(By Chiedu Uche Okoye)
“But, true peace and unity has continued to elude us since then. We look at issues through the prism of ethnicity. We are retrogressing in Nigeria because the issue of ethnic origin is one of the factors that determine those who will occupy exalted positions in our super-structure. When merit is sacrificed on the altar of ethnic origin and religion, backwardness is guaranteed. It is akin to putting a square peg in a round hole. Nigeria moves in circles as old and tired and incompetent people are recycled into power in order to ensure balance of power among the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. Is Nigeria being led by her first eleven? Mediocre leadership yields infrastructural decay, dysfunctional educational system and others.“
IN the distant past, Caucasoid imperialists regarded African peoples as savages, who lived in trees. They thought us to be without cultures. That may be part of the reason why they invaded the African continent and colonised it. The racist Portuguese, Britons, Germans and French people partitioned African countries amongst them and introduced their own variant of democracy there. Consequently, peoples that are not homogenous were lumped together for administrative convenience. Some of the conflicts that have bedeviled some African countries are not unconnected to these unholy marriages enacted by our colonial masters. Kenya as well as Nigeria is racked by ethnic strife.
The British people without consulting us amalgamated diverse ethnic groups together and christened the union Nigeria. So, a revered northern monarch called the union the mistake of 1914; and, Chief Awolowo referred to Nigeria as a mere geographical expression. Since Nigeria came into being, we have always been conscious of our ethnic origins. In the 1950s, during our struggle for political emancipation, the northerners wanted to secede over the nine-point programme.
More so, the political parties that existed in pre-independence era and first republic were ethnic-based political parties. They were not national in out-look. The AG was to the Yorubas what NCNC was to the Igbos, while NPC was owned by the northerners.
When the seemingly intractable crisis in the western region prompted and motivated the five majors to topple the political regime of Sir Tafawa Balewa, it was branded an Igbo coup. Consequently, a counter-coup happened some six months, later; and, the Hausa-Fulani carried out a genocidal decimation of the Igbo population in the North. This led to the 30-month civil war, at the end of which Yakubu Gowon declared that neither side emerged as the winner in the Nigerian-Biafrian civil war. It was no victor and no vanquished. He formulated some programmes, like the NYSC that will help us to achieve national integration and cohesion.
But, true peace and unity has continued to elude us since then. We look at issues through the prism of ethnicity. We are retrogressing in Nigeria because the issue of ethnic origin is one of the factors that determine those who will occupy exalted positions in our super-structure. When merit is sacrificed on the altar of ethnic origin and religion, backwardness is guaranteed. It is akin to putting a square peg in a round hole. Nigeria moves in circles as old and tired and incompetent people are recycled into power in order to ensure balance of power among the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. Is Nigeria being led by her first eleven? Mediocre leadership yields infrastructural decay, dysfunctional educational system and others.
It takes a great leader for a country to become a great country. In America, Obama Barracks is executing public-oriented programmes to the applause and admiration of all. But, were Obama to be living in Kenya, the Kikuyu and Luo ethnic rivalry would deny him the opportunity of actualising his political ambitions and aspirations. Like most African countries, America is a heterogeneous political entity; it is a composition of peoples from diverse racial backgrounds. Americans de-emphasise their differences, but have been harnessing their diversities and potentials to achieve economic prosperity and technological advancement. Nigerians that were born there have dual citizenship: American citizenship and Nigerian one. Those Nigerians are entitled to enjoy the rights and privileges accorded to other American citizens.
Contrast what happens in Europe and America with what happens in Nigeria. In the immediate past, Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State relieved non-indigenes in Abia State civil service of their jobs. Accident of birth is the reason why their parents are not of Abia State origin. And, they paid dearly for that after they had served for long years in the Abia State civil service.
The issue of indigene ship and state of origin as it concerns contesting elective posts and civil service should be addressed holistically by law-makers. It pains me to hear that a man who lived a greater part of his life in Anambra State should be denied certain privileges in the state owing to his state of origin.
It is apparent that Nigeria is not practising true federalism. The pseudo and lop-sided federalism we are practising cannot cater to the exigencies of the time and our peculiar problems. This pseudo-federalism accounts for our stunted national development.
In a true federal state, a man who hails from Anambra State would be able to win election in his state of residence, which is not Anambra state. He will not be labeled omo-Igbo and stereotyped because of his ethnic origins. The electorate will assess him based on his personal qualities and pedigree and not based on his native tongue and religion.
And the ethnic chauvinism drive and campaign of some ethnic groups in our country do not make for peace and progress in Nigeria. The slogan of a state in the North is born to rule. This kind of political posture undermines our national unity. Let us see one another as one people and equal partners in the Nigerian federation.
Lastly, the deportation of destitute of Igbo extraction from Lagos to Onitsha is an injudicious and insensitive action. Aren’t they Nigerians? Can’t the Lagos State government rehabilitate them and give them better life in Lagos? So, to which place will Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State deport beggars, who hail from Lagos State? Or, are all Lagosians born with silver spoons in their mouths?
• Okoye, a poet, lives in Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State.
“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.”