A former president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday lamented that Nigeria’s founding fathers failed to integrate the nation despite their struggle for independence and the victory that followed.
Bahdstreetvibes learnt that Jonathan stated this while speaking at the national dialogue and public presentation of 21 books in honour of Prof. Udenta Udenta, as part of activities to mark his 60th birthday in Abuja.
Jonathan who chaired the occasion likened the celebrant who authored all of the 21 books to former Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, whom he said championed Tanzanian nationhood.
He said unlike Nyerere; Nigerian founding fathers paid greater emphasis on ethnic and identity politics at the expense of building Nigeria into a cohesive nation.
Jonathan said, “Have we been able to convince ourselves whether we are a state or a nation? If we are a country and a state, how do we become a nation?
“I am not blaming our founding fathers but they failed to integrate us into a proper nation. They operated as individuals and so on.
“Of course, if you have read some of the comments of our former leaders, someone like (Obafemi) Awolowo made it very clear that there was no nation called Nigeria. That it is a geographical entity, it is a country, it is a state, it has laws but there is no nation.
“The country was so polarized, especially during the early political party formation and the parties were regional parties.
“There was no sense of commitment to integrate Nigeria into an entity that you can say yes, this is a nation with core values, common philosophy and people will be patriotic to that nation.
“Most of the parties at that time belonged to regions and there were no alliances for the purpose of ruling the country.
“When I compare Nigeria with a country like Tanzania, I feel that Julius Nyerere made his vision clear to make Tanzania a nation. They have different tribes, maybe not as many as Nigeria but one nation was at the height of his thoughts.”
The former president explained that like Nigeria, Tanzania was made up predominantly of Muslims and Christians, stating further that despite the numerical strength and popularity of the two faiths, President Nyerere was able to champion a one-party state to prevent political parties dissolving into ethnic and religious cocoons as he worked hard with other nationalists to build Tanzania into the nation it had become.
Jonathan added, “He (Nyerere) made sure every person from Tanzania speaks that (one) language, those who go to primary, secondary and tertiary schools quickly adhered to this as Nyerere made education compulsory.
“So, you hardly see somebody who didn’t get at least basic knowledge of the language in what we call the first nine years of school education. At that level, you communicate in Swahili.”
The ex-president recalls that move he made in 2014 to address some of the fault lines that had kept Nigerians apart.
He expressed confidence that if the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference were not only adopted but implemented, “we will not say we have a country called Nigeria, we will not say we have a state called Nigeria, we will also say we have a nation called Nigeria.”