The major challenge facing Nigeria today is that we are drifting. We are not just drifting politically and economically. We are also drifting apart from each other.
I have often said that the difference between us is not North and South, but between good and bad. Therefore, those who are good should come together to show those who are bad that we are in the overwhelming majority.
I have repeatedly said that I am a Nigerian. Full stop. That is my identity. And now more than ever, we must ask ourselves this question: what does it mean to be a Nigerian?
A Nigerian is one who is committed to the idea of the indivisibility of Nigeria and who is invested in respecting, even if you disagree with, the differences that exist within this nation space, and respecting the right of others to coexist with you irrespective of religious, regional or ethnic differences.
That is what being a Nigerian means to me. And that is why I believe that all those who believe in Nigeria should stand up to be counted.
It is unNigerian to terrorise your fellow citizens. Up until about a decade ago, we did not have this. It is unNigerian to abduct people. And this is undoubtedly a new menace that has low historical precedence in Nigeria.
The truth is that if at a National level, we address these unNigerian tendencies immediately and dispassionately, we would not have Nigerians congregating at a regional or sub-regional level to address these issues.
What our present challenges therefore call for is not fragmentation but concentration. We must concentrate and focus our national willpower and resolve towards fighting these unNigerian tendencies.
Governors representing some states have met. And I completely understand the necessity of their meeting and the wisdom of their decisions. But no matter how much you try to clap with one hand, the vibrations will not be the same as when you clap with two hands.
We have a national challenge. And as Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
These problems were created by those with a regional mindset, and will not be solved by those with a similar mindset.
For too long, we have erroneously thought that the power to make effective changes lies at Aso Rock. But without the states, nobody can get to Aso Rock. That is why for anyone to emerge as President of Nigeria, he or she must secure enough votes in two-thirds of the states that make up the Nigerian federation.
Let us apply this wisdom to our present challenges. I call on Nigerian Governors to stop waiting on Abuja to make changes, and instead convene a National Unity Summit of all Nigerian Governors to iron out the thorny issues affecting the destiny of our nation until they figure out a way to resolve them.
Forget about your party. Forget about your tribe. Respect your religion and allow it to bring out the better part of you. Meet together. Talk together. Come up with the solutions to all our collective challenges.
And then go back to your states, and consult with your federal and state legislators, with a view to getting them to work with their colleagues to implement the solutions you came up with.
That is how to save Nigeria.
To keep waiting for this Federal Government to take the lead, and effect the changes that Nigeria needs to stop drifting, is to keep waiting for Godot. And that is a luxury we cannot afford.
We cannot afford it because, according to the Global Terror Index, our beloved nation is now the third most terrorised nation on Earth. We are featuring prominently on the Failed States Index, and the symbols of our nation, our currency, our passport, and our international standing are fast losing value.
To quote Einstein again, “Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” We do know that our Governors know that all is not well with Nigeria. That is why they have been meeting. At regional and sub regional levels. That knowledge comes with a duty to act, and to act together. Because if we do not act together, then the alternative is that we fall asunder. And God forbid that should ever be our fate.
We must be mindful of the fact that one in four Africans is a Nigerian. And one in seven Black people on Earth is Nigerian. Therefore, being so centrally placed by God, it ought to be clear to us that it is our duty to be a beacon of light to the Black World.
If we succeed as a nation, our successes will resonate beyond our borders. It will give hope to the Black Diaspora and increase the standing of Black people all over the world.
That is why we cannot fail. That is why we cannot retreat into our regional enclaves. Too much is at stake. We are too centrally located to be dislocated.
Together we must win forever.
We are far too interconnected to be disconnected. Where would my children, who have a parent from each leg of Nigeria go? Where would your children, who have sunk roots far from their ancestral heritage, go?
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that “Man’s mind, stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimension.”
Let me paraphrase him and say, Nigerian unity, stretched to a new frontier, should never go back to its original dimension.
We must grow in unity. We must glow in community. We must blow away disunity. We have no choice, considering the alternative, which is a calamity that we would not wish to return to.
So help us God.
May God bless Nigeria as one peaceful, progressive, and indivisible nation.
Atiku Abubakar was Vice President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007.