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Knock down the walls, build Bridges (3) – Hope Eghagha

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By Hope Eghagha

If the operative philosophy of social media, that giant mode of communication which has come to dominate the 21st century is connectivity, thus transforming the world into a global village, then it is contradictory in terms to build walls around states and institutions.

The very presence of social media reinforces the belief that the other world is just a button away. Video conferencing reduces the physical geographical gap between disparate communities or countries and continents.

Thus, we have international citizens who live in one country or state but work in another. Work is being redefined. So too are work ethics. Logging on to a computer network wherever one is physically, is regarded as reporting for duty, thereby replacing the clocking in method. The biggest bridge therefore is the satellite stationed in the heavens above from which billions of messages are transmitted every minute.

It is a device that can be deployed to dealing with the clash between so-called herdsmen and farm owners across Nigeria. The Nigerian territorial space is violently ravaged and savaged by marauders who have a sense of entitlement because they must graze their cows wherever the grass is green. Satellite images easily point out where there is green and those in the business of cow rearing would then go directly to those sources and of course respect the owners of the land. The federal government’s approach to the menace of herdsmen has built a wall of suspicion between the north and the south. This need not be. We are in the 21st century and our thinking caps are need to solve knotty problems.

Social media has brought down walls but it has also created walls of some sort. The global village culture has created virtual friends who are invariably closer than physical friends. It has also created a new world of conquest to the western world. It has created fake news that can be used to accentuate difference or whip sentiments that could be deleterious to the body politic.

If as we are assured by internationally confirmed statistics, we have a youthful population nearly 60%, the nation must develop massive programmes that will bring back youths to believing in the country. Too many of them simply want to leave for greener pastures even in countries that are less endowed than Nigeria. Unemployment has alienated the youth from the ideals of the Nigerian state and so they have no faith in the system. We therefore urge the leaders of the country to create massive employment for the teeming population that we have.

One of the easiest channels of building bridges is dialogue. The basis of the existence of the Nigerian state is being challenged by some dark forces through acts of impunity. The deep divisions in the country are threatening life and property to the extent that travelling on our highways is a great risk. This is the time for dialogue using both formal and informal channels. The different ethnic groups that make up the country should engage in constructive dialogue with a view to understanding one another and proffering solutions to the nagging problems in the land. It does not make sense to ban ethnic agitations and allow groups that kill everyday to parade all over the land. If we drive protests or agitations underground. They would continue to fester and breed deep discontent.

Another point is that the security architecture of the country should be tweaked with a view to reflecting the multiethnic composition of the Nigerian state. It is true that most past governments have managed to reflect the cultural diversity of the country in order to give the impression of inclusion. To be sure that has not meant that the situation had become perfect. However, when the constituent parts of the federation find that their kith and kin are part of the ruling caucus it gives a sense of belonging.

It is also important to entrench fairness and justice in all that we do as a people. For example, no Nigerian has implicit faith in the electoral process. As witnesses to electioneering and voting, Nigerians are aware that a lot of irregularities take place. They witness inflated results and wrong candidates being declared winners. Elections have to be credible to restore faith in electioneering to the citizenry.

The education sector has to be redesigned and calibrated to meet the needs of the 21st century. We cannot and should not continue to produce graduates who cannot gain any form of employment. The time has come for them to acquire skills that would make it possible for them to face the challenges of the times. A curriculum review therefore is imperative. We need hands in the construction industry. We need training and retraining in the IT sector and make our youths compete on a global scale with their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

The last recommendation is to strengthen the bridge of national development is to create programmes that will empower the young people of this country. Their energies need to be channeled into positive value and work. They also need a cultural reorientation that would make them appreciate the value of hard work.

In concluding my reflections on building bridges, I must assert that we need a new Nigeria, a new spirit and a new value system. And it is through building bridges between the different constituent parts of the federation that will facilitate the creation of the new Nigeria.

As my friend and fellow poet Professor Olanrewaju Sulaiman Adebayo takes office as President of Rotary here in Ado Ekiti, I congratulate and wish him well and pray that his stay in office would make a difference and serve as a bridge builder in all that is good.

Concluded

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