By Nchekwube Clara Aghasili and Emmanuel Yinka Fagbenle
Love for country, why patriotism matters more than sectional thinking, and how to look more inwardly at nation building than travelling abroad in search of illusive fortunes formed the fulcrum of a recent discussion at the SMSGAfrica fireside chat in Abuja with a house filled with young leaders and representatives from government and CSOs.
Put together by Jos based Tomruk iHub Multiverse with the support of Project One, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Knowhow Media & Market Intelligence International Limited – KMMMIL (publishers of IT Edge News), the event centred on immigration and socialization of immigrants.
Discussants that included Executive Director, Peace Building Development Foundation, Kayode Bolaji, Founder, Tomruk iHub/SMSGAfrica, Job David Ayuba, Coordinator of Project One, Busayo Akinadeju and CEO, KMMIL/ITedgeNews, Olusegun Oruame harped on the need to understand the motivating factors for immigration into other spheres and why Nigerians particularly find other countries attractive; and the challenges that come with socialization of immigrants in those spheres. South Africa drew particular attention to the discussants.
The conversation explored how social media has intensified the debates around xenophobia, how reactions across the continent have been tainted by fake news, images and video all viral and all helping to deepen the sense of anger and frustration across national bars.
“When I was in South Africa as Personal Assistant to Arch Bishop Desmon Tutu, I hear about xenophobic attacks but only in the rural areas in the townships. Before we start blaming other people for killing our people in other countries, we must blame ourselves for killing our people here. He also said that some people think Mandela was a smart person but no; he was a good leader. He fostered unity between the citizens of South Africa majorly. Thabo Nbeki was the smart one, even though he wasn’t faced with the hardship other citizens faced during the Apartheid era. South Africans feels cheated because foreigners come with smart ideas and have the best of the land,” said Bolaji arguing that there was a need to rework Nigeria to make it both attractive and worth dying for by millions of Nigerians.
To Busayo, Nigerians lack a sense of appreciating Nigeria. Social media rings more of de-marketing Nigeria by Nigerians than fostering a national consciousness at nation building, said the promoter of Project Nigeria focusing on promoting ‘Nigerianess’.
“If there’s anything we lack in Nigeria, it is the culture to appreciate Nigeria more. A lot of people don’t know the people who wrote the national anthem, and it’s expedient,” said Busayo even as she argued on the need to further unite the country.
“I see South Africa as a country that needs proper orientation on international relation,” added Busayo as she cautioned on the need for South African leaders to help its citizens see themselves as part of a larger continent or risks being ultimately isolated.
“Often the Nigerian is different; very hard-working while outside the shores of Nigeria. Nigeria is usually the subject of attack because of the zest to achieve in other foreign lands. We are also a noisy, creative people when successful and that disturbs other countries and makes them jealous,” said Oruame.
He also asked: “When you travel the highways; are you proud to be called a Nigerian? When on an immigration queue, do you really feel proud to walk through those barriers? There is something wrong with being a Nigerian, and that borders on leadership,” he added.
According to the Director General of the NOA, Dr Garba Abari, the country needs mental healing and citizens need a rethinking of how they view the country.
“We need mental healing and anger management as a country because when people hear histories of conflicts, they are liable to feel angered. We must continue to do the right thing and carry on developing a society that is strong and full of love and patriotism,” said Dr Abari who was represented by Princess Nana Yakubu as a contributor from the audience in the interactive fireside chat.
You can follow the full conversation using #SMSGAfrica on twitter and Facebook