Between Merit, Nigerians And The Outrageous Defence Of Ethnic Jingoism

Usama A. Dandare

“When merit is sacrificed on the alter of ethnicity, age, gender, region or religion. Then surely, the inevitability of backwardness is absolutely guaranteed” ~ Anonymous

President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to do away with ethnicity in public appointments in line with the new ‘agenda of change’ are already causing distress among some gullible few who – in their selfish imagination in search of cheap political points – are hopelessly challenging the president to sacrifice merit on the altar of ethnicity and religion. Going back to our political history, almost all public appointments since the return of democracy in 1999, were purely made not on merit but ethnic or religious grounds, but what happened next? Calamities, unending miseries, poverty, hunger, death, corruption, impunity and national embarrassment above all.
The latest brouhaha arose as the presidency announces six fresh appointments into the newly sworn administration of President Buhari. Though the appointments favoured one region but were purely made on merit and qualifications.

What is alarming here is that instead of these hate-mongers and agents of ethnic division to welcome Buhari’s boldness in abolishing the dangerous trend of ethno-religious division, they are now accusing him of leaving out members of other tribes and religion.
Whenever a public appointment is made, i always got marveled by the eyebrows raised virtually instinctively especially when it didn’t favour some section of the Southern Region (south-east to be precise)! It reminds me constantly of how powerful the hypocrisy of tribal/regional sentiments has enslaved our conscience as a people.

The damn brutal truth is that we, Nigerians, are hopelessly tribal, irresponsibly so. In our thoughts. In our talk. In our actions. Our outlook is heavily fashioned by tribal stupidity. We wail how tribal so and so is. Yet that is the one characteristic that symbolize many of us the most.
We mewl about how employers overlooked merit and prefer tribal affinity. Yet we expect “our own” to naturally favour us when in positions of power. We rant how this or that president loaded government with his kinsmen. Yet, the primary motivation for supporting our tribal dons is the expectation that they will load us in their government when in power. Indeed, we are such an empire of ethnic bigots and political hypocrites!

Our tribal instinct actually feeds our most base fears, and nourishes the overpowering sense of ethnic mistrust and contempt that poison our relations. Ours has been reduced to a society defined by chronic hypocrisy and sheer irresponsibility. The result is that this tribal orientation defines virtually all our national endeavours. It has transformed our politics into a messy ethnic battle field, with tribe as the focal point for political mobilization, instead of distinctive ideological platforms. Inciting tribal emotions is accordingly more premium than appealing to any sense of objectivity. This was how Nigeria was nurtured right from the start and to my greatest elucidation, we still intends to continue this way despite several years of untold hardship.

Ethno-religious sentiments has completely distorted our key national agendas like the war on corruption and terrorism. Some selected ‘yam eating goats’ routinely robs our nation’s treasury but when caught, they run to their tribal folks screaming “we are being witch-hunted because we are not from this or that region, we are being targeted because we came from the minority tribe, they want to finish us,” cleverly turning individual culpability into communal liability. Akin to what we witnessed in the immediate past regime of impunity, where a female Minister bought two BMW cars at a miraculous price of a ‘fairly used jet’ but when investigations were drawn, her kinsmen began tagging those against the national fraud as ‘Igbo hatters.’ It was pitiful, as justice was habitually sacrificed at the altar of ethnic jingoism.

The simple truth is that nobody can force the President to appoint those he would not be comfortable working with and when he does, the same hate-mongers will later blame the President if he fails to lead upto expectations. The immediate past regime remains a classical example for anyone wishing to learn. The wailing wailers can only keep on wailing, I don’t give a damn. What is more important is that non among them can falsify the fact that all these new appointees were appointed based on nothing but merits.

Our ethnic diversity is potentially a major asset. But unlike other nations that have successfully succeeded in gluing different tribes into one cohesive unit with primary allegiance to national unity, peace and progress. We have turned ours into a curse, we pay lip service against it, yet we practice it foolishly. The resultant venom is a perpetual national tragedy that will rob the country of its goodwill, resources, merit, talents, fairness and positive growth. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, we judge each other by the letters of their surname instead of the content of their character.

We disunited our national unity long ago, the almagamated Nigeria has since been divided, and missed a glorious opportunity to reclaim our lost spirit of brotherliness with six wasted years in the hands of the “shoeless president without balls” (apologies to Femi Fani-Kayode), whom rather than uniting his country, he even went ahead to disunite it the more. Thus glorifying ethnic and religious bigotry as one of his cardinal principle of gaining cheap popularity, because ethnic jingoism truly lies in his heart and mind. This further confirmed the wise saying of Mahatma Gandhi, “a man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.”

In a nutshell, Nigerians should wake up and embrace the de javu realities if only if we ain’t against the progress of our fatherland, and stop beating the ethnic drums. A patriotic and well-meaningful Nigerian would only want to see appointments based on merit but not ethnically or religiously based. Let’s come together and make a conscious decision to protect the change we want to see in Nigeria, since we will never wish each other away. Anyway, why not commend President Buhari’s efforts to take our dear nation to the high mountains of national unity?

It is almost impossible to await success when we mix merit and ethnicity; these are two different anomaly that can never bond as one. The former represents the quality of being extremely good or worthy to serve in the best collective interest of all and sundry, while the latter connotes to an individual wanting only to serve or protect the interest of his cultural background or where he came from. Ethnicity and merit are parallel and cannot go along, you must sacrifice the former when going for the latter, vice versa. We must halt this ugly habit of celebrating people whenever they pander to our ethnic prejudice, but when they don’t, we condemn them. Could a society get more ridiculous and idiotic than ours? really!

To fix Nigeria, we must learn from our past mistakes in which appointments were sentimentally made on ethnicity and religion, not for national service but to satisfy the selfish interest of some few. A sentimental practice that brought Nigeria to its knees. Can we risk our future again just because of ethnic differences? Have we forgotten so soon our dark cursed days of impunity and mismanagement, where merit was thrown to the baboons on the alter of ethnicity? Absolutely no, not even in this era of hope and national rebirth.

Alas! We must set aside whatever differences that lies between us, accept the bitter truth and collectively live together as one, or perish together as fools. A word to the wise is enough. I rest my case!
This mail is officially sent by Usama Dandare.

Usama A. Dandare
[email protected]
September 30, 2014