Nigeria’s unity and the conquest mentality
Unity, without which no meaningful development can take place, is like holiness without which no eye can see God. Successive governments and officials over the years have emphasized the importance of unity as a panacea for development.
More than ever before, the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is pursuing the unity of Nigeria with passion. There appears to be a consensus among officials of the government to echo in every forum what is turning out to be a new national slogan ‘‘the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable.’’ However, passion is never enough reason to start anything. Having sound knowledge of how it works is also required. The unity of a country is a structure, and like any other structure, the foundation is the key for it to stand. Justice is the foundation of unity, truth go round it.
Perhaps, a historical reflection of the unity of Nigeria becomes imperative. In 1952, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa addressed the Northern House of Assembly thus: ‘‘The Southern people who are flocking into this region daily in such large numbers are really intruders; we don’t want them and they are not welcomed here in the North. Since 1914, the British government has been trying to make Nigeria into one country. But the people are different in every way, including religion, custom, language and aspirations. We in the north take it that Nigeria unity is only a British intention for the country they created. It is not for us.’’
Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his ever green speech said: ‘‘Nigeria is only a geographical expression to which life was given by the diabolical amalgamation of 1914, that amalgamation will ever remain the most painful injury a British government inflicted on southern Nigeria.’’
Sir Ahmadu Bello, according to the Parrot Newspaper of October 12, 1960, just 11 days after independence said: ‘‘The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate from our great-grand father Othuman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We must use the minorities of the North as willing tools, and the South as conquered territories and never allow them to have control of their future.’’ Note that Southerners were not allowed to join ‘‘NPC’’ the political party of the North then. What followed there after leading to the civil war was better imagined.
Part of General Gowon’s maiden speech to the nation when he took over after the assassination of General JTU Aguiyi Ironsi is thus: ‘‘Suffice to say, putting all consideration to test: political, economic, as well as social, the basis for unity is not there, or it has been so badly shaken not once, but several times.’’ The forgoing shows that the unity of Nigeria has a defective foundation ab-initio.
Fast forward to the present, like the biblical saying, ‘‘as it was in the beginning, so shall it be forever.’’ The emergence of Buhari as the Nigerian leader appears to have created more division. A school of thought has it that Buhari rode to power with baggage of divisiveness. According to the school of thought when candidate Buhari loosed election in 2011, his declaration that ‘‘Baboon and Monkey will soak in blood’’ and the resultant riot in the North that claimed the lives of even youth corps members is still following him. Some even said that the above statement was what made Nnamdi Kanu to call Nigeria a zoo.
Also during an interview in Washington on the 23rd of June, 2015, Buhari made the popular divisive 97% and 5% speech that keep people taking till date. During the campaign for 2015 election, the popular slogan in the North was ‘‘VOTE OUT THE INFIDEL,’’ referring to former President Goodluck Jonathan. Carrying of mock coffin of the then president was a regular feature in the North, not to talk of all manner of derogatory names against former president Jonathan. He was even stoned in Katsina.
Today, Buhari administration is monitoring speeches on social media and promulgating law against hate speech. And people are asking whether above speeches and actions are love speeches and actions. May I remind Buhari about the popular saying that, ‘‘He who come to equity must come with clean hand.’’
Buhari appears to be implementing the conquest mentality of Sir Ahmadu Bello. According to the Nation Newspaper of May 9, 2016, Buhari during a visit to the Emir of Katsina palace said ‘‘recently, some people who were not even born during the war are saying they want to divide Nigeria. I always say the civil war was fought for the unity of Nigeria because then we hadn’t even discovered oil let alone enjoying it. But two million people were killed. The way the Sahara is advancing with Boko Haram, growing number of people and uncertainty over rainfall, in a land where we fought civil war leading to the death of about two million, for someone to just say he will chase us out? So where do we go? We will rather drown at the sea.’’
His lopsided appointments and the recent killing of flies with sledge hammer. (Branding of IPOB as terrorist organisation and killing the armless civilian members via operation python dance 11), support the above claim. Note, Fulani herdsmen that are killer machines, and northern youths that gave quit notice are walking freely, while government is in dialogue with Boko Haram. This shows nothing but double standard.
The October 1, 2017 presidential speech where President Buhari depicted Igbo youths as Hot-Headed and their leadership irresponsible reveals his deep hatred for the Igbo speaking nationality and must be condemned in strong terms.
Within the circumstance, no amount of reference to the civil war, no manner of threat or intimidation will make Nigeria to be united; because a house built on sandy soil cannot stand. The only thing that will bring unity in Nigeria is to eschew this conquest mentality and dialogue in a sovereign national conference where ethnic nationalities will renegotiate the unity of Nigeria.
Nze lives in Lagos.
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