There is a time in the life of a nation when the bitter truth of the glitches surrounding her nationhood must be told. Any nation which takes freedom, equality, equity, justice and fairness for granted must brace up for the manner of challenges confronting ours at the moment.
We live in an ostentatious society where we are required to erroneously believe that all is well among the ethnic nationalities. There is no love lost between Nigerians and all the ethnic tripods upon which she stands. The bogus sense of love and unity bandied around is discernible even to the uninformed.
The reality of course happens to be that of a sick nation in dire need of “truth” as a life support for survival. Nigeria needs a balm: the type made in Gilead to be able to heal faster her festering wounds and infirmities. As an entity we have pretended for too long a time and the more we do the irredeemable our situation appears. The height of our hypocrisy has become diminutive and an outlandish way of solving gnawing national problems.
Early in the life of our nation Nigeria, there was this mutual suspicion of political and economic dominance of some ethnic nationalities against each other. At independence an established huge crack on the wall of national cohesion was already visible and extremely threatening. Owing to the sublime desire for self-governance which was the rave of that moment, the nation brushed aside very serious contentious national issues such as ethnic and national diversity, agreed form of government, revenue sharing formula etc.
The nation forgot or purposely refused to revert back to resolving them after clinching the coveted independence trophy. Many years after, the nation is immersed in and hunted by these old simmering challenges.
The discordant tunes by leaders of the three major ethnic groups and the political developments before and after independence were good indicators that our union was a pathetic nuptial of expediency. Their views on the unity of Nigeria were contradictory.
First, “Nigeria is not a nation. It is a geographical expression. The word Nigeria is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.” – Obafemi Awolowo.
Second, “It is better we disintegrate in peace and not in pieces.” – Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Third, “Let us understand our differences. I am a Muslim and a northerner. You are a Christian, an Easterner. By understanding our differences, we can build unity in our country.” – Ahmadu Bello.
The effect of this disharmony, lack of trust and cohesion shoved the nation into the ill-
fated wild Western Nigerian crisis of 1962 and the attempted break away in 1966 of the South-East resulting to the unfortunate civil war.
Now, old and emerging trends of discontents across the land ably represented by Boko Haram and their ruthless trademark of massacre of more than 10, 000 people in the North-East; the agitation for resource control in the Niger-Delta and the new mantra for self-determination by MASSOB and the Indigenous People of Biafra have menacingly emerged.
The reincarnation of the vanquished and forgotten “secessionist ideology” has really found a new lease of life in Nnamdi Kanu. Before his arrest Nnamdi was a thorn in the flesh of government and one man- energetic- squad pushing for the realisation of the state of Biafra through his pirate radio station and other activities.
His mass medium is a vociferous channel for chastising government and Nigeria which he labeled a “Zoo.” The approach to views expressed by these groups might have defile rational reasoning and the best standards of civilised articulation of opinions but they are all by-products of the pre and post-independence era blunders which should be urgently and appropriately addressed. This piece aligns totally with avid proponents of a united and indivisible Nigeria, but these clear snags should no longer hold the nation hostage.
Clear conscience fears no accusation. How come previous and present Nigerian governments fret at the sight, perception or hearing of any agitation aimed at bringing to light the level of inequality and injustice permeating the land? The full weight of the law is always applied to suppress such actions constantly deemed as treasonable.
The world over, agitation either for self- determination or any attempts by groups to draw the attention of government to their plight is never a crime. Meeting the demands of the agitators through the right instrumentalities of dialogue, referendum and legislations matters most. At no time did England hound Alex Salmond for championing the independence of Scotland from Britain.
Salman Rushdie once enthused that; “two things form the bedrock of any society – freedom of expression and rule of law. If you don’t have those things; you don’t have a free country.”
The impression of alienation from key derivatives of national till whether real or utterly imagined compel non-state actors take up arms against nations. Many will definitely disagree with views of some “dissidents” on certain issue but their harmless positions are inalienable in a democratic dispensation where one is free and protected by law to ventilate his views no matter whose horse is gored.
“I regard freedom of expression as the primary right without which one
cannot have a proper functioning of democracy.”- Lord Hailsham. A man considered a terrorist in Israel is a patriotic hero in Gaza or Palestine. Only truth heals old and festering wounds of injustice, inequality in any society.
No amount of arm twisting or application of raw force will stifle agitations for fairness and inclusiveness in governance. It will rather strengthen it, attracts for them sympathy from international community or worse still aggravates the entire issue.
President Buhari should place high premium on healing these old staggering national wounds before the end of this tenure.
Once more, a catalogue of these age long snags breeding discontent was provided by Obafemi Awolowo.
His disclosure: “it appears to me that the causes of the last civil war lie embedded in
the nether realms of such degrading and depraving evils as unemployment, mass ignorance, endemic and debilitating diseases; low productivity ; abuse and misuse of power; bribery and corruption; favouritism and nepotism; ethnocentricity and tribalism; much poverty and much discontent.”
The election battles promising to put an end to these degrading and depraving evils had been fought and won. Consequently, a lot more of national dialogue designed to untie recurring knotty national issue should be embraced by President Buhari especially in this era of change. A number of old documents bearing far reaching recommendations on the way forward should be dusted from the archives and shelves and acted upon.
Finally I close with the admonishment of Matt Mullenweg: “I am an optimist and I believe that people are inherently good and that if you give everyone a voice and freedom of expression, the truth and good will outweigh the bad.”
Eze, a Media and Communications Specialist wrote via [email protected]