Soul Vitamins

WHY WE NEED A NATIONAL IDENTITY

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I was at a Leaders Connect Program on Saturday, hosted by Mr Fela Durotoye. The theme of the program was Good Governance for the New Nigeria – The Price for the Prize. We had the privilege of listening to his Mentor, our Grand Mentor, Dr. Christopher Kolade as well as an array of really excellent panelist. As they doled out wisdom upon wisdom on leadership, personal and national ethics, what it would take to transform the nation, etc. this quote kept coming to mind:

“We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, and give happiness a meaning once more to people poisoned by the misery of the century.” – Albert Camus.

As we live from day to day, our sense of personal identity seems to need no explanation; we simply “live” who we are.  Therefore, our society is made up of a variety of characters, of selfhoods, which points to the importance of knowing ourselves, not in relation to societal standards and the values of someone else, but in relation to the integrity of individual selfhood. Dr. Kolade, in his speech on Saturday, said that good governance must help us know how good we are, must help us know who we are. Identity, then, is very important.

Who do we celebrate as a people? What do we celebrate? What do we purposely make visible? Does Nigeria have an identity? When we cast our vote to elect an official, does the electoral commission receive the considerate vote of citizens who cast their votes on their honor and their conscience? Where is the place of the past on the journey to crafting a true Nigerian identity?

We may not be there yet, but we are on the way, and if the unrest in the country is any indication; it is important that we realize that the contempt of the past inevitably means that the identity we have is more and more a fictive identity, the identity of a non-ideographic unit, because any true identity is not only the result of a vital relation within a community but is also a development in time, and if there is no past there can be no identity.

Furthermore, a country with no sense of the past, with no sense of the human role as significant not merely in experiencing history but in creating it, can have no sense of destiny. And what kind of society is it that doesn’t have a sense of destiny or a sense of self? That has no desire or resolve to measure itself by the record of human achievement and the range of human capacity? This leads to the question of what our country measures itself by. Ideally, our democracy should afford every citizen the possibility to lift her/himself to a certain level of excellence, and where it only seeks to level everyone to the lowest common denominator…then its meaning should be reimagined.

Mr Fela Durotoye advocates that we cultivate a sense of collective destiny, the belief that what affects one individual affects everyone. He also spoke on the importance of building strength of character, strong values and ethics. Be an advocate of your values, don’t just be a believer of your values but behave your values. It is also important to become a custodian and defender of said values.

Finally, the new Nigeria as proposed by Dr. Kolade in his speech has the following preferred specifications:

  • Quality of life of the people must improve.
  • Belief in our true worth as individuals and community.
  • Operating in high quality standards and competence.
  • Confidence – driven competence in managing our affairs.
  • Allocating responsibility to people of proven capacity.
  • Disposing resources in community/national interest.
  • Consolidating advantage from the variety in our make-up.
  • True justice in dispensing recognition, rewards, sanctions.
  • A well – monitored culture of accountability.

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