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Tolerance, catalyst for nation building

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By Chimezie Nebolisa

RECITING Nigeria’s National Anthem, the first stanza, line eight reads:  “One nation bound in Freedom, Peace and Unity” but since the country’s amalgamation in 1914 and the eventuality of Nigeria’s independence in 1960, lack of these ideals and tenets among citizens which are the basic core for nation building and development continue to elude us and impede our nation’s progress in all sectors – social, economic and politics. At the base of this retrogressive act is the relegation of “tolerance” to the background of our national values.

  Tolerance as a necessity is the ability to acknowledge, accept the existence of views, inclinations and beliefs that are otherwise different from yours. Furthermore, tolerance hinges on the proposition that your worldview could be different from others, that your six could be another’s nine and that despite our differences, we all can live together.

Nigeria, a nation with diverse ethnic groups and religious sects have witnessed both religious and political instability and existential problems with the climax of such resulting to the Nigerian Civil war (1967-70). Intolerance in our polity have become both a cankerworm and epidemic which fester the seeds of hate, distrust and a dog eat dog attitude across board.

This attitude could be found in the civil service, places of doing business, politics and governance. Hence, Yoruba is wary of the Igbo, Hausa and other nationalities that make up the country and vice versa, while it’s also Christians versus Muslims on the other end of the divide. With each struggling to conquer and dominate the other, leading to the desolation of the land with Christian/southern blood in the north and in the East, northerners live in constant fear as a result of the recent activities of an unscrupulous group.

Through all human stages of evolution till this epoch, it’s an open secret that man as a social animal is not independent or an island. Rather, he survives on cooperation and togetherness. However, in his relations with another, there could arise friction which is usually caused by the antagonism from different interests and views. These antagonisms, if not checked, could breed distrust, dishonesty, calumny, civil unrest and in extreme cases, war.

To the general view, the idea of establishing the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in 1973, by General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) GCFR is to foster unity. However, when critically analysed, NYSC provides a platform for breeding tolerance amongst youths. It’s an opportunity not just for serving our fatherland and meeting new people, it extends to new cultural learning and acclimatisation.

Overtime, we have witnessed how intolerance continue to stampede our national development, unity and progress. However, tolerance development can help us to maximise the full potentials of our diversity and large population in achieving nation building. We could match the first world as we possess capable human capital in all sectors.

To build a better society that we all would be proud of, a nation that will lead Africa and the rest of the world, there’s need to inculcate tolerance value across different ages, especially the young ones in schools, churches, mosques and other social arena. 

Nigeria of our dreams is conceivable if we learn to extend an olive branch to one another, accept others’ views while making corrections when necessary. This great nation made up of good people holds much promises for all of us but only if we decide to co-exist as one while living on the foundational values of our founding fathers.

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