What happens to the idea of peace when multiple interests compete for its very soul? Three quarters of the way into what has been a very turbulent year, I reflect on one of the greatest gifts given to man. That, for me, is peace in the mind and the physical idea of it, which can be found in security of life and property.
It is in many ways an invisible gift as it cannot be seen, thus we take it for granted. It is also not a gift that is given freely but has to be worked for and appreciated. Once we are able to acquire it, it is more priceless than gold. It is at the heart of what it means to have lived. A life without peace is not a life.
It is that freedom that allows us to sit back and enjoy what we have, and appreciate the true gift that life is. In decades past, a small group of people – men and women have worked night and day to put up the scaffolding that now enfolds our country blocking out any trace of light. They have used this to build a tower so high that any last remaining vestige of peace has been blocked out.
These builders are our leaders who have devoted their life to building individual towers filled with our common wealth that they believe will lead them to eternity. They have not had a thought for our country, their children or the future of the next generation.
Without fear of God or man, they have deliberately created divisions amongst us, to ensure their massive architecture of greed and privilege remains. In doing so they have ensured a wide division between those who have and the ever-growing majority who do not.
They have broken laws and acted with impunity and laughed in the face of justice. They have waged a war on the Nigerian state, taking not only its money, but its sense of justice, fairness, and values. They have also taken away peace.
They have starved our institutions of growth, made sure that our education remains substandard, and that we have no access to clean water or health care. They have behaved like emperors, looking down on us from palaces while eating caviar and dancing in diamonds. To ensure that their party continues, they have divided us up into religious or ethnic groupings-whatever proves to be more advantageous to them. The aim is that if we are too busy fighting amongst ourselves we would not notice their profligacy.
To keep us down they have tried to dampen our spirits, but hope has kept us alive and in perpetual pursuit of peace. One thing they did not do as part of their grand plan is to blind us and make us deaf; that way we would be unaware of the mass injustice being perpetrated against us.
A person living in Nigeria today is confused as a direct result of the actions of a few. I am no longer sure what I am. Growing up, I was very clear about my identity with a definite sense of self. I had the confidence to know who I was, and thus could proudly negotiate my way around my world and the wider world at large. I was foremost a Nigerian man, a Christian and a Southerner.
But, most importantly, I saw my world through the prism of being a Nigerian. It was an honour that I wore with pride. I was confident that the whole country belonged to me; I could live and work where I chose without fear of being rejected.
My community was a rainbow of cultures and religions, and all were welcome. I grew up in a mixed household of aunts and uncles all who loved one another. There was mutual respect, a sense of brotherhood, a common purpose, and a belief that no matter where we happen to be born we were all part of the Nigerian project.
This is no longer the case. States now belong to so, called indigenes, and being born in a state no longer guarantees you any rights. This settler/indigene dichotomy is being encouraged by governors, those who are in positions to know better all in the name of short-term politics.
There is no greater fuel for insurrection than insecurity. In the fight for power and resource control, divisions have been created amongst us, and the majority stripped of all dignity. When a man is stripped naked, you have taken away the last cover that he has left which allows him to hold his head high, the only thing left is what lies deep within.
The anger that has for decades been kept on a leash is suddenly unleashed and he will fire his weapons indiscriminately everyone must feel the hurt that he has been harbouring. Someone must pay and none will know peace.
Such a man has nothing left and is willing to die if need be. He has lived for years without, often fighting for survival, while watching others living lives that are almost beyond imagination, with no sympathy for his travails.
Such a man is willing to fight his neighbour and the country at large; such a man knows that there is no justice for him and little prospect that his life can improve in the present-day Nigeria. Such a man will willingly join a group that tells him they care; he knows that the state does not care for him. Such a man will die for a group that is willing to count him in and show that he is important.
As we approach 2013, if we want to take back that most precious of gifts, peace, we must all work together to rebuild what we have lost. A few good men must get off their couches and take on the battle for a new Nigeria. We must begin by dismantling the scaffolding of the past, starting with shunning corruption and its proceeds, we must mentor the generation behind us.
We must put our country above politics and force politicians to do the right thing. We must work across party lines to ensure that all Nigerians feel included in the Nigerian project. We must stand up against unjust institutions and individuals who put themselves above Nigeria.
Similarly we must join hands with all those who believe in one Nigeria. We must take back peace in our time, thus ensuring that our children will get to fulfil their potential. We are Nigerians first, before we are Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Minority, Muslim, Christian. It is and must always be Nigeria first.