Sometime in 2009, Professor Dora Akunyili launched a rebranding campaign for Nigeria. She was then Minister for Information, and the slogan she brought was Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation.
It was a most contentious issue then. Was Nigeria truly made of good people? Were we equally a great, or even potentially great nation? The campaign ran for a short while, and died a natural death when Akunyili was dropped from the Federal cabinet, after the passage of President Umaru Yar’Adua, who had appointed her. Sadly, the woman too has gone the way of all flesh.
I have been reflecting on Nigeria, with the benefit of my work in the highest seat of power as Adviser on media and publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari. What kind of people are we? And what kind of country? What truly defines us as a people? Are we good people, by and large, or the very opposite? Are we like people that God regretted that He created, “because the thoughts of his heart were evil continually?” Who and what are we really?
Developments in the country are capable of making you doubt the goodness of the Nigerian man. Evil thoughts, wicked actions, malediction, malevolence, killings at the drop of a hat, foul language, expletives, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof, hatred, malice, ill will, and all sorts of negative tendencies. These are what have suffused the land, and you almost give up on humanity in its entirety.
Then you meet with people that kindle the joy kiln in your heart. People that reflect all that is noble, decent, godly and inspiring about humanity. That was the experience I had on Tuesday. I met with some people who are the very epitome of decency. People who love our country, its people, leadership, and the land and clime, generally. They are not filled with hatred and bitterness, but rather believe in the redemption of Nigeria.
They operate under the auspices of Unity, Honour and Glory Initiative (UHG), and met with me at the State House, Abuja.
The Convener and Founder of the group is Ata Ikiddeh, a lawyer and Nigerian patriot. He was the one who had interfaced with me, and set up the meeting. Other members were Ike Monye, the Head of Dialogue of the Group, a lawyer and pastor, Mrs Onyema Monye, his wife, Head of Victim Rehabilitation, lawyer and pastor, Ms Dooshyma Kumbur, Head of Research, an expert in security and forensic studies, Kish Adamu, Head of Conflict Resolution and lawyer, and finally, Dr Felix Oisamoje, Head of Media and Communication, and equally Regional Director of Christian Broadcasting Network.
I had agreed to meet with the group because I saw that their driving force was how to restore the glory of one Nigeria, the giant of Africa. They were not going to be strictly of one religion, but would be driven by godly and altruistic principles.
What will UHG be dedicated to? The Vision is ‘to restore the peace and glory of Nigeria, by building unity and trust among religious and ethnic groups across the nation.” And the Mission is “to restore the peace and glory of Nigeria through building unity and trust by bridging ethnic and religious divisions through projects such as research, consultation, dialogue, conflict resolution/conflict prevention strategies,” among others, to achieve lasting peace.
Do we currently have peace, unity and trust in Nigeria? No, we don’t. Have we ever had it in the true sense of the word? Doubtful. The country is made of components who suspect one another, hate one another, and continually stalk one another. If you meet him, kill him. If you can’t catch up with him, poison his footprints. In fact, some people have described Nigeria as “the mistake of 1914, “ when the Northern and Southern Protectorates were forcefully cobbled into one country.
But UHG does not think so. They believe Nigeria is a divine entity, and not a mistake. They quoted the words of Sir Tafawa Balewa in 1957, when Nigeria was still preparing for Independence. Those words, uttered 63 years ago, are still as fresh as if they were pronounced today:
“Nigeria has now reached a critical stage in her history. We must seize the opportunity which has been offered us to show that we are able to manage our own affairs properly. Every Nigerian, whatever his status, and whatever his religion, has his or her share to contribute to this crucial task, the cause for which no sacrifice shall be too great. This we cannot do if we do not work together in unity. Indeed, unity today is our greatest concern. The peoples of Nigeria must be united to enable this country play a full part in shaping the destiny of mankind. On no account should we allow the selfish ambitions of individuals to jeopardize the peace of the 33 million law abiding people of Nigeria. It is the duty of all of us to work for unity and encourage members of our communities to live together in peace and harmony.”
That was 63 years ago, when we were 33 million people. Today, we are about 200 million, and peace and unity still elude us. From the Good People that Akunyili envisaged in 2009, killers are on the prowl across the length and breadth of the country. They come under many umbrellas. Boko Haram. Herdsmen (fake or real). Ritual killers. Kidnappers. Armed bandits. Robbers.
There are are also twisters, contortionists, who manipulate every word the President says, wanting him to look bad. The same they do to we his aides. Those who rejoice when things are going bad for the country. Merchants of fake news. Purveyors of negative tidings. Liars against the system. Those who want to generate hatred through religion, making wild, irrational allegations. And so on. Horrible people everywhere.
Love rejoices not at iniquity, says the Good Book. But there are people who are happiest when negative things happen in the country. There’s massacre at Auno by Boko Haram, and they are glad, because it’s making government look bad. In fact, when no tragedy occurs, they engineer it. They think they are undermining the government of the day, not knowing that it’s the country they’re sticking in perpetual reverse gear. That is why we have not gone beyond where Balewa described 63 years ago.
How will UHG function?
While agreeing that the country’s unity has been assailed by different forces, they submit: “These have only made us more unyielding to the malevolent powers. It was Fried Nietzsche, the German philosopher, who said, ‘What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.’ And that has been the Nigerian story.”
UHG will encourage fasting and prayers across the country, so that “our brave sons and daughters in uniform will defeat, overthrow and overrun the camps of Nigeria’s enemies.”
The group will also build and encourage a responsive audience and discourage the current emotive response to sensational news in the media, encourage intelligent and factual dialogue, discourage emotive and misleading utterances by our public leaders, dispel misinformation and enlighten the Nigerian audience from misleading news reports, among others.
Positing that the two major religions in the country have a common enemy, UHG therefore urges good minded Nigerians to rise and defend the honour and glory of the country.
I told the visitors that their vision and mission tally with that of President Buhari for the country, and I would gladly identify with their quest. And I believe so should every decent Nigerian. Make goodness your watchword, and there will be a crook less in the country.
There will also be a horrible person less.
Adesina is Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity