• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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There is no such thing as ‘Nigerian culture’


This year, 2020, is marked as a transformative year that is shaping the world’s fate in an unpredictable way. With the COVID-19 pandemic, every country is reaping harmful effects in varying degrees. During these times of distress, unity serves as a guiding force that can suppress the challenges that we are all facing.

The occasion of Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary, gives us the opportunity to reflect on how the country has evolved since its detachment from British rule. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria was granted a fresh start. Regional boundaries mainly based on ethnicity and religion obstructed the harmony that the founding fathers yearned for. By promoting a culture of unity for future generations, these men made sacrifices to erase the negative perceptions associated with Nigeria. However, our reality is a setback compared to their blissful dreams.

In the present time, such expectations are overshadowed by a continuous loop of struggle and disappointment. Undoubtedly, Nigeria is a heterogeneous nation upheld by dividing lines of inequality and hostility. The socio-cultural differences among Nigerians still call for conflict and disunity on numerous occasions. Fixating on how one has better social value than others based on their state of origin, for example, goes against the morals of independence. Therefore, concord among the population during the 60th year of independence is questionable. As much as we like to define ourselves as “one”, there is no such thing as “Nigerian culture”.

In mid-September, President Muhammadu Buhari proudly announced the commemoration of the nation’s state of independence by introducing “Nigeria@60”, a year-long celebration based on inclusiveness and unification. “Together Shall We Be”, the theme of the anniversary, was chosen to emphasise the need for unity among Nigeria’s “most special asset” – its people. The President also praised the people for their achievements in specific leading occupations, emphasising that their “wealth” accentuates “togetherness”. A proclamation of Nigeria as ‘the most prosperous Black nation in the world and Africa’s largest economy’ reflected more of a goal than an accomplishment. Due to the current state of Nigeria, the President’s anticipations are a mere dream that 60 years of backwardness have not achieved when empty promises are still spoon-fed to the malnourished.

The non-existence of a “Nigerian culture” goes against the anticipations of the 60th anniversary of an independent Nigeria. The word “independence” suggests that a nation has regained its power from a controlling outside force. Ideally, a commitment to improving all lives should serve as the primary mission among authoritative figures. For centuries, our people were accustomed to a culture of division caused by the extortive mannerisms of the British Empire. Associating with someone of another tribe, religion, or class was deemed a taboo. If one is influenced to look down upon another who does not share similar socio-cultural identities with them, then where is the room to achieve togetherness?

More than 300 tribes and 500 languages have shaped Nigeria into a culturally rich land. Its mixed composition exemplifies beauty, and there is potential to transform into “one” if all levels of society integrate to form the “unity” desired. “Culture” represents a collective of various customs and ideas, leading to a singular concept of a ‘way of life’ that a group of people abides by.

There is no “Nigerian culture” because the country’s multinational identity is seen as more of a threat than an asset. A lack of tolerance towards a certain group of people, mainly due to cultural differences, does not make room for us to claim that there is a “Nigerian culture”. As much as one needs to preserve their indigenous roots, it should not warrant the right to spread hate against one another. The cultural division in Nigeria separates it into, at the minimum, three “sub-countries” that refuse to harmonise.

The lack of a unified culture has influenced the underdevelopment of Nigeria. Individualism, rather than solidarity, is reflected in every sector of society. Leadership is expected to uphold the pledges of building a “better” Nigeria. But when dealing with a population of over 200 million, breaking the smallest promise can dramatically overturn development. The mismanagement of Nigeria has created an indefinite state of inequality that is grounded in poverty, corruption, tribalism, high unemployment, nepotism, crime, terrorism, and insecurity. Strikes and protests are the norms when senseless hopes are shattered.

The sufferings of Nigerians hinder the excitement of celebrating the country’s 60th anniversary. Prosperity is rooted in a promise to pursue good governance, but, up until now, it has not been fulfilled. Independence is a proud achievement, but it holds no significance when the culture in Nigeria is based on an unending cycle of hardship. If there is no “Nigerian culture”, more so the lack of unity and respect for one another, then the morals of independence hold no value to our “most special asset” to celebrate.

Anyanwu is a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics