Goodluck Jonathan, a former president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has stated that Nigeria continues to face religious and ethnic crises because its founding fathers failed to envision the country as a nation during their struggle for independence.
Jonathan spoke at a national dialogue in Abuja in honour of Prof Udenta Udenta, who turned 60 on Tuesday.
The former president, who presided over the presentation of Udenta’s 21 books, stated that Nigeria is still divided because its founding fathers were more concerned with regional politics and operated as individuals rather than as a nation.
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 polarised, 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 that time belonged to regions and there were no alliances for the purpose of ruling the country. When I compare Nigeria and 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.
Tanzania, like Nigeria, is predominately Muslim and Christian, according to Jonathan, and despite the strength of the two faiths, Nyerere advocated for a one-party state to prevent political parties from taking on religious colouration.
If the recommendations of the 2014 national conference are implemented, he says, “we will not say we have a country called Nigeria, a state called Nigeria, we will also say we have a nation called Nigeria.”