Too many Nigerians are nostalgic — consumed by the past, and unwilling to move forward. But it is time to move back to the future and leave the past behind. There is nothing we can do about the past, beyond using it as a guide to avoiding making the same mistakes in the future. There is nothing that happened in the past that can be wiped away, but we can break forward from the past.
Before I delve into specifics, let me borrow a method from Robert Zemeckis’s 1985 comedy “Back to the Future” to illustrate.
Back to the future
Near the beginning of the movie, a mad professor combined a giant guitar, amplifier, stolen plutonium, and a DeLorean car to create a time machine. When terrorists killed the professor, the teenage Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) gives chase and the time machine/car catapults him back to 1955.
There he meets his future parents when they were his age. Disaster strikes-instead of falling in love with his father-to-be, Marty’s mother-to-be falls in love with Marty himself. Marty’s dilemma is that unless he can put the past straight before the film ends, he will never be born as his mother would be his wife.
Like Marty in the narration, Nigeria is rooted in the past. The events of the past are holding us and keeping us in the past instead of going back to the future where we need to be and focus all of our energies.
From the narration, a mad professor built a time machine from giant guitar, stolen plutonium, an amplifier, and a DeLorean car.
It doesn’t make any sense
The first thing that sticks out at you from the story is that there is no relationship among the items used to build the time machine.
They are not compatible.
What has a guitar, plutonium, an amplifier, and a car, got to do with one another?
Guitar and amplifier are used for music and sound; Plutonium is used for making bombs, and car for driving or movement. How can they be harmonized to produce a time machine?
The only thing common to these 4 items is that they are all man-made.
Imagine for a moment that the professor in the story is Lord Lugard, who cobbled unrelated and diametrically opposed groups together to build a country — Nigeria.
Lugard was the one who amalgamated the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914 to form Nigeria — a dream he envisaged will overcome challenges and lead Africa.
The killing of the professor by terrorists was not part of the original script; so was Marty going back to the past and getting trapped there.
Lord Lugard knew that the country he formed will confront challenges but he never knew and could not have predicted that at some point, some people (terrorists) will kill the leaders of the country and create distrust among the ethnic groups that will force every part to go back and to start to re-examine the basis for unity and togetherness.
Let’s learn from the past
Like Marty, we have gone back to the past in search of answers. Why did the Amalgamation happen? Why didn’t we continue with the Regions? Why can’t we go back to Regions now? Why don’t we go back to the 1963 Constitution? Why can’t we go our separate ways after we have built a country together?
These are questions daily agitating the minds of Nigerians. But until we can learn the lessons of the past and move back into the future to build it, we will be stuck in the past like Marty.
For Marty to exist — be born, he has to snap out of the past back to the future where he was before he travelled to the past.
Until Marty can find a way to get his mother and father (in the story, his mother-to-be and his father-to-be) to marry and give birth to him, Marty will never be born and he will have no future to go back to.
This is the challenge confronting Nigeria.
We have travelled back in time and we are stuck there.
Until we can break away from the past and decide to create a country, Nigeria will never move forward and make progress.
There are no natural countries and there are no countries without problems. Some people have done a better job at building their countries in spite of the problems by living for causes greater and bigger than themselves.
Others failed to go past the problems and have continued to move from one crisis to another, thereby holding back progress and unity.
Nigeria belongs to this category of countries.
Sixty-one years after Independence
We are still focused on the past: why we shouldn’t be a country — how the amalgamation was wrong and not needed and so on — instead of focusing on her best to move our country forward by harnessing her potentials and designing a country that is inclusive, fair, and just to all irrespective of tribe, religion, culture, and politics.
America is a super nation made up of different ethnic groups.
America has had problems and is still having problems, but she has not given up her dream to be the greatest nation on earth.
Americans describe their country as an idea. A dream. A city on a hill. A refuge.
Same America has a history of slavery, racial inequality, gender discrimination, and other issues.
The difference between America and Nigeria is that while Americans have aspirations in working to build a more perfect union, Nigerians are working to destroy Nigeria. They describe their country as useless, dead, stupid. A forced contraption that must be destroyed.
We all have to reimagine and remake Nigeria by going back to the future.
Focusing on the past is draining the future of the energies and resources needed to create a better future.