AT 9 am on Saturday, members of National Association of Seadogs (NAS) aka Pyrates Confraternity were seated at the hall of Merit House in Abuja to listen to celebrated poet Dike Chukwumerije who has been billed to speak on the topic: Rebuilding the Nation.
Chukwumerije, the author of One Nigeria and other books, was among the over 20 guest speakers at the annual lectures organised by NAS since 1994 when the lecture series commenced.
And he did not disappoint.
The poet started by rejecting the notion of rebuilding the nation known as Nigeria because, in his view, the task of building Nigeria as a nation has not commenced. Factors such as ethnicity, religion, sexism and class have, for years, constituted a barrier toward building a Nigerian nation project, he argued.
The guest speaker at the 2019 Citizen Summit Town hall wondered if, at all, there is a nation builder in Nigeria.
“A nation builder is a person that identifies with the nation in question,” but most “Nigerians”, Chukwumerije said, would rather assert their ethnic or religious identity.
To be a Nigerian in truth and indeed “means to not bend the rule or give an undue advantage to someone you share an ethnic or religious affiliation with. If a member of another ethnic or religious group should win a contract, you should not have a problem to say “well done” to that person.”
Chukwumerije further noted that a true nation builder is someone that possesses a special sense of patriotism that allows him or her to love the country that has not shown him or her love.
He said it is ironical that “it is those generations [of Nigerians] who benefited the most from this country that turned around and did the most damage to the nation-building project in this country.
“It is the very definition of irony that it is those generations that have benefited the least from this country that are now saddled with the extremely difficult task of moving the nation building forward in this country”
The poet then asked: “How do you love a country that has never loved you?”
He answered by asking Nigerians to think like nation builders, dreaming of a future where everyone will be able to move freely within Nigeria or live anywhere without fear of attack or harassment.
“You can start by dreaming of a democratic and free society where all Nigerian can live together in harmony and equal opportunity.
“You can start by understanding that no matter what the black man achieves in this world, whether he rises to become president in America, or become a member of the royal family in the UK, he or she would never escape the stigma of being African, of being black, not until Africa, the content stands up.
“You can allow yourself to understand that future of this world depends, not just on the advancement of scientific thinking, but also on the advancement in our approaches to the eternal and universal problem of getting along.
“This is how to motivate yourself to a country that has never loved you.”
The speaker further encouraged Nigerians to be motivated; not by the mistakes of its leaders, but by the ideal of the Nigerian nation that espouses freedom, peace and justice, as captured in the national anthem.
“For you do not define a nation by the actions of his founders but by the ideal espoused of that nation, by where they are trying to get to.”
NAS Vice President, Chiemeka Ozumba, noted that the town hall meeting is organised every quarter of the year to sustain a culture of citizen dialogue.
Though the association is constituted by people of many creeds and cultures, he said the members are guided by a common philosophy that challenges moribund convention, tribalism and ethnicity. Instead, seadogs pursue causes that promote a humanistic ideal and encourages the strong to defend the weak, he said.
“And we have done this a great deal in this country,” he said, making reference to the role played by seadogs during the authoritarian regime of the late General Sanni Abacha.
Ozumba tasked the Nigerian public to change its negative perception about Pyrate Confraternity because the association contributes significantly to changing the society for the better through its many programmes, which includes medical mission, advocacy for child rights and annual citizen summit.
Guest lecturers at the previous NAS lectures include Professor Wole Soyinka, late Chief Rotimi Williams, SAN, Malam Balarabe Musa, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Nuhu Ribadu, Professor Esko Toyo, Dr. Robin Sanders, Bishop Mathew Kukah, Professor Biodun Jeyifor and others.