One of the developing dynamics observed in the Nigerian polity in recent times, is this fear of the possibility of Nigeria breaking up due to its current prevailing challenges. In fact, it has been observed that majority of Nigerians no longer believes in or have confidence in the present structural arrangement of the country and the way things are going. It was for this reason and many others, we believe, the present administration initiated the just concluded National Conference, because there was the obvious need for Nigerians to come together to fashion out a way of living with one another. There is no doubt that a country that has become as fractions as Nigeria needs to put its acts together. It is not for nothing that the country is bedeviled by challenges, some of which touch dangerously on its oneness. But despite the concluded Confab, many Nigerians are still unsure if anything concrete will come out of the exercise. And as such, some are still skeptical about Nigeria’s Unity, especially in the face of prevailing circumstances and the election year ahead.
It is often said that “United we stand, divided we fall”. This is hinged on the premise that for any group of persons, no matter how small (be it a nuclear family, a village, a country), to actualize desired goals, dreams and aspiration for the good and betterment of those concerned; there has to be ‘unity’-which is the quality of being ‘united’ into one, usually for making progress and moving forward. And for any country or society; unity of varying interests and people that make it up, is the foundation upon which everything else can be built and sustained. Without it, everything else cannot be built and sustained. Without it, everything else regarding the progress, and even the existence of a society cannot stand.
Perhaps, it is the importance of this ‘unity factor’ that has made many relevant stakeholders in Nigeria, both in government and outside government, to every now and then speak out and reiterate that Nigeria’s unity is a must and that the country cannot disintegrate, irrespective of the happenings in the polity.
The current concern and outcry regarding the Unity of Nigeria and the integrity of its sovereignty obvious arose from the general insecurity and worsening levels of poverty and hardship that has taken its toll on the country in recent years. The deplorable situation of Nigeria has created “anxieties” over the long announced disintegration of the entity called Nigeria by both foreign analysts and groups. For instance, the United States of America Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on its website some time back stated that Nigeria will disintegrate before the year 2015. Others, including the dreaded sect called
Boko Haram has threatened that President Goodluck Jonathan may be the last President of a united Nigeria.
Although, there seems to be logic in the speculations made by both domestic and international observers; judging from the level of increasing hardship and insecurity that has claimed hundreds of lives of innocent Nigerians and even foreigners alike, which has created fears and anxieties in the minds of the citizenry, however, we are strongly of the opinion that in spite of all; Nigeria will not disintegrate nor divide as a result of its overwhelming problems. As a matter of fact, we are of the opinion that everything within the power of the people and its leaders, should be done to ensure the unity of Nigeria. We also believe there are so many factors and attributes in Nigeria that will make it impossible or very difficult for Nigerians to allow for the disintegration of its country on ethnic or religious grounds. Aside the fact that the advantages of a united Nigeria far outweigh that of a disintegrated Nigeria, there are several existing and well established factors already in the country that will make Nigerians not to easily support the idea of breaking up.
One of such factor is the interwoven, intertwined and inter-relations existing within and between Nigerians which spans over a century. And with each decade that passed down the line, as more states were being created with the ever increasing population and economic business activities, the ‘bond’ of this interconnectivity has continued to grow. As Chief (Dr.) Jonathan Adio Obafemi Olopade OFR, recently noted in an interview after he clocked 88 years that: “Nigeria can never break up. There are too many reasons why Nigeria can never break up. We are so interwoven that I have very good friends from the Northern part of the country and the Eastern part where I grew up. Friends that I can tap their doors and enter their houses and eat and sleep comfortably. The same thing in the West. Why do you want to break up? Those saying that are those who do not understand what is going on in the minds of the people. Some people who want to build up their names are the people shouting that Nigeria will break up. We cannot compare the defunct Soviet Union with Nigeria today. Look at Ukraine from the old Soviet Union today it is in crises.”
The truth is that Nigeria as it is today has become so interwoven to the extent that its break up would not be easy at all. As Chief Olopade noted, we have friends in different parts of Nigeria that are even closer and trustworthy than family members. There is also the issue of Nigerians having several business investments and personal properties in different parts of the country outside their state of origin. No one would want to encourage or instigate issues that would bring about such break up in the country which would adversely affect their investments/property. Most Nigerians are even working in different cities that are not part of their State of origin. The only possibility we can see in the current Nigeria make up is that our diversity and differences will only end up making us stronger and better as a people. But for that to be truly assured there is need for the custodians of the nation’s resources and wealth to judiciously use same to better the lives of its citizenry.
In other words, the unity and peace of Nigeria as a sovereign entity is dependent on our political leaders. The togetherness and progress of Nigeria as one indivisible nation squally depends on our political leaders actions/inactions in government circles at all levels. Our Nigerian Political Leaders cannot be saying they do not want the nation to divide or the nation cannot divide but yet, they do things that have the propensity to make the nation break up. For instance, Nigerian Political Leaders have been known to always execute/establish projects/programmes not according to the needs of the general masses but according to their self-centered needs; usually along ethnic or tribal or religious or political party lines. We see these both at the Federal levels and State Government levels. That is why there is usually so much crises and bad blood before, during and after elections; of who should occupy public office. This is because there is this mindset that once a particular ethnic group succeeds in occupying a sensitive public office like the Office of the President or Office of the State Governor, those from the same ethnic group as the one occupying the public office in question, will be the ones to ‘enjoy more of the so-called dividends of democracy’ and benefit more from the national cake. Some ethnic group is even of the mindset that the ruler-ship of this country is their birthright while others should just be the appendages.
This is the bedrock of all the problems we have concerning the Unity or possible break-up of the country called Nigeria. Imagine a situation where political leaders are known to site Federal or State Projects/Establishments in their places of origin instead of where such Projects/Establishments are needed most. For example, the current Federal administration under President Goodluck Jonathan decided to site a Nigerian Law School in Yenegoa in Bayelsa State where he comes from, instead of Warri, Delta State, which is home to most veteran and aspiring lawyers in the South-South region of Nigeria and also home to one of the best and most active branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). We have also had former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, who while in Office sited The Delta State Teaching Hospital and a Standard State Stadium all in his home town, Oghara instead of Warri or Sapele where we have more population and urbanization. Oghara is just a small community with a small population; hence, these State Government Projects/Establishments like the Stadium are practically wasting. The remote location of the Delta State University Teaching Hospital in Oghara is also not helping very sick patients to locate in good time, especially in an emergency. Not to mention the transportation stress medical practitioners and hospital workers have to go through daily just to be at the teaching hospital.
It is for this reason that we believe that once we start having political leaders who are devoid of ethnic/tribalistic tendencies in various public offices, nobody will worry about the possible breakup of the country. That is, Political leaders who would consider the country (for a President) or the State (for a Governor), as their own constituency and they are willing to execute the demands of their office for the general good of all, irrespective of tribe, ethnicity, religion or political party affiliations. We once had political leaders of the old Western Region like late Obafemi Awolowo who had concentrated more development projects in Ibadan where we had more population and not his home town Ikenne in Ogun State. He understood the need to site these Regional presence projects where they were needed most and not be carried away by selfish expectations of his people.
A well planned Nigeria that is not built on the foundation of ethnicity, tribalism, lawlessness and corruption, will become the strongest nation in Africa. But in order for this to happen, and for us to get to that ‘Promised Land’, a whole lot of issues has to be addressed and put in place; starting with the integrity and efficiency of our electoral system in guaranteeing that those elected to serve in various public offices are the choice of the Nigerian majority. When we have the ‘right political leaders’ in government circles, Nigerians are then sure of seeing the other pressing issues in the country addressed holistically.
A lot has been said and a lot is still being said about the possible disintegration or not, of the Nigerian entity. President Jonathan some few months back, allayed the fears that Nigeria would not disintegrate. In fact, he added that he would not preside over a disintegrated country. He acknowledged the fact that there are challenges, and made historic references to secession attempts which never succeeded. His words, “I don’t agree with the assertion. Nigeria may have challenges, just like other countries. I remember in 1966 when I was in primary four, when we had the first challenge in the Niger Delta, when the late Isaac Adaka Boro declared secession and the Niger Delta Republic.
“In 1967, we had the Biafra War. Ojukwu declared the secession of the Biafra Republic. We had a civil war, but we are back together. So there are major issues that affected the country. It is not just because people are detonating bombs here or probably because there is some level of agitation in the Niger Delta, which, of course, is almost under control, then we begin to predict that we would disintegrate. A country that will disintegrate you can study the psyche of the people. During the civil war, the South-easterner was the bulk of the member of the proposed new country called Biafra. Now the Igbo’s have investments across the country. Go to the South-West, go to the North. You would see the Northerners have investments even in my village; as small as my village, they bought lands. People who want to disintegrate will begin to shift back into their own geo-political zones. The behaviour of Nigerians do not really show that we are going to disintegrate. Look at us because of ethnic diversities we are beginning to predict that we would disintegrate-but we will not disintegrate. I will not preside over a country that will disintegrate. I assure you that we will remain one united nation”.
In as much as we agree with some of the stands of the President on the assertion that Nigeria will not disintegrate, however, this stand will not happen or remain by mere wishful thinking. Many Nigerians, like us, do not believe that the fight/struggle for integration or otherwise should be fought with ‘words and diction’. They called on the Federal government to fame the increasing insecurity and poverty that are seemingly making the predictions a reality.
Regrettably, there is little to indicate that the current administration has plans to develop an “appropriate national strategy” or even to judiciously follow/execute that which is already planned, to holistically deal with terrorism in Nigeria. But while Nigerians are used to the rhetoric of the present government, we are sure his audience at the UN expected to hear, not empty talk, but the ‘practical proactive steps the government has taken to tackle terrorism in Nigeria. His UN assembly audience would also have been interested in leaving what the Nigerian government was doing or has done to address other serious issues, including poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to healthcare, qualitative education, all of which ‘infringe on the fundamental rights of all peoples to life and to live in safety from year”. But it did not happen and it was not surprising. Under the present administration, we have come to expect more “rhetoric and less action”.
Like the explanation given above by President Jonathan, regarding his disagreement with the assertion that Nigeria would disintegrate; we do not know whose psyche the present administration has been studying, but to dismiss the threat of an imminent national implosion on the basis that people are not “shifting back into their own geo-political zones,” would have been laughable except that is misleading and terrifying. But even at that, the ‘reality’ does not support the president’s position. Across the country, there are thousands, if not millions, of displaced people fleeing violence and natural/palpable threat to their lives. Many of those who have not moved may have no place to go having lived in their current locations for decades. Nigerians leave their homes everyday not knowing what to expect. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that many live through the day. Not since the civil war has there been this level of anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity. Whether we believe it or do not want to hear it, the ‘reality’ is that Nigeria, with the way things have been going, is on the brink. The frightening truth is that the “war” this time will not be between any clearly defined ethnic nationalities. It is for this reason that we should be concerned.
There is nothing secred and different about Nigeria. Our country, like many of the 54 countries that make up the Commonwealth of Nations, was the result of British Commercial and expansionist interests. However, unlike some other countries born out of colonial or imperialist conquest, Nigeria has managed to survive for 50 years. We should not take our unity for granted. Nations survive and maintain cohesion through concerted efforts, not ‘wishful thinking’. We hope President Jonathan does not think that by saying Nigeria will not disintegrate, that is enough to secure the unity of the country. There are ominous signs all around us. Indeed, it is a miracle that Nigeria has survived for a long considering the decades of abuse it has suffered in the hands of ‘supposed’ political leaders.
Of course, we can agree on one thing. The current crises-ridden situation in the country, whether it is infrastructural deficiency, the collapse of public institutions, or the lack of national ethos, did not start with the Jonathan administration. But the job of a President, particularly one at a period of national emergency, is to show a sense of urgency and courage in confronting problems. These two factors are lacking in the way the country is currently being run. But the fact still remains that Goodluck Jonathan is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and holds the destiny of over 160 million people in his hands. For that reason, we all should desire to see him succeed. We should want to see him succeed. His failure does not bode well for the future of the Nigeria project. But for a man who claimed he had to walk to school without shoes, President Jonathan, now the proud owner of all kinds of designer shoes, does not look like a President in a hurry to “walk the talk”.
Today, Nigeria is bedeviled with all manner of problems that are threatening its existence. Boko Haram insurgency that started in the North and spread throughout the country; the Niger Delta Militancy that has refused to go away; incessant strikes in both the health and education sectors that has given Parents/Guardians and the general masses sleepless nights; the deplorable state of our transportation system; the issue of corruption in higher places that is daily crippling the nation’s economy; the rising poverty and unemployment levels; and more recently, the Ebola virus disease that is gradually spreading, the list is endless. All of these have led and contributed to the present insecurity situation and hardship in the country presently. But we are where we are today as a nation, as a result of series and strings of “unjust/wrong political decisions/policies made by past and present political leaders.
The political unrest spreading across the globe, especially in the middle east like an untamable wild fire certainly is a sign of changing times and the obvious fact there is increased awareness that the leaders just talk and never walk the walk. This unrest can be seen all across the continents, even the almighty United States was not left out. We only pray that it stays away from Nigeria as the late Fela sang in one of his songs, “these uprising shall bring out the beast in us.”
Nigeria is known, especially to foreigners as the most peace loving people on earth, little wonder Afro-beat legend Fela Kuti, in another song sang; “suffering and smiling”. Nigerians are known to smile while suffering. As Nigerians, we totally concur with that. Howbeit, the days of complete ignorance are over. Nigerians ask questions and more questions these days and are becoming increasingly restless and agitated and we fear that this agitation is at the verge or threshold of an uncontrollable outburst which may bloom into a colossal revolt. Our younger generations are becoming more interested and getting more enlightened and observant of the world’s policies and how these affect their lives and future. The interest has become a tool for self-enlightenment and ideological mass mobilization. And they have been enduring the years of disappointments, shattered hopes and failed promises left by their father’s generation, most of who are still in the corridors of power. It is a deaf and blind government that refuses to read between the lines about the mounting anxiety and happenings in the country.
Like we noted earlier, it is the inadequate and failures of Nigeria’s past and present leaders in various government circles/levels that have culminated and is still building up to the shades and pockets of insecurity, poverty and all manners of dehumanizing living conditions across different parts of the country. The annoying aspect is that our so called political leaders, because of their ‘privileged positions’, have no inkling neither are they empathic about the sufferings of the masses. They send their families to the best schools and health care delivery across the world, while the Nigerian people are forced to make due with whatever that is left at home. The question we are forced to ask is, what has the Nigerian government all these years been doing with all the billions of trillions of Naira yearly budgeted and claimed to have been invested in the various sectors of the country? if they claim to have invested so much every now and then, how come they and their families members are not patronizing these sectors? The truth is that we do not have “Leaders” in Nigeria political circles, what we have are “rulers” who rule without consideration.
However, in spite of all these disturbing prevailing circumstances, we strongly believe that Nigerians will come out of the dark tunnel stronger and better. On the issue of us disintegrating God will not allow that to happen. We only pray that our leaders will understand the long-rope and grace given to them by the creator, so that they can make amends and honestly start using the nation’s vast wealth for the betterment of all, and not some privileged few. We believe no condition is permanent. However, whatever evil our political leaders are sowing today, they should also remember that they will surely reap it; one way or the other. We pray and ask that they should change their misguided ways for posterity sake. Let the right thing be done. This we urge.