Leaders Who Pull Down Flags and Symbols: Nigeria Needs The Likes of Rep. Jenny Horne.

All it takes is truth telling, salted with some heartfelt emotions . . . . A descendant of Jefferson Davis, who could have held on to past history and familiar ties to the Confederate battle flag, nevertheless chose to stand with reason. Calling it a symbol of hate, Rep. Jenny Horne (R, Dorchester, SC) pleaded with her colleagues to do the right thing. Her impassioned plea caused the tides to shift dramatically. And finally, after more than 50 years, the flag was taken down from the South Carolina State grounds. And as has been pointed out by many people, this action in no way deters anyone from recognizing the flag’s personal values, but no longer will the state sponsor its tainted symbolism.

In Nigeria, the Biafran war was fought . . . and lost. I am Igbo. We even lost our father in the heat of the war as he took care of the wounded. But that was then and this now. Flying the Confederate Flag is akin to flying the Biafran Flag at Abuja, the nation’s capital. Exactly. That would be ludicrous because there’s now only one country to be recognized. That fact doesn’t and hasn’t stopped some Igbos from pursuing self determination and equity in the face of marginalization –some, I dare say, internally inflicted. However, at no point can we keep claiming Biafran rights if Nigeria is to be one.

While it can be argued that nine honorable lives did not have to die to get South Carolina to this honorable moment in time, the fact is that their lives (and deaths) directly led to the making of history and spurned further healing actions between races. Similarly, a Nigeria divided by ethnic and religious fault lines can expeditiously avoid further stagnant and deadly choices and move towards nation building in love and unity.

The Confederate battle flag was officially installed in 1961; Nigeria became independent in 1960. Almost five decades later, whatever remaining symbols of hate are being pulled down. With a devout Muslim, President Buhari at the helms, assisted by an equally devout Christian Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria can move forward united, not uniform. Truth tellers who have the common good in mind, who care about the lives of their fellow citizens, no matter their background, religion, and socioeconomics are just what Nigeria needs.  We are looking for such in the ranks of our legislators and statesmen and women. It is no secret they have been complicit in Nigeria’s lack of progress, having in the past lived only for their own personal gains. Again, President Buhari has modelled this change in mindset with a simple but powerful, even symbolic action by taking a pay cut, paving the way for the people to be put first. The common good has to wipe out personal greed. Nigeria’s leaders’ lunatic amassing of wealth may have come to an overdue end. Yet, only these legislators can police themselves in an ethical and transparent manner. Who in their ranks will take up that cause, even if it runs counter to the traditions of the past? Who in their ranks will call the house to order and trade self and party interest for the national good? Who will be a voice that says like Rep. Jenny Horne, “It’s not just about me?”

More truth tellers, more leaders who dare to call others to social justice, more Jenny Horne’s and Nigeria, Africa, and indeed still the U.S. will override hate, racism, ignorance, and everything else that impedes the social and economic progress of all citizens.


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