My Dad used to laugh at ethnic sentiments. For him, none of us did anything to belong to our ethnic extractions. We just arrived and through no fault or effort of our own, we BECAME IBOS’, YORUBA’S, HAUSA’S, IDOMA’S and whatever else! Just by being born! If we all had a choice in the matter, most of us would have chosen our ancestry differently. Hence, his argument was: it was foolish to fight/judge people just because they didn’t come from our ethnic group-neither we nor they chose our ethnicity. God did! If we agree that all God does is good, and not demean each other for something none of us could do anything about, we were best served by getting to know each other better. We should maximise our strengths and not blow up our differences.
If I were born to Fulani cattle rearers, I’d most likely be married to a Fulani cattle rearer, have little or no education and have the world view and dreams of cattle rearer (before anyone accuses me of picking on the Fulani, it was the first group that came to mind, same could be said of being born into any other ethnic group). So why do we keep fighting over what we didn’t choose and can’t change? Our leaders have failed us! And by our leaders I don’t mean the ones in Abuja and state House, I mean the ones at home: Father and Mother! You and me. We’ve failed to dream big enough to think so far into the future to a place where we are creating world class innovation, taking the world to Venus and creating flying cars that run on water.
You see, big dreams demand big minds. Minds that don’t see race, religion or politics. Small dreams like small minds must necessarily fight differences. Without possibilities, realities are bleak. Or most aptly, “without a vision, the people cast off restraint”. The key responsibility of parents is to prepare their children for active participation in a better, more complex world. Children who are global citizens yet locally relevant. Sadly, most of our children are local citizens and globally irrelevant. They are incapable of independent thought and discourse. Afraid to talk, think or act differently lest we are sanctioned by the group.
Most of our parents had no clue what their duties as parents were, most of us are no better. One of the fundamental duties of parents is to teach love of country and make no mistakes about it. Love for country is TAUGHT. How did Dad teach us to love Nigeria? (More details in my book ‘raising daughters in a changing world’).First, he loved, spoke well of her and her people (I never heard him speak ill of any person or region), he taught us history, both theory and practical (we went to museums, Nigeria has them you know?), we went on road trips within Nigeria. Most controversial of all, he didn’t give us English names. Interestingly, all of us married across cultures and none of us speaks Ibo well, a fact I was ashamed of, till my brother pointed out to me that we spoke Nigeria’s Lingua Franca (Pidgin) excellently.
Many homes are centers for World War III level fighting, sharing already scarce resources among wives and concubines, enter corruption 101. Like Lee Kuan Yew says, “no man can be faithful to his country who is unfaithful to his wife!” Failures at home are rarely successful in public in the long run. I ended my earlier discourse with the statement: To be a great nation, people need to be joined together by strong ideologies, vision and love for one another and the nation.
Below are a few of what are typically missing in homes and government:
- Equal rights and justice
- Transparency in budget design & implementation
- Education as priority
- Support the weak, without hindering the strong
Helping one’s neighbor to put out a fire is, after all, enlightened self-interest, not just kindness.
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This article was first published on 21st July 2017