice that the current status quo requires instant rejection. Following, The general challenge lies in a visionary leader and his followers to imbibe those valued parameters as a new tenet to follow and with that a good period of time in practise will present trust as a result.

    • Ken Amaeshi says:

      Fair comment. I see your point. Thank you!

      While Nigerians await the visionary leader, who will arise from amomgst them, they should also bear in mind that no leader succeeds without good followers. Leaders and followers are complementary. I guess you would agree that, in the interim, it won’t hurt for followers to consider and practise the highlighted suggestions in the write-up – no matter how difficult they are or appear to be. Unfortunately, Nigerians have very limited options at this point in time.

      Once again, many thanks for your contribution to this dialogue.

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