Unity, peace and progress.
How do you believe in this, when those who coined it did not execute it?
When those who execute in it do not understand it?
When those who understand it do not believe in it?
We are an endless chain, held together by the bonds of a constitution. And our ethnicities hate each other, but we love each other. We feel torn between generations of hate and a new dawn of love, with little more than empty words in an ambitious legal document to guide us to peace.
Today, I choose to love, and to make my ethnicity love others.
And I am stunned to see the outcome.
The orange light bounces off the silver on a Tiv woman’s fabric, as she vibrantly dances on her toes, the notes from the instruments blissfully gliding down her back. She owns the Igbo tune. A Yoruba woman dances beside her, in her grey and blue iro and buba. We peer through their glazed eyes, into their open hearts, where they metaphysically juxtapose culture on culture on culture through this dance.
The congregation is an ocean of colors, its waves animated by the sounds that bounce off the drums. And although the sound patterns change to represent a different tribe’s music, our spirits remain the same. When we don’t understand the lyrics to a song, we eagerly look to the screen, hoping that the translations will help us learn how our neighbors think, speak, and praise. The further on we go, the stronger we become. And the tribes in their many colors—each wearing its own—become one Nation, one mural. We dance to the beat of the same drum, with no regard for difference.
And it is beautiful.
And when the music dies down, and the mood is calm as is everyone, we all sit, and we listen. We listen to the Hausa man attempting Igbo proverbs, to the Benin girl attempting Yoruba folklore, not because we ourselves are individually Igbo or Yoruba, but because we all are Nigerian. We listen, not to the ethnicity represented, but to the wisdom and the spirit behind the words. And the service continues, as an unapologetic display of Nigerianness.
This is the very essence of the word, “Nigerianness.” It is dancing together, living together, and loving one another. We see it as we walk out of Church that Sunday, and hear women of diverse backgrounds share their cultural beliefs on how to groom a child; it is seeing them using diversity to spark innovation in child-bearing. It is hearing men discuss the difference between Ogbono made in Lagos, and Ogbono made in Osun—not putting one above the other, but exalting both equally. It is seeing Nigerian cultures complement each other—and not at the hand of the Nigerians themselves—but at the hand of a force much greater than each of them.
The force holds us together, so that although our ethnicities conflict, we love each other, and make the love prevail above the hate. We throw away generations of war and pain; we trade in our sorrows for a joy that we have never experienced, and a new dawn of love. And this time, we have ancient words in a Heavenly document to guide us to the answer.
And we birth Nigerianness—the very essence of Unity, Peace and Progress, although we thought we would never experience it.
So we believe in this, because we have coined it,
And because we have executed it, we understand it,
And because we understand it, we believe in it.
Today, we all embrace each other—and more than spiritually—physically as well. Because at the point where we say grace, all our heads are bowed, and our hands are locked into each other. We unite—not in Football clubs or skin color battles, but under the most powerful force imaginable— we unite under one God.