Sunday, July 25, 2010

What Holds A Country Together?

Dear Readers,

Last night, I was discussing Nigeria with a man from Brass (a community down on the tip of the Niger Delta, where the people have a reputation for being tough, stubborn and particularly resistant to schemes). I said that to get things done here you have to be very persistent and stubborn--and that I was probably getting a reputation for being stubborn.

He said "You are not stubborn. You are Nigerian."

Well! Glad that it only took 4 weeks to become an honorary Nigerian. However, the statement and discussion got me thinking. Sure, we can all lament the things that don't work in Nigeria. There is an almost vulgar (to me, possibly to others) gap between the haves and have-nots, and between the ready availability of any flashy thing you want (champagne, fancy cars, fancy anything) but functioning schools for your average Nigerian (the wealthy send their kids to private schools), basic infrastructure (Bayelsa is beter than most with decent roads and such) and such are really tough to come by.

So, my question to this man from Brass was, what's holding Nigeria together?

He said: Fear. The Biafran war (Nigeria's recent civil war between the three major ethnic groups) was so terrible that no one wants to go back to that. So fear of that experience keeps everyone from pushing too far.

I would also add money--there is vast wealth in Nigeria, so even if you waste a lot of it, some of it goes somewhere useful...right?

I'd also add stubbornness.

What else? What holds it all together? What holds any state (by state I mean country) together?

I've also included links to interesting articles about most of the countries listed below.

What about Turkey or Syria?

What about Pakistan? Lebanon?

What about China or the US?

I'd like to hear your thoughts.



  1. From a reader:

    Hi Alena I recall a grad seminar at Columbia asking the same question - why didn't India fly apart into at least 16 nations and perhaps more. There is relatively little known about cross territorial economics and cross cultural networks in former colonial states, As visible and harmful as divisveness is in Nigeria, for example, and as much as the endurance of the nation appears to be enforced by draconian measures, there are countless individual self interests that create a national fabric. It is usually obvious and noticeable that these linkages are less across national borders.

  2. From a reader:

    Hi Alena, I think, Human Security is an integral part of Human Development.

  3. From a reader:

    I would suggest that the ultimate glue of any nation-state does not derive from its government or economics or natural resources, nor for that matter its rule of law, or lack thereof. I think at root the glue of any nation-state's existence derives from the aggregate sum of the individual residents' identities and consciousness that they each "are" of that nation-state; and on some fundamental primal level, if informs and defines who they are and their state of "being."
    Whether of the poor or oppressed, or the wealthy and powerful; all of the dynamic relationships and interactions by and between residents occur north of a foundational identity. I suspect it is that identity that comprises the roots of any nation-state. Certainly that is of the essence of the miracle our nation-state's existence is testament to; and clearly was of the essence to Nelson Mandela in coalescing South African's via a transcendent national identification with a soccer team icon of national identification.
    I recognize the above lacks grounding in academic or historical reference; but I truly would like to acknowledge you for asking the question.
    Best of luck and success with your efforts.

  4. From a reader:

    I am more inclined to say that human development is a prerequisite to human security. The development of the person, should contribute to acquiring the personal tools and behavioural attitude to managing human security. This starts from the top - the leadership. There is the need for human development; a personal assessment of the mind, before thinking about how to ensure human security for you and your society.

  5. From a Reader:

    I believe strongly that human development is the crust for human security. Individuals will be inclined to productive reasoning, being able to analyze the 'pros and cons' of whatever they may be presented with. Also just like Ade pointed rightly, the leadership in Nigeria must take a step in making sure this happens. When there is human development, the nation is developed and people will no longer see each other as one belonging to a different entity (geo-political and religious extraction) but as one family, partners and stake holders in nation building with a task of making the Nation habitable for all to dwell and thrive.