(By Simon Abah)
“The ‘establishment’ has a strong hold on the youths that way. The youths hardly benefit from the largesse of the politicians but are satisfied that their preferences are in office. They have been fed lies that they are of a special breed and breeds of their kinds don’t have outsiders of the same faith leading them in prayers. The ‘establishment’ fails to inform and educate them that power can never be a birth right. It is transient, like the wind and must pass.“
THEY say the northerner (they group everyone in this divide as Hausa) is backward, uneducated, loves power and does not value human life. They say the Igbo can do anything for money and love to dominate people. They say the Yoruba love power, are arrogant and brag about being more educated than the rest of Nigeria. They say the Igala (my stock) are fetish.
Ironically, our people and the ‘establishment’ have not done much to belie these retrogressive sentiments from the minds of people and they have festered over time leaving Nigerians more divided than ever. These are reasons that we haven’t moved forward as a country.
Government over time has had to send troops to Sudan, Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone and other sister African countries to liberate them from conflicts but fail to realise that we have worse internal conflicts to address. Worse, after the liberation support, our country and her people are relegated to the quarters of irrelevance.
It is no longer news that we didn’t have a shared history and culture before Nigeria’s amalgamation in 1914. This also applies to the United States of America and Switzerland. So I squirm when people celebrate this amalgamation to a frenzied pitch in order to sow discord. It is also no longer news to say we have the human capital to change this country – People with novel ideas. But ideas alone do not bring change. The human ‘will’ for change does.
I am in a dreary wonderland and wonder if the youths of this country can ever free themselves from the stranglehold of deceit, stereotyped-falsehood which they have borne for years. Falsehoods spread by forebears has only left them mentally impoverished; falsehoods which give us false images of ourselves.
I recoil when I see young eastern Nigerians today clamoring for secession. I condemn in strong terms the pogrom they suffered in the North before the civil war. But leaders of thought in the East, as a duty, need to educate those militaristic youths in the true facts. And the facts are that, some overzealous but patriotic soldiers of eastern origin started the war by sending prominent northern and western politicians into that state of permanent silence, from which none can return, in Nigeria’s first coup.
The exercise was lopsided and not a single eastern politician came to harm how much more killed. Naturally, it brought regrettable retribution in the North. But the East was also responsible for doing the same to northerners in many places, in the then, eastern Nigeria. And the war would have been averted had the leaders of the East listened to South -Western traditional rulers and private citizens who came on a last minute mission to sue for peace. Forget the ‘Aburi Accord’ and all the propaganda that went with it. That war was an inglorious one and shouldn’t be relived. Most of my elderly eastern friends have told me privately that the war was unjustified and I wonder why they can’t tell their people. It’s time to sheath the sword and move on.
Equally vexing is to hear a northern youth say that power (especially the Presidency) belongs to the Muslim northerner. Where does that leave the Christians? By default they have been told it is their heirloom. So when providence makes a Christian a governor (the late Patrick Yakowa) and fate decides otherwise, (as a result of, a helicopter crash), Muslim youths ran to the streets and celebrated wildly as though they had been living in bondage because he was of another faith. But as a Christian, I cried when the late President Umar Yar’Adua died. I loved the man for he was truly a statesman.
The ‘establishment’ has a strong hold on the youths that way. The youths hardly benefit from the largesse of the politicians but are satisfied that their preferences are in office. They have been fed lies that they are of a special breed and breeds of their kinds don’t have outsiders of the same faith leading them in prayers. The ‘establishment’ fails to inform and educate them that power can never be a birth right. It is transient, like the wind and must pass.
They also fail to separate religion from politics. Politics and religious tenets don’t mix. They should know that the state is higher than the man and his faith and not beneath them.
I am dismayed at the attitude of the South -Westerner who are wont to lay claim to intelligence and make you feel uneducated when you are around him. To make matters worse, they say they are more educated over and above all regions of the country. Where did this falsehood emanate from? This belief is too pedestrian. Education is not about possession of certificates. (This requires another article).
Whilst in the university, a friend from the South-West was imprudent enough to say, ‘I didn’t know northerners can be this intelligent’, and another asked ‘are northerners this sociable?’, some said ‘surely you must have lived in Lagos’, because prior to my sojourn to that ivory tower, I had lived between Sokoto and Kaduna, barely knew the south and maybe they thought I should be timid as ‘expected’.
This type of pseudo-belief in the superiority of self and kinsmen, as if wild fire has eaten deep in to the fabric of industry. Any wonder why westerners hold sensitive positions in most sectors like the oil industry. This has been duly facilitated by most companies having their headquarters in Lagos. Kinsmen are recruited from Lagos by default and sent to ‘other’ parts of Nigeria. This makes a lot of people feel totally alienated and self-doubt on their educational capabilities set in.
Patriots from the Delta daily make disparaging remarks about the whole North as a bunch of looters, who have been a pest to this country. I wonder how the northern youths have benefitted from the adventures of their northern political behemoths. Leaders of the Delta region have failed to inform them that the Federal Army is composed of all ethnic groups but mostly of northern and western soldiers. My late father inclusive) prior to our civil war, fought in that in-glorious war to liberate them from a union they openly revolted against due to the brutality they suffered in that failed Republic.
The Tivs of Benue State are good warriors and they lorded over the Igala who fought them to a ‘standstill’ before the creation of Kogi Sate. Today the Igala in Kogi are lording it over the other tribes and the Tivs over the Idomas. This vicious circle continues in many states of Nigeria.
This may sound harsh but harsh realities have to be thrown to the public for debate so that our problems can be solved. Harsh realities made influential Americans in North America in the 18th century rouse public disgust for slavery even though the slave trade influenced the economies of the South.
As is the custom, those who benefit from inequality resist change. Resistance to this condemnation led to the breakaway of states in the south which led to the start of the American civil war in 1861. The point here is that influential people started the condemnation. How have our own influential people fared? They keep quiet publicly but privately indoctrinate youths to maintain the status quo at their behest and interest.
I try hard daily in my belief for unity but still search for the indices of unity to give me hope. I was born in Dange-Shuni in Sokoto State but can never aspire for offices there just like numerous Nigerians elsewhere.
My children were born in Rivers State but can never have a Rivers State scholarship because they have an Igala heritage. In contrast, some people lay claim to a local government in Plateau State despite the ‘settler status’ in all states of Nigeria. And they are ready to die to be called indigenes of that state.
Maybe I will begin to have faith when I see a serious government with the ‘will’ to fight the internal wars that are tearing us apart. I will begin to have faith when I see laws and orientation programmes that are aghast at disunity, not in theory but in practice.
I am ready to switch my mood to the belief ‘mode’ when I see the government cut down spending on our foreign missions beyond our shores. We give a false impression of ourselves outside this country when we can’t even take care of our citizens within.
I will be happy to believe when I see traditional rulers come out to condemn strongly society ills in their domains, show interest in people who are regarded as ‘settlers’ and cut down on state visits. I will believe when influential people rise up to the occasion like President Abraham Lincoln and not be exploitative.
I will believe when I stop seeing vice-chancellors of all federal universities appointed on the basis of their ethnicity.
I will believe when I see churches stand for morals and principles and not the situation that exists where some people from a section of the country see themselves as ‘God’s anointed’ and people from diverse cultures attend their churches but when in contrast another person from the other cultural divide establishes his church, he is seen as a con man solely by the accident of his birth.
We help to fight wars outside Nigeria even when we have suspicious internal wars that we have not been able to contain.
We have lost the youths. Their bitterness is worse than that of our forebears even though most have not experienced what our forebears went through.
Do we have the will to fight this war?
• Abah is an executive team leader, Rinasham Multi-Services Ltd, Port Harcourt.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”