Would you like to hitchhike?

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When I was a student of University of Ife in Nigeria, many years ago, I used to hitchhike from Ife to Ibadan quite often. In those days it didn’t feel like a security hazard to do so, and I had things to do in Lagos almost every weekend. Sometimes I wonder if university students can do similar things today. Obviously, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to experiment at this stage in my life, to find out.

Having a far ranging conversation with an old friend and colleague last night, we spoke about the fact that he felt unsafe as a young man at times when he resided in Northern Nigeria, because somehow, the older men could sense what his ethnic heritage is, simply by looking at him.

He spoke of the undisguised hatred that he felt from these men. It is understandable that there was a civil war in that country and it is natural that there would be opposing factions in any standoff that leads to warfare, but what have the ruling classes done to rectify the situation?

Meanwhile the forces of climate change and religious fundamentalism are driving another group of people to roam recklessly into territories that have different cultural terms of reference to their own. This has resulted in countless skirmishes, losses of lives and general mayhem. Is it really such a difficult task to find a solution to these problems?

The people who have vested interests in keeping Nigeria united as a nation always appear to pay lip service to the idea that Nigerians from all over the country share certain things in common. Perhaps they are correct, inasmuch as any of us would find some common experiences with people of Polynesian or Inuit heritages.

There are no shortcuts towards making a nation feel like a united entity. The bottom line however, is that citizens should feel safe to do their business or live their lives in any part of their nation’s territory. On the other hand, freedom should be accompanied with a sense of responsibility, so everyone can simply get on with things peacefully, living side by side.