I was born in Nigeria. I grew up in Nigeria. I have also worked most of my career in Nigeria. Nigeria flows in my veins and I miss those heady days, the warmth, the arrogant traffic and the boisterous noise of the big cities in which I worked. Lagos. Benin City. Abuja. They had their own peculiar characteristics but all three were intrinsically Nigerian. A common feature of these three cities and several others across Nigeria was the tribal heterogeneity – it was a diversity that not only enriched our social intercourse but one that also highlighted the placidity of our communal existence. Growing up, I travelled widely too; Maiduguri. Warri. Sapele. Kano. Ilorin. Daura. Enugu. Owerri. Ibadan. Minna. Dutse. Paiko. Okene. Lokoja. Jos. Asaba. Aba. Abakalilki. Calabar….and these were not one day trips. While the prevalence of the dominant culture of a place was always palpable, you couldn’t miss the visible mixture of other tribes and cultures in these cities – in some places, you would find streets, areas, quarters or sabongaruruwa which most of these other peoples lived, but this never diminished their joint ownership of the social space of the cities in which they lived.
This is who we are; a people united, despite our tribes and tongues differing.
It is that joint investment that we have in Nigeria as a people that we should hold sacrosanct and above any other thing when we vote tomorrow. Let’s vote with our convictions, not along ethnic or religious lines, not because we have been swayed with some pecuniary or material incentive, but because we believe that the candidacy we espouse (in our individual opinions) will potentially be the best for Nigeria. It would be in our best interest to eschew all forms of violence, and political actors should be mindful not to utter inflammatory statements in these dire last hours.
From a distance, I have watched with keen interest and awe, at the debates, comments, and opinions that have swathed our internet and concomitantly filled our various social media in respect of these elections and I am thankful that technology has played a crucial role in deepening and enriching the experience of the Nigerian electorate in a way that is unprecedented in our history. As we go into tomorrow, I am sincerely hoping that the elections will be free and fair, and that the national electoral authority will handle the exercise with verve and a competent and impartial disposition. If this happens, no matter who wins, we would have established beyond doubt that Nigerians can have an unassailable say in the process of choosing who leads them. If this process of determining who occupies our political offices effectively crystallizes, it sets the platform for an evolution into more responsive leadership, competent governance and the possibility of a more representative legislature in all arms. It won’t happen overnight. But it would be a start.
Let’s vote tomorrow – for all of us; so we do not lose who we are.