We must ask ourselves as a people: What is our story? What is the story we are leaving for tomorrow to tell? The story of a people who were consumed by selfish and sectional interests to the detriment of the nation? The story of a people who could not pull together to make things work? Or the story of men who dared to dream big, took on giants and triumphed against huge odds?
Every nation has a story. One story might be that of a river running a ring around the waist – holding her people together. Another might be that of a river breaking into different elements around her contours.
The Nigerian story is that of two rivers locked in a strong and warm embrace. Our story is that of arms locked in a confluence across our heart. Our rivers meet and break forth into tributaries to water our Niger Delta. Our bed is a mat woven from many dreams. Our head rests on a pillow fashioned from a coat of many colours. Yet, we are one.
Our story is of a land blessed with an abundance of resources. Our chamber so full it speaks in tongues to the undiscerning. Our voice is, like a tinkling timbre, echoing a panoply of tongues. Our story is that of resilience in the face of adversity. Our story is that of hope, in spite of many forces daring us to dream.
Our story finds eloquent expression in Abuja, the land upon which we have erected the rock. Abuja speaks to the strength and audacity of our dream, as a nation. Abuja is a story founded on our phoenix-like propensity to make beauty of ashes, and fly on the wings of our failings to apprehend success, whatever the challenges that confront us.
Abuja, in the belly of Dr. Akinola Aguda and the other giants who worked on the dream of a new capital city, was a fire. A fire to weld together all we stand for, as a nation, in a symbolic capital city. Abuja was fashioned to be a citadel of unity for generations to come.
Today, as our nation stands at crossroads, we must ask ourselves – what has become of the fire? What has become of the dream that fired the desire in us to build Abuja? Can we find it in the belly of those who detonated bombs in the heart of Nyanya? Can we find the fire in the heart of those keeping our children away in Sambisa forest? Is the fire to be found in the belly of our leaders? Is the fire still resident in the hearts of our people, inspiring wisdom in them in the use of their votes? Or has the fire been put out by the desperation for immediate gratification and infrastructure of the stomach? We must ask: What has become of the fire? What has become of our dream as a nation?
It is in this same Abuja – this city set apart to fire our dream as one nation that some people have chosen to challenge the dream itself. These days, voices of dissolution are finding strength in crisis, to fan the embers of hatred. To thy tent O Israel, some are even saying. Some even ask – What is the foundation of the nation of which some of you speak? What is the foundation of this nation of nations? What is the essence of this conglomeration of ethnic groups capriciously glued together to serve the interests of a foreign entity?
Indeed, the hands of the colonialists can never be washed off the process that brought us together. But then, a country does not become a failure simply on account of the circumstances of its birth. Many other nations were birthed not too differently from ours. A number were accidental or arbitrary creations from maps drawn thousands of miles away, as a result of battles won by some Generals. In spite of that, many of these countries have stories of success to share with the world.
Indeed, the destiny of a nation is not circumscribed by the circumstances of its birth. It lies in the strength and quality of her dream, the values she espouses and, most importantly, the vision of her leadership. The fortune of a nation only rises and falls in line with her level of fidelity to righteousness. Doing the right thing exalts the nation, the Bible teaches. One hundred years after amalgamation, it is time for the centripetal tendencies to begin to prevail over the centrifugal forces in our land. I believe that we will not let our past stand in the way of our future. Rather than keep dwelling on our differences, it is time we pull together on the wings of the richness of our diversity.
I see Nigeria as a citadel at the city gate, beaconing hope to the world. I see Nigeria rising to become what God has pronounced her to be. I see the urgency of the moment we live in. I see that the moment we live in demands for strong men. Our nation yearns for men to seize the moment and re-engineer the foundation upon which we stand. This is our moment to rebuild the land and reclaim the values that we once cherished, as a people. The task at hand is daunting. Indeed, our nation cannot continue to run on an empty tank. A nation cannot be formed on nothing. Every country that has successfully transited to nationhood has done so by pulling its people together around identifiable values. The time to identify and fashion the values that hold us together is now.
We must purposely move Nigerians away from calculated ambivalence and energise them into becoming agents of national transformation. Our nation might be on tenterhooks, as contending forces fight for control, but we must never stop dreaming. Night might be threatening to envelope our day, yet we must carry on bravely on the wings of new dreams. We must be tenacious with our dreams until our citadel is in place, looming large as a testimony at the city gate.
We must ask ourselves as a people: What is our story? What is the story we are leaving for tomorrow to tell? The story of a people who were consumed by selfish and sectional interests to the detriment of the nation? The story of a people who could not pull together to make things work? Or the story of men who dared to dream big, took on giants and triumphed against huge odds? Tomorrow beckons on us all. Tomorrow yearns for men with their eyes on history. Men and women who will be bold enough to seize the moment. Men who know that what we make of today determines what becomes of our tomorrow. Tomorrow beckons. What will be our story?
Today gives us an opportunity to make tomorrow what we desire it to be. Every thought, every moment, every action counts. Every minute is a part of our story. Every move we make, every good we do is a part of our story. Every step we take counts, as we build our citadel for tomorrow. We must stand our ground. We must never give in.
In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
Never give in. Tomorrow beckons. This is our moment to make tomorrow what we desire it to be. Never give in.
Excerpted from a 2015 commissioned speech that never was to be.