January 1, 2017. Some
things will not change. For example, the president will give his New Year
speech. In this episode, he will likely congratulate his administration for a
successful war on corruption and the big savings made from recovered loot and
plugging leakages in 2016. He will congratulate Nigerians and the army for a
successful war on terror: rescuing some of the Chibok Girls and capturing the
Sambisa forest. With typical optimism, he will encourage Nigerians to be
resilient in the face of economic recession (which—he will reassure us—will
definitely, definitely end this year). In short, New Year or not, some things
remain unchanged.

On the other hand, some
things ought to change. By general consensus, 2016 was a terrible year
globally. It was also a bad year for a lot of individuals too. But, whatever
metaphysics may surround the horrible nature of 2016, our disposition
compounded the social effects for us in Nigeria. If Nigeria is going to have a
better 2017, we need to take a long and hard look at ourselves and adjust
attitudes that hinder our social growth. This is not for the government—the
government, as structured, is inherently useless—but for us as a society, even
if only in name.

And so, I have compiled a
list of 2017 Resolutions for Nigeria.

Start giving more value to Nigerian
 Personally, I am unmoved by geographical
nationalism. Misguided patriotism plays into the hands of those who seek to
limit human movement and progress by geography. I believe, instead, that all
life is valuable, irrespective of nationality. Unfortunately, we live under an
international law that prefers to deal with individuals through their national
identities. As some 180 million of us are stuck with the Nigerian identity, no
other country is going to protect our lives. Rather, the value of our lives
will be determined by how we ourselves treat it. And so, if soldiers kill
citizens and we simply move past it, then that indifference is the value of our
lives. But we cannot expect the best from citizens when their lives have no
value. Forget the “Change Begins With Me” jingoism and its ersatz patriotism:
there is no value to being a Nigerian if being a Nigerian is not a protection
against anything.

Start developing the people, and not
just the cities
: Our Nigerian governments spend money. We
spend money on infrastructure, on vehicles, on computers, on building a
website. We just don’t struggle as much to spend money on people. We build
schools, but we disregard teachers. We buy police cars, but we pay police
officers in peanuts. We build hospitals, but we ignore doctors. We build
shopping malls, but we ban hawkers. We spend on “things”, but we care little
for people. Our government controls all resources by law and licenses major sectors
of the economy, but our budget has no provision for healthcare, disability, and
unemployment funding. We admire cities in Europe and, instead of studying the
process of social development, we simply want to copy and paste the end
product. No. Build the people, and the people will build the cities.

Start respecting women and children:
It is a man’s world only because men have been writing the rules of ownership
for a very long time. Africa has never been perfect, but it had many
pre-colonial societies where men, women and children were accorded their
dignity as humans. In these societies, everyone—irrespective of age and
gender—had roles to play in society and government. Unfortunately, political
and religious colonialism has replaced this history with a false culture where
men are alleged to be superior, and women and children are required to be
submissive. Today, women and children have little or no roles in society and
governance. We justify this under “our” colonially developed culture. We need
to introspect. We need to rediscover the African society of tolerance, equal
opportunities, and respect for all. Yoruba ideology calls this Omoluabi. In
South Africa, they call it Ubuntu.

Stop treating democracy as a tyranny
of the majority
: Because our politicians only care about
elections, they have only taught us the “numbers” aspect of democracy. That is,
majority wins. But democracy is more than vote counting. This is why we do not
call a mob action a democratic decision even though it involves a majority. The
difference between democracy and mobbing is the protection of minorities. In a
democracy, numbers only matter in issues of public opinion (example: should we
build schools or buy aircraft). Numbers do not matter in issues of individual
rights (example: should some people be allowed to speak freely). If you find
yourself voting against the rights of a minority, you are doing democracy
Start treating religion as an opinion:
Religion continues to be a problem in Nigeria only because we cannot stop
ourselves from externalising our religious beliefs. There is nothing bad with
having a religion and observing it. Religion only becomes odious when it is
rubbed in other people’s faces. This externalisation can be done directly
through legally approved or illegal force, or indirectly through social norms
and practices. When the head of an agency puts out a dress code for women,
religion is being externalised. When a man is arrested for blasphemy, religion
is being externalised. When a church service routinely spills into highway
traffic, religion is being externalised. We have to start treating religion as
a matter of individual preference and opinion. Also, our two major religions
were imported: the one through the sea and the other through the desert. Barring
individual and cultural variants, the religion most of us practice is dependent
on our proximity to either sea or desert. If we can draw the conclusion that
imported productivity is capable of destroying the local economy, then we
should be able to see how imported religious philosophies—when externalised—can
damage local cohesion.

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Ed’s Note – This article
was originally published here