(By Simon Abah)
“How can disintegration, for instance, end the over-abundance of problems bedeviling the Northern part of Nigeria? How will the majority Moslems relate and live with the minority indigenous Christians, wouldn’t there be a policy of discrimination against them which may lead to both sides going after their jugular at the least excuse and hence an unending crisis?”
“I will suspend the planned national dialogue. What Nigerians need most of all is the provision of basic necessities to make life worth living and that is what I will provide until our elite can justify how they have used public monies at their disposal for the benefit of the people.” (Simon Abah, ‘If I were President Jonathan’ The Guardian, Wednesday, December 25, 2013).
THE 2014 national dialogue, that ought to have been a dialogue of real negotiations that should usher in a strong democracy painfully became a discourse of money matters (resource control) with flag-wavers giving ultimatum if regional demands were not met while others were trying to scuttle the plans of others. How can you elucidate why delegates and non-delegates should bicker over a basic subject as to which region owns the continental shelf in Nigeria?
A number of delegates has taken to the press to whimper and – recount their involvement and roles at the conference while egg-heads from among the delegates have used same medium to make clarifications which, point to the same thing over time- the rhetoric of disparagement which pits regions continually against one another.
It is common nowadays to see some people choose the easy route – they build a bulwark of nationalists’ mawkishness (ethnic and religious) around themselves with the aim to pull people apart. What this great country needs are – the tough – brave and- genuine leaders who will give a wide berth to that path and always try to draw people to their set of ideas and never pull them apart.
The major gain of the conference might be in the submission that we should implement rotational presidency in Nigeria. This, as some have advocated, will promote peace and stability all across the nation. (Rotational presidency in Nigeria, Simon Abah, The Guardian, Monday, July 29, 2013).
I have watched several, political analysts, with good intentions, argue for the establishment of a strong institution in Nigeria as a replacement for strong leadership but others have argued against that proposition- they advocate for strong leadership. Although both arguments are reasonable, I believe that strong leaders are needed to set the strong institutions up in the first place because, there are no guarantees that successive leaders will not dismantle the institution they inherit.
Disturbingly, I also hear and read commentaries by some campaigners with worthy intents calling for the dissolution of the Nigeria state, so that all regions can go their separate ways; some of them have even alleged that if the North were to be endowed with the country’s oil resources, this country would have, a long time ago, split.
These outbursts beg the question, which region will benefit if Nigeria disintegrates?
How can disintegration, for instance, end the over-abundance of problems bedeviling the Northern part of Nigeria? How will the majority Moslems relate and live with the minority indigenous Christians, wouldn’t there be a policy of discrimination against them which may lead to both sides going after their jugular at the least excuse and hence an unending crisis? What plans does the North have to integrate and provide for the teeming numbers of northerners scattered all across Southern Nigerian eking out a living ( for instance, Mallam Yunusa who lives in my neighborhood in Port Harcourt works as a security gateman and earns less than the minimum wage monthly)?
History has revealed that when a people’s beliefs are forced upon others, without their consent, it leads to war. Ngo Dinh Diem, President of South Vietnam in the early 60s had his xenophobic policy against Buddhists people cut short, when some of them in protest against these discriminations, immolated themselves publicly on the street of Saigon, rampaged and, his government was overthrown.
The north central region may finally be free from the stranglehold of the North West; which observers have noticed is known to promote a ‘core north theory’ to the detriment of the north central people particularly when bazaars ‘for all’ are to be shared, a reason why some analysts have tagged the north central as a ‘poodle of the north west.’ Separation might, therefore, give that region a much needed identity but again how do they hope to put up with the agitations of the numerous minorities in that region with the absence of grandees like Solomon Lar?
The South Eastern region undoubtedly will be democratically stable if it became independent because they have the power of language and homogeneity going on for them but major viewpoints expressed by analysts are that the eastern people are still not as united as they should be, for instance, some indigenes from a particular state claim superiority over and above other Igbo from other Igbo states (First class and second class), while some from another state, ‘discount’ the supremacy of the other Igbo people and pride themselves as the most educated in Igbo land (discrimination yet again).
Some viewers have also submitted that most Igbo, due to their level of industry, have made more financial inroads in many states outside of the Igbo heartland in Nigeria and wonder what will become of their nest egg (numerous) in the event of a much sought after breakaway and they also query, the plans in place to welcome and provide for the millions’ of people who will return home extemporaneously? These decriers are quick to bring to notice the reported cases of communal clashes in the south eastern parts and the never ending ‘Osu Caste system.’
The south western part of Nigeria over time has been politically urbane, but despite these lead, some analysts have wondered why this sophistication is a weakness and not strength for the people of the South West? They point to electoral violence witnessed in this region from the First Republic to the Second and even threats of violence when the 1993 presidential election results were cancelled. They asserted that, the failure by political figures in this region to acquiesce victory to others after regional, state and central governmental elections led to anarchy.
Additionally, Nigerians will not forget in a hurry, the Ife-Modakeke hostilities (natives-settlers, despite homogeneity), a scar which is still felt today in that state despite government intervention and what with the tug of war for ancestral supremacy between the thrones of Ife, Oyo and other kingdoms in the south west?
The South-South without reservation sustains the Nigerian state and, instead of democracy to right the ills, it has further entrenched it, so that when people venture into politics, instead of looking inward to generate internal incomes to solve problems they wait hat in hand for allocations monthly, others have the time to even become religious dogmatists instead of delivering electoral assurances. Were the reverse the case——they may not gamble into politics and if they choose to——they would have to contribute their efforts to nationhood.
The pillage of the South’s mineral resources by oil companies; the devastation of the environment by these companies and the neglect by the successive governments which have failed them in the provision of basic amenities have led to continuous agitations. And like the other subdivision above, bystanders have noted that not all communities in the south are oil bearing communities.
What happens to these non-oil bearing communities and will the bearing communities share the oil revenue equitably with them? Some doubt it. The likely neglect of the non-oil bearing communities by the oil bearers may lead to bad blood which may give rise to the same situation as in Bosnia where marginalised people (tribal and religious minorities) after secession went on a crying jag, to ask for further separation from their provincial overlords. Will a people already used to agitation not take up arms to protect their interests at a cost to others within the community?
It is safe to assume that all regions will benefit ‘less’ if Nigeria breaks up. A lot of people in the old Soviet bloc (USSR) today have a high disdain for Mikhail Gorbachev for allowing that country to disintegrate, they reason that a much stronger USSR is better than a fragmented one.
Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, may not be the best democratic leader in the world but he has being able to transform his country by managing the funds he gets from the Western countries to re-build her, by demanding accountability from his ministers, fellow countrymen and today people in that country under his leadership do not identify themselves as ‘Hutu’ and ‘Tutsi’, a departure from the situation in the mid-90s during the war.
Worthy of revealing here, is that the international community watched in vain while Rwanda burned during the genocidal years but the Rwandese solved their problems themselves—-unfortunately. We need to solve our problems ourselves and need leaders to propagate this beyond rotundity from North, South, East and West.
Thankfully, the military has remained non-partisan so far and, is helping to ensure the country stay secure; they deserve the commendation of all Nigerians. As a people, we are at ease together than in factions and we need strong leaders all across this country that can pull all regions’ together with the set of dazzling ideological ideas and not drive apart.
• Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.
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