Nigeria’s centenary II: Through the prism of a negative optimist (1)

(By Samuel Stephen Wakdok)

The questions to ask if Nigeria should break up today or tomorrow include: Where will we go? Where will the children of cross cultural/ ethnic marriages go to? What will happen to people whose families have lived generations in other parts of Nigeria other than their native lands? How will the country be partitioned? What will happen to the minorities in the various regions or states? How many countries will come out of Nigeria? Will the Christian part of Kaduna or Borno be comfortable to join a new country in northern Nigeria? Will the Yoruba parts of Kogi and Kwara states join a country in northern or central Nigeria? 

I AM not usually at best a blind optimist; I frequently try to be a realist as much as possible even if it makes me wear the toga of a skeptic sometimes. Yet when it comes to our nationality as Nigerians in spite of all the challenges staring us right in the face, I am an optimist; at worse a negative optimist but an optimist all the same. When I tell people I am from the North, especially people I am just meeting who can’t place my origin, by the time they probe further and I tell them my state; you will hear them retort ‘Plateau is middle belt and not north’. I know that Plateau State is one of the states in the middle belt no doubt, but it is in the north. It is interesting to note that despite the ambiguity in classifying or carving out the area called Middle Belt due to cultural, ethnic, religious and geographical considerations; all the states or parts which lay claim to, or are described as the middle belt fall in the northern part of Nigeria. Then why should I pretend that I am not from the north? I may not be from the core north, I may not be of the north but I am simply from the north since I am not from the south, east or west. Interestingly, what matters is that I am a Nigerian.

  The same can be said of our nationality as Nigerians. We have our tribes, languages and cultures but no matter the sins of the colonialists or the “amalgamators”, we are Nigerians. My wife is Yoruba, my brother’s wife is Idoma, and my children cannot reject me or their mum. Imagine my friend who is Igbo, his wife is Yoruba, his mother in- law is Tiv. Another colleague is Yoruba, his mum is Fulani. Or is it my Ibibio friend who is married to a Jukun wife and his sister’s husband is Yoruba? When our own children again cross marry with parents of their spouses coming from different tribes or cultures, the opening of the space gets wider. For each time we go out of our ethnic group or culture to marry, we may be diluting our ethnic or tribal culture but integrating our national sphere.

  There will be no Nigeria without us, therefore we are not only Nigerians but also we are Nigeria. Where will we be today if there was no Nigeria? Where will we be tomorrow if there is no Nigeria? Politicians and ethnic champions find it convenient and self-serving to beat the drums of separation but they will be worst hit if the nation disintegrates now or soon. They owe us the younger generation a country to live and grow up in, because they had a country to live in while they grew up and became old. Unfortunately, their mal-administration of our country’s economic and political spheres has brought us to this most delicate part of our existence as a country. There has been a steady and increasingly growing call for disintegration or breaking up of Nigeria. Ethnic and regional champions have emerged and are emerging daily, a few go as far as playing the religious card, some play the resource control card and others the ethnic card.

  The questions to ask if Nigeria should break up today or tomorrow include: Where will we go? Where will the children of cross cultural/ ethnic marriages go to? What will happen to people whose families have lived generations in other parts of Nigeria other than their native lands? How will the country be partitioned? What will happen to the minorities in the various regions or states? How many countries will come out of Nigeria? Will the Christian part of Kaduna or Borno be comfortable to join a new country in northern Nigeria? Will the Yoruba parts of Kogi and Kwara states join a country in northern or central Nigeria? Will the Igala in Kogi State join a new country in Western or Eastern Nigeria? Will the Idoma in Benue State agree to be in their country with only the Tiv? Are we going to get a country for every region or state or ethnic nationality?

  These are many questions that will not be answered but these are also questions that champions of disintegration have not asked themselves and as such we need to ask them. The truth is that our common wealth has been squandered over the years by the ruling class and their collaborators. Again our nation is in bad shape with a wave of insecurity spreading and enveloping many parts of the country. Another truth is that corruption has become endemic in our country. In fact, Nigeria is among the countries that give corruption a bad name. Billions of dollars or naira meant for capital and recurrent expenditures are stolen, siphoned, or simply get missing into space. Funds meant for development and provision of critical infrastructure, social and basic amenities are wasted or diverted by those in possession or position. The human development indices continue to show a negative slope in Nigeria with more people falling into the poverty trap or less people having access to the resources which abound. In all these we see a deliberate attempt by some people to perpetuate and foster economic and security woes on a larger population of Nigerians. This in no small way is daily affecting our faith in the unity of the country or in the sustainability of Nigeria as a diversified yet united nation.

  In the course of my daily work I interact with different people across different strata, age, religion, ethnicity and educational background. In discussing the challenges, problems or future of Nigeria one thing stands clear; the younger population is fed up with the misrule of the past and wants a desperate turn for the better. Unfortunately a hungry army of unemployed youths, self-serving youths, religiously brain washed extremists, short term looking youths, frustrated youths, or hopeless Nigerian youths have always been readily available as willing tools in the hands of desperate power hungry Nigerians. These have fuelled the market for fighters, killers, terrorists, rogues that are all threatening to bring Nigeria to her knees today.

  Despite the return to democracy in 1999, the ruling class, the elite and their political allies have not succeeded in translating the so called ‘dividends of democracy’ from mere words to action. The poor are still poor. The hungry are still hungry. The vulnerable are still vulnerable. In spite of the trillions of Naira accrued to the Nigerian coffers in the past 15 years, rather than witnessing a decline in poverty rate and experiencing a rise of positive impacts on the lives of the average Nigerian, we have only seen a tragedical rise of affluence and avarice among the ruling class and their cronies. Nigeria’s greatest achievement in our current democratic dispensation is the sad truth that we run the most expensive albeit wasteful democracy on planet earth. Resources badly needed to improve the socio economic conditions of tens of million Nigerians are been consumed by an infinitesimal percentage of the citizenry. This ugly development has led to further decline in living standards of the ordinary populace, weakening institutions, starving future development and exposing the growing population to exploitations and deprivation.

• To be continued.

• Wakdok is an Economist and a blogger who wrote in from Abuja via sammyybest@yahoo.com.

“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.”

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