Short-sightedness in separatist agitation
Those “wise ones” who had authoritatively “decreed” the disintegration of Nigeria must be laughing quietly at current developments – the banter of insults between ethnic nationalities. The disintegration of Nigeria is what they are wishing for, the collapse of the possibility of a predominantly black nation ranking among the important nations of the world. Remember, they have always believed themselves to be members of the superior race who cunningly enslaved our peoples, as well as colonised “inferior” nations.
When Nigeria fought a civil war between 1967 and 1970, the rest of the world was not looking at our nation from the prism of future greatness. On the other hand, the young African nation was still perceived as the burden of the British, the erstwhile colonial masters who played a major role in ensuring that Nigeria remained one nation. Were there to be another senseless war today, there is bound to be a u-turn. External influences will conspire to partition Nigeria into very small and somehow subdued nations!
I take the position, even when it could be unpopular, that the amalgamation of Nigeria should not continuously be visited as the problem. Any nation that would play an important role in world politics must have among other indices of national power and prestige, the compliments of size and population. A nation can only expand by merging with adjoining territories, and not with some distant cousins. If the British had not created a massive nation for us, visionary Nigerian leaders should have attempted it. There would have been no space in America for those rushing daily “to deliver their babies”, if that important world nation had got no space for others, if it had remained the 13 confederal states it was at independence.
The problem with Nigeria has been principally that of leadership, a thesis competently articulated by the immortal Chinua Achebe in his book, “The Trouble with Nigeria.” Our nation has had a great misfortune with a string of post-independence purposeless leaders, more ethnic than national in their orientations. The military ones have been ordinary in the art of managing a plural society. The immediate reminder that the civil war of 1967-70 had not concluded matters came in April 1990 when an attempted coup challenged the very essence of our nation, with the coup leaders announcing a temporary expulsion of some key states of the north from the Nigerian federation. Crude military leadership of General Sani Abacha would later give rise to quite a number of disruptive ethnic militias in the late 1990s.
But I would like to say that it has not been all gloom for our nation. We have had uninterrupted civil rule since 1999, and the general mood is that the nation will not trade that development for any opportunistic military intervention. We have, during this period, had two elected presidents from each of the major divides – north and south. If one must be brutally honest, the system has not been as hegemonic as it previously was. It must continue to be emphasised that no component unit is superior to the other, regardless of selfish assumptions. Henceforth, our preoccupation should be to get true democrats into democratic politics while limiting the space for opportunistic politicians. Of course, democracy cannot fully deliver its dividends if the larger electorate remain docile participants. Opportunistic politicians cannot be bothered if the nation was brought to its knees; everything is about their selfish objectives.
By the way, there have been allegations or insinuations that the agitation for Biafra by the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was sponsored by disgruntled politicians. Coming into existence soon after the 2015 elections, with crooks and rascals who had embezzled public money turning it into an anti-Buhari movement, such allegations or insinuations could hardly have been over-exaggerated. Whatever the case, it would be sad if Nigerians born after the civil war were to misguidedly lead us into another war and end the dreams of our founding fathers.
The unending agitation for the break-up of Nigeria by pro-Biafra elements, and the tirade of ethnically-directed insults and abuses that go with it, must have propelled the so-called coalition of northern youths to issue a “quit notice” to their Igbo compatriots in the north. They said the Igbo should quit the north latest by the 1st of October, or be evicted. They also ordered northerners resident in Igbo territories to reciprocate the ultimatum. I assume the quit notice to be a way of calling the bluff of pro-Biafra agitators, more or less reminding the Igbo of the enormity of their physical and material presence in the north. It is somehow commendable that sensible leaders have come out to condemn that threat, but it must not only be when selfish interests are threatened that genuine leaders speak for unity and peaceful co-existence in the polity.
Not unexpectedly, the quit notice has had a bandwagon effect of some sort. Some ethnic nationalists and jingoists have seized upon it to issue directives of their own, and this reminds one of that important warning by the great Edwin Madunagu of the danger of intelligent men and women remaining on the sidelines while extremists take to the centre stage. Those in positions of authority must now wake up to their responsibilities and accept that discussions about the future of society are a subject of consistent and paramount importance. We must not pretend that all is well when they are not.
Nigeria has the potential to be great; the component units are a lot more interdependent than many can imagine or would want to admit. There are challenges we must collectively and patriotically seek to resolve. Boko Haramism, kidnapping, herdsmen nuisance, ritual murders, robbery and corruption, are major problems that transcend ethnic and religious boundaries. They are problems that can only be resolved by the collective will of Nigerians and a leadership that is both purposeful and patriotic.