“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.” – Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934.
Just as every individual has a character, every nation has a national character. What determines the depth, breadth and height of a nation’s influence is not the natural resources possessed by such a nation, otherwise Nigeria should be the most influential nation in the world. It is also not in the skill sets the citizens of such nation possess, otherwise India should probably be the most powerful nation. It is neither in the level of education of the citizenry, though this has direct impact on the GDP of the country. What determines how powerful a nation will become is her National Character.
What is Character? Character, in this context, ‘is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.’ It is the summation of the values, thought patterns and habits that make up a man. National Character is therefore the summation of the value system, thought patterns and habits of a nation. It is the soul of the nation. A nation with good national character is like a nation with a good soul. A nation with a bad national character is also like a nation with a bad soul. No matter how richly endowed such nation is, her National Character will always overshadow all her endowments. Woe to that nation without great National Character, even when endowed with cornucopia of natural resources!
What is our National Character as a nation? Do we even have guiding principles that we all commonly adopt? Usually, every nation writes her constitution using her National Character as the foundation. What are the guiding principles behind our Constitution in Nigeria? An American child knows and is guided by the value system of USA. Personal achievement, individualism, hardwork, morality, humanitarianism, equality, democracy and so on guide the Americans. These also have been built into their constitution.
At some point during the administration of former President Obasanjo, an attempt was made to articulate a national value document at Kuru, Job in 2001, but it all ended like most other government projects, swept under the carpet. A major reason why each successive government comes in with a lot of hope and leaves the country worse off, is the absence of a commonly adopted National Value Document. It is such document that defines the National Character of a nation. Government’s attempt to tackle corruption will be strengthened when there is a value document guiding the act of governance. Until and unless we go back to the basis and define our guiding principles as a nation, tribalism, nepotism, corruption, self aggrandizement and placing personal comfort above national good will continue to tow us as a nation.
This current administration must define our National Character and put up strong and durable structure for its national adoption. Only then would we have commenced the journey to true nationhood. Where there is no dream, the people perish.
God help us all.
Good morning Africa!
Good morning Nigeria!