So Nigeria is 50 today. All day, my Facebook page has been flooded with celebratory and optimistic updates about Nigeria. Somehow, I couldn’t get as excited as other people about the big day. I don’t really need to detail the many reasons for the way I feel as I’m sure we’re all familiar with the litany of problems Nigeria faces: corruption, a lack of principled leadership, a lack of basic amenities, an environment that frustrates peoples’ efforts to do great things for themselves and their communities, seemingly endless ethnic and religious divisions e.t.c.
Thinking about everything that hasn’t gone right with our country, one would be forgiven for not finding anything worth celebrating today. However, despite all the challenges Nigeria faces, there is one thing we have that I believe we take for granted: peace. I do not mean to diminish the problem of violence that we still see too often in Nigeria (the events in Jos for instance) but compared to many other countries, we have a relatively stable and peaceful setup. Recently, I have had cause to be much more exposed to people from other parts of Africa, particularly countries emerging from long and bloody conflicts and it has been quite the revelation for me. It is impossible not to be moved when you hear the horrific experiences that people have lived (and still live) through. It has made me appreciate the importance of this small privilege we enjoy but never really think too much about.
If I have one prayer for Nigeria today, it is that our leaders and we as a people come to value and preserve peace in our country. If we valued our peace, the bombings that took place in Abuja today would be unthinkable. It would mean that politicians and prominent leaders would be careful to avoid fanning divisions and inciting the population to violence. It would mean that people do not carelessly bring up the prospect of splintering the country to further their own ethnic (or other) agendas. It would mean that we would never again experience such an ugly part of our history as the Biafran war. I am yet to see a country in Africa or even elsewhere where divisions on the basis of ethnicity have been a success. Meanwhile examples where such thinking has led to terrible outcomes abound. Right now, I have Rwanda and Bosnia in my head. There is no reason to believe that Nigeria would take a different path if things were to disintegrate into violence and so I am strongly rooting for us to achieve progress peacefully. The European Union is a solid example of what can be achieved where there is a determination to end war. Nigerians would do well to adopt that kind of determination in our country and in our region.
As we head into what is supposed to be an election year, I pray the contestants and their supporters are wise and cautious with their words. I pray the populace stays calm. I pray for peace in Nigeria and in every other African country. I pray for peace around the world.