Many years ago, back then when I was an eager pupil in my primary school days, my social studies teacher – and many other such teachers of equally wide-eyed pupils all over the country- told the story of Nigeria and how she came to be; placing less emphasis on the gory details of the Nigerian civil war, and more emphasis on the National flag and Coat of arms; the word common to them both being ‘Unity’. The Green colour on the flag represents Agriculture, the white colour represents Peace and Unity; the motto of Nigeria as written on the Coat of arms is Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. We were made to understand that Unity entails brotherhood, mutual respect and togetherness, even though it may be expressed in many different forms.
The Oxford dictionary defines Unity as ‘the state of being united or joined as a whole’, and according to dictionary.com it is ‘the state of being one; oneness’. This means Unity is more about our relationship with one another, our mindfulness of the other and our attitude- how we behave towards one another; and as Virginia Burden rightly says, ‘Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there’.
Presently, however, unity has been reduced in its meaning by being restricted to expression only through mere symbols of togetherness and harmony. These symbols, though important and effective in promoting unity are fleeting. We may all agree that nothing on earth has ever been known to be strong expressions of unity amongst men as football, music and religion. When we restrict unity to these, what happens when they are taken away from us? A quote by Henry Ford goes thus, ‘Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success’. From this we see that without first accepting each other and coming together, we cannot manage to be successful in our expressions of unity. As we know, that which should bind us together is very often that which tears us apart. So, in the case of football, religion, music, what becomes of us when they are taken away from us? Do we stay united or do we reclaim our positions in the society and renew the gaps separating us? The world cup is taking place presently in Brazil, and people of different nations will be united in their hopes and wishes and prayers for the participating countries. But what will happen afterwards? Will the rich and poor still sit together in a bar and discuss freely on which country is the champion, without considering for a second the social difference between them? Will bankers in their expensive suits hang around newspaper stands and argue good-naturedly with mere traders over the skill employed by a revered footballer in his scoring of a goal while chewing on roasted corn and pear? Will violence and religio-political wars stay suspended as arms are dropped in favor of the TV remote control? Will we show forth our brotherhood by being as concerned about the man who designed the Nigerian flag, our emblem – Taiwo Akinkunmi-, as we are about our choice of musicians?
In the face of these questions, we ought to look inwards and realize that unity will be achieved first through acceptance. We must accept ourselves for who we are and accept our neighbors for who they are. Then, our unity may go on to be strengthened by our common interest in music, in our faith, or in our preferred football club.