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Nation Building: A philosophic view-point

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nation buildingFactually, one of the most contentious issues among scholars of international recognition is the true meaning of the concept of nation building. Also amongst

contemporary political observers there are considerable differences and fundamental points of departure on the imperative of agreeing on what really constitute a modern day nation state given that various segmented ethnically affiliated group of people have comfortably listed their homelands as nations. 

For instance, in Nigeria whereby we have close to 250 distinct ethnically affiliated communities, each of these has strenuously attached the word nation in describing their homeland.  For instance the three dominant ethnic groups describe themselves as Igbo nation, YORUBA nation and Hausa/Fulani nation.

But scholars have attempted to draw basic definition of what a nation is.

A. S. Homby, the renowned editor of the world’s highly acclaimed Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary of current English sees the word Nation as ‘large community of people associated with a particular territory, usually speaking a single language and usually having a political character or political aspirations.’

One of the finest philosophers the world has ever known and the acclaimed author of the widely read book; ‘The substance of politics,’ A. Appadorai observed that the term ‘nation’ is obviously allied to nationality, both being from the same Latin root ‘natus’ meaning birth. Other equally distinguished intellectual cum writers like Burgess and Leacock, have defined the term in a racial or ethno-graphical sense. Burgess sees a nation as a population with ethnic unity, inhabiting a territory with geographic unity. In the same vein, Leacock says that it indicates a body of people united by common descent and a common language. A. Appodarai opined once more those in recent times, however, especially since the first world war of 1914 – 1918, the term ‘nation’ has had a more distinctively political connotation: it has stood for a people who feel united and have or desire an independent government.

Bryce defines the term nation as; “A nation is a nationality which has organized itself into a political body either independent or desiring to be independent.” Ramsay Muir sees the word ‘nation’ as follows; “A nation is a body of people who feel themselves to be naturally linked together by certain affinities which are so strong and real for them that they can live happily together, are dissatisfied when discontinued and cannot tolerate subjection to people who do not share these ties.”

Perhaps the most plausible definition of the term ‘nation’ is the one by Gilchrist which states thus; “Nation… is the state plus something else; the state looked at from a certain point of view – viz which of unity of the people organized in one state.” What may arguably represent the summation of all the above definitions of the term ‘nation’ is the one by Hayes who sees it as; “A nationality by acquiring unity and sovereign independence becomes a nation.”

Nigeria which has continued to enjoy the socio-political status of ‘Giant of Africa’ came into international limelight in 1914 with the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates (on the 1st January 1914).

The emergence or rather the advent of the Geo-political entity called the Nigerian nation is not the priority area of this literary piece. This write-up is however aimed at exploring the possibilities of restoring the original patriotic and nationalistic spirit or rather zeal of our pre-independence nationalists and patriots like Azikiwe, Awo, Ahmadu Bello, et al. into (on) the minds of millions of already – impoverished  Nigerians.

The restoration of patriotism and progressive nationalism will only be workable when both the leaders and the governed realistically make very pragmatic self-examination and have a change of hearts, since the unexamined life is not worth living.’ (Apologies to Socrates the great)

Restoration of human dignity and the respect of the constitutional principles of rule of law can only come about when those who govern Nigeria show good example and enforce discipline. The political leadership at every level must be made to subject themselves to the rule of law. Let everyone of us be treated as equal citizens in the eye of the law because if the law is twisted to become a respected of any person in authority it therefore follows that the fundamentals of our constitutional democracy have been derailed and undermined.

There is currently a disconnect in the way and manner that we go about carrying out our respective responsibilities as citizens. Those who have won elective positions see their vantage positions as means of making quick wealth. The same goes for those who gold appointing positions.  This virus of chasing wealth by all means has afflicted both the members of the traditional institutions and the young persons who now do everything within their reach to attain the status of wealthy persons in the society. This craze for wealth by all means does not help nation building.

It is logically plausible and true that since the Nigerian leadership is bad, the governed are invariably bound to be bad. Without necessarily sounding so fallacious and incoherent, I wish to categorically and emphatically affirm that Nigerians are capable of effecting the much expected philo-ethical turn around, once we are able to disabuse our minds of the widely held misconceived impression that getting rich quick or rather the unhindered acquisition of ill-gotten wealth is all it takes to achieve a highly respected socio-political and economic status in our great nation. This impression is criminally concretized in all facets of Nigeria’s national life.

The Wanton desecration of our once sacred traditions by our supposed custodians of our respected customs (the royal fathers), deserves serious condemnation. Our so-called Royal fathers are now what one may rightly call ‘Royal Spoilers.’ Chief Bola Ige in an interview with the Vanguard Newspaper published on June 18, 1994, page 9, called them and rightly so, ‘Any government in power’ which he abbreviated as “AGIP.” Our Royal fathers have not just debased our socio-cultural ethics by the over commercialization and privatization of our once respected ‘Traditional titles’ which they have continued to confer on highest bidders but they have also continued to remain stumbling blocks to the speedy attainment of real democracy in Nigeria. 

This writer is appealing to our Royal fathers to remain absolutely neutral, politically and otherwise. They should also award traditional titles to only deserving great patriots and traditional titles to only deserving great patriots and contributors to the rapid growth of their respective domains and beyond. This is the surest way to restore or rather redeem their already tarnished image and contribute in their own way to attain better nation building.

Our entire armed forces from the Army to the Nigeria police, needs immediate radical re-orientation. Their wholistic socio-economic welfare (like housing and take-home salaries) should be improved upon. This is one of the ways to check the corrupt attitudes of these great patriots (supposedly). The need to activate effective mechanism to forensically investigate the procurement of weapons in the defence and police sectors cannot be over emphasized. 

The committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari made up of entirely military officers to probe procurement of weapons in the defence sector won’t achieve much. At best what they will bring back as findings would be the same business as usual conclusions that won’t punish the top Generals who have over the years cornered humongous amounts of cash from the military and are criminally responsible for the weak state of the Nigerian Military.

Our entire educational establishments should be practically overhauled. A situation where most students study under very harsh conditions like the gross non-availability of study materials and facilities, will not augur well for a nation that projects the sound intellectual growth of their citizenry above all other equally indispensable necessities. The above assertion finds support in the wise saying by Frantz Fanon that, “The function of a social structure is to set up institutions to serve man’s needs.”

A society that drives its members to desperate solutions is a non-visible society; it is a society to be replaced. It is the duty of the citizen to say this; No professional morality, no class solidarity, no desire to wash the family linen in private, can have a prior claim. No pseudo-national mystification can prevail against the requirement of reason.” It is also true that, to educate man to be actional, preserving in all his relations, his respect for the basic values that constitute a human world, is the prime task of him who, having taking thought, prepares to act,” (apologies to Frantz Fanon).

Aristotle, a renowned thinker of the ancient world said and rightly so that, “man, as everything else in nature, has a distinctive ‘end’ or ‘telos’ to achieve or a function to fulfill.” Aristotle also said that; “Every art and every inquiry and similarly every action and pursuit is thought to aim at some good …” in his politics, as in his ethics, Aristotle stresses the element of purpose.

The state, as man is endowed by nature with a distinctive function. Combining these two ideas, Aristotle opined that; “it is evident that the state is a creature of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal… Not only is man by nature destined to live in a state, but the state, as every other community, is established with a view to some good,” exists for some end”.

Thomas Aquinas, a philosopher observed that, “it is incumbent upon man to work vigorously for the accomplishment of the ‘common good’ since man is a social animal.

If these and other nationalistic ideals are imbibed and externalized or rather concretized by all Nigerians, this country will not only remain truly the ‘Giant of Africa’ but will be an earthly paradise where all will have and work happily as great Nigerians. But I’m afraid that the current administration hasn’t started well going by the lopsided nature of top level appointments which are skewed to favour the North and may instigate persons from other zones to see the current government as the government of the North and populated by top level Northern political office holders.


Emmanuel Onwubiko is Head of Human rights Writers association of Nigeria and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com, www.rightsassociationngr.com, www.huriwa.org.

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