Our unity is negotiable but one Nigeria is workable
By Ogochukwu Paul
I love teamwork. Great successes are achieved with teamwork. And here is why. Individuals in a team bring a combination of strengths that are pulled together to achieve significant set goals. I like to see Nigeria as a team with one definite goal. Let us call that goal ‘Development’. Nigeria is sufficiently steeped in underdevelopment of a kind that rob Nigerians minus the elite and political class their dignity every day. Hence, development is a highly-coveted Nigerian need. The Igbo in team Nigeria with their enterprise strength want a country where the right industry policies can enable them to pursue their entrepreneurial interests.
The Hausa in team Nigeria with their agricultural strength want a country where the enabling environment can bring in better financial rewards accruing from earnings from local and export cash crops. The Yoruba in team Nigeria with their intellectual strength want a country where they can be stimulated for critical thinking capable of birthing innovations. This does not invalidate Hausas as not having intellectual prowess nor Igbos as lacking agricultural capability or Yorubas as lacking enterprise spirit, I only chose to dwell on each ethnic group’s evident strength.
Collate all these wants, you will realize that they are essentially one big picture of want – development. The Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba without neglecting other ethnic minorities are against deprivation of basic human needs. We all want quality lives. Regardless of tribe, Nigerian students desire quality education which could stimulate their creativity for inventions in science and technology that would alleviate human problems. Nigerians are significantly in need of regular electricity that would make industry and economy grow exponentially. Young Nigerians are for graduating from school and securing good jobs. Every Nigerian desire quality healthcare. Nigerians need their businesses to progress without the suffering of lost caused often by government bad policies, inadequate support and infrastructure deficit which a present third world country like Nigeria peddles.
Country development is driven by good governance – by competent leaders who put country interests above self. Now this where I am going to with this opinion. President Buhari upon return from medical vacation went on live TV and spoke to Nigerians all over the world. One contentious statement he made was the statement that Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable. His utterance is coming in the wake of Nnamdi Kanu and his pro Biafra agitators who have been on the heels of his government to allow Biafra to exit from Nigeria. Buhari has his reason(s) for feeling and saying so. For me, I do not think any Nigerian president would want history to him lock him down as one who divided Nigeria. This is the truth. If you think contrary, ask yourself if you became the president of Nigeria tomorrow, would it be on your watch that Nigeria divides? I advise you to think carefully and deeply before you answer.
Past presidents who have lead Nigeria since we returned to democratic government in 1999 have done things within their knowledge and power to curtail forces that could divide Nigeria. Of note and close instance, was when the Niger Delta militants were agitating for resource control. They caused collateral damages to the country causing crude oil revenue to dwindle. At the top of the leadership of Nigeria at the time was late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Yar’Adua found a solution to the chaos when he initiated the Amnesty programme which gave the Niger Delta militants the chance to drop their guns, repent from perpetuating violence and live productive lives empowered by his government. It worked as peace and order ensured. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan came in and continued the Amnesty initiative, lead an inclusive government by giving the northern region key appointments and built schools for Almajiri children in north so the northerners do not feel alienated. The pursuit for peaceful co-existence and national unity and cohesion Nigeria were the mutual interests of these past presidents.
For President Muhammed Buhari, his actions and inactions has shown his preference for a Nigeria divided along ethnic and religious bias. I will explain why I think so. Firstly, a president who after he won elections said he would serve only the “97%” people who voted him against the “5%” terming it a “Political reality” because his majority voters were northerners and Southerners and the minority voters were the Easterners in the 2015 elections which brought in his administration is not a president who is more for Nigeria’s unity than its splitting. The 5% Buhari said he will neglect in his government are Easterners – the Igbo. You can decide to remain blind to the truth, but it does not dissuade the truth that a Nigerian president who claims that Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable is contradicted by his lop sided official appointments which are stuffed with his northern people – his “97%” voters.
Secondly, why is the Federal Government in court seeking to revoke Kanu’s bail because of his violation of his bail conditions but has not even asked the police to arrest the Arewa youths who issued Igbo quick notice to leave the north region by October 1? This is injustice. How does Buhari, justify the unity and peaceful co-existence of Nigeria of which he is first responsible for and of course has been advocating when his statements and actions belays otherwise? A president bound by oath of office to serve and protect “All Nigerians” yet is sowing divisive strands among them. When Buhari says that Nigeria unity is settled and not negotiable, I love to see a realistic materialism of such statement. Buhari has not done so.
Nigeria is highly negotiable. You can allow sentiments to run through you as you deny it. Nigeria is a pluralistic state and as with pluralism of any state or nation, confrontation and agitation of wants by people with differences in cultural loyalty, religious allegiance, political affinity and regional devotion is unavoidable. Key examples are the Niger Delta militancy and recently – the Nnamdi kanu pro Biafra agitators. I must say Kanu is a disillusioned ethnic bigot whose method of seeking for a Biafra state, separate from Nigeria is warped. What hurts me the most is his success with the crass indoctrination of young Igbo Nigerians – of their misleading and stupid untimely deaths. People have the civil right to want and agitate for self-determination but the method to pursue such agenda as Kanu has been going on with is condemnable. I really hate his hate speeches.
I love one Nigeria. My stand is pro Nigeria. Let me use the analogy of a football history to bring clearer my reason for one Nigeria. For team Nigeria who won the 1996 Olympics (Atlanta ‘96) golden cup, there was nothing like a Hausa nor Igbo or Yoruba game. Every of the footballers brought individual strengths to the field of play. They played the game together complementing one another’s key skills to get the critically acclaimed victory which has yet remained Nigeria’s most glorious international football outing. It was a big Nigeria win. I think it is possible for Nigeria to be like that football team aiming to win at global stage by maximally utilizing a compliment of our human and natural resources and ethnic and regional strengths. The Igbo with their industry, the Hausa with their vast arable land and agriculture and the Yoruba with their intellectuality can co habit and relate to build a developed Nigeria.
But at the fulcrum of this one Nigeria is a competent, detribalized Nigerian president who is oiling the wheels of unity and peace while giving quality leadership and direction to the country by galvanizing our strengths and making less visible our differences. This present Nigerian leader – president Buhari has not shown to be that kind of leader.
Ogochukwu Paul is writer based in Abuja and can be reached @OgochukwuPaull and [email protected]