Lessons On Unity From A Great Institution
A stroll around the school dug up a lot of nostalgia. No! It wasn't just the activities that kept us awake and active from about 0400hrs when we woke up and beyond the 2200hrs which was when we were officially asleep; it wasn't just the opportunities we created after 2200hrs to sneak out and find convenient places to iron our uniforms against the next day and other times when we covered our windows with thick blankets so the room lights would seem off from the outside and stay on in the room so we could read our books without breaking the official sleep time rule. It was more than the petty truancies we enjoyed and the pranks we played; it was more than the official relationships between Senior and Junior Boys - Masters and their Boys; more than the games we played and the competitions that we fought very hard to win.
It was these and every other thing. It was about how we came from different places - 6 Boys from each state of the 19 States of Nigeria; it is more about living together, training together, eating together, "serving job" together...; it is about how all the differences which existed between us at entry frittered away to create a bond between us; it is how we became brothers and how nothing could come between us to destroy the bonds that we shared and still share; it is how ethnicity was never discussed and about how religion still does not determine what happens to our relationships.
Nostalgia makes my face to crease in a deep smile. The smile is so deep that I can see it on the screen of this iPad as I make this scribble. I wonder why I am smiling but it is easy to remember how much we blended that our Muslim brothers found so much comfort in our churches and how convenient it was for our Christian brothers to perform ablution and go into the comfort of our mosques. No! It was not childishness because Boys of my school were not children - we were weaned off childhood in our early teens. We were mature Boys trained to and capable of knowing that we were first human beings before we are anything else.
Nostalgia just reminded me that we had come from different backgrounds. Some were sons of Generals in our Armed Forces while some were sons of Private Soldiers; some were sons of millionaires while some were sons of men who could not afford a simple meal; some were sons of Chief Executives who owned their own large businesses, some were sons of small-time labourers; some came from comfortable mansions while some came from shacks without private conveniences; some came from large cities in the worlds most developed countries while some had never seen a light bulb or switch. But on entry, demographics ceased to exist all gaps closed and we got together to begin a journey where the status of our parents and the places we were coming from no longer mattered. We had sons of Generals having senior Boys from very humble backgrounds forming the same "family" and The son of a millionaire ironing clothes belonging to the son of a subsistent farmer. We found a perfect blend and grew up into healthy adults. Because our lives together flushed every complex out of us, no one felt inferior and there were no superiorities based on the status of parents. Today, as I write this piece, I have paused several times in wonder when I realize that over 70% of those who became the first set of Generals in my set are from very humble backgrounds. In fact, it is important to note that the son of an Army Driver became the first product of the school to serve as its Commandant. So, we knew, very early in life that we were what we wanted to be and not the image of our parents. We have grown with that mentality and we know that our life still depends on what we choose to make it.
Because the five years we spent together saw us concentrating on our pursuit of excellence, we found each person to be a worthy asset to our achieving greatness. We learnt from one another; taught one another; helped one another to be on our feet. We grew up knowing that to be successful, we needed to need each other and work together; we grew up knowing that our diversity was a huge advantage and that tapping on this very rare resource, it was possible to rule the world. Today, without any exaggeration, I dare say that no part of this country will ever receive an ExBoy of the school like a vagabond. For us, Nigeria is home because, in every nook and cranny of this vast nation, each of us has a brother.
Now nostalgia brings tears to my eyes as hindsight flashes current images of my country to my mind. I see a country divided across various demographics. Rich against - not so rich - poor; Christian - Muslim - other religions - agnostics - Atheists...; ethnicity; even political affiliations. The differences which used to exist as very simple and often unnoticeable cracks have widened into wide gullies that are threatening to tear the country apart.
Through the pains inflicted by this new voice, I begin to ask myself questions that I can't find answers to: is it possible to recreate a Nigeria in the image of the things I grew through and still enjoy? Is it possible to get our children to begin to unthink these demographics and think instead in terms of our common humanity? Is it possible to reason as a people without allowing our differences to overshadow those things that make us think that we are different? One story that keeps popping at my brain as I write this is about two Ex-boys who had been classmates in the Nigerian Military School, and who happened to, unfortunately, find themselves on the opposing sides of the Nigerian Civil War; how one was captured as a Prisoner of War and how the other, damning all consequences saved his friend knowing that the senseless war which pitched brother against brother was not worth making him kill his brother. The two are still alive and nothing in this world can ever separate them.
This is the brotherhood that builds a country. This is the brotherhood that makes me look at the man from the farthest parts of my country and see him as my brother and compatriot, not as one from another place; this is the brotherhood that makes my Muslim and Christian brothers exchange visits and provide all that the other will need to pray and worship in his own way; this is the brotherhood that is making my brothers and I search for one who has been missing for a long time even when rumour says that he has been dead a long time ago; this is the kind of brotherhood that brings us together to look back and give back to the home that weaned us from childhood and set us on our ways to success; this is the brotherhood that I dream for my country to have - where everyone will be every other person's sibling and where love will thrive to make us grow into a prosperous nation of brothers and sisters.
Happy 67th anniversary and may the great lessons of the citadel continue to remind us that IT IS POSSIBLE