Today’s Nigeria is a divided and aggrieved nation with all manners of issues and agitations challenging its unity. Coming almost 50 years after the war to preserve its unity and nationhood, most well meaning Nigerians are concerned with the present turn of events in the country. At no other time since the war has there been such vociferous outcry and campaign against the structure and unity of the country. In the past week, the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo made about nine statements restating the inviolability of the nation’s unity, an indication of its topical nature and growing government anxiety over the state of affairs.
In the past few weeks government had engaged leaders – political and traditional – of different regions of the country on finding ways to douse the mounting political tension and threat to stability. This initiative followed the infamous quit notice issued by some northern youth groups to Igbo to exit their territory by October 1, 2017. All this suggests a fundamental fault line in the foundation of the edifice – Nigeria – Fredrick Lugard, the British lord, elected in 1914 which brought together the northern and southern protectorates.
Nigeria became a nation state by forced amalgamation of the disparate ethnic nationalities and entities numbering well over two hundred with different cultures, religions, languages by the virtue of British imperial power and colonial diplomacy. For almost 50 years before political independence, the country remained “ a mere geographical expression” as no serious effort was made toward achieving true nationhood. Rather, the British were only interested on how to control the different groups by playing them against each other. So, the different groups had a conflicting, rather than complimentary, relationships, which came to a head six years after independence in a military coup, leading eventually to civil war.
Political independence soon brought all the challenges into sharp focus. The coalition government of NPC and NCNC rolled out their plan to ensure dominance of the politics of the nation by crippling the opposition. First the 1962 census was manipulated to reinforce political domination. They jailed the opposition leader, Chief Awolowo, and excised Mid West from the region to further weaken it. Nigeria had lost its innocence, and subsequent 1964/65elections became fait accompli – steady steps toward the precipice.
Those who lived through the heady days before the country descended into civil war would immediately point to an increasing semblance with today’s Nigeria, only this time in multiplicity of forms and dimensions. With the calls for restructuring gaining more ascendancy the implication is that the Nigeria project has remained unfinished over a century after being cobbled together and the different attempts at balkanizations by the military in pursuit of their messianic agenda were mere cosmetic and self serving pretentions.
The problem of unity of the country has not changed since amalgamation; it was a deliberate ploy of the British to ensure that Nigeria never fulfills its manifest destiny. By making a weaker, poorer and less developed section of the country the dominant power in the union perhaps in the misguided intention to protect them from domination, they ended up creating a worse kind of domination that is most intolerable and unjust: a situation where merit has been abandoned, and the resources of one sections is being exploited and used to support others without their consent. It is a system that is never, never sustainable.
The seriousness of this matter can be seen in the people who have joined in the agitation for change or restructuring; ordinarily, these are people who previously believed that nothing was wrong with the country and those agitating were indeed the problem. Agitations for restructuring used to be associated with academics and civil rights activists. Not any more as virtually every leader of note – past and present – have joined the bandwagon. Former President Obasanjo shortly after their famous Minna hilltop meeting in April spoke in favour of changing the way we have done things, warning that a second civil war will be unthinkable and catastrophic.
Only last week, the man who held the nation spellbound for eight year, IBB, released a letter to the nation in which he called on all Nigerians to come together to address what has become the nation’s most intractable issue which the solution appears to be in restructuring.
Although restructuring is part of the manifesto of the ruling APC government, its spokesperson, Lai Mohammed, was bold to say it is not in their priority. His was a warped logic because he forgot actually that stability and peace is top priority of every government and anything that directly or otherwise threatens that stability should also be a priority of the government.
Nigeria has remained a hobbled and floundering giant since independence because of this singular factor and development will continue to elude it since the foundation is faulty. Why successive leaders do not grasp this simple fact has been the most troubling and bewildering aspect of the dilemma of solving its problem of development.
Karl Maier, in his book, This House has Fallen, Nigeria in crisis, wrote: Designed by alien occupiers and abused by army rule…, Nigerian state is like a battered and bruised elephant staggering toward an abyss with the ground crumbling under its feet. Should it fall, the impact will shake the rest of West Africa…
In the final analysis, BusinessHallmark believes that this house that Lugard built cannot stand; it is either pulled down or it will collapse. For the good of the country it is better pulled down to ensure that it will follows defined guidelines and set parameters with very clear end or objective in sight. To allow it to fall will be a voyage without a compass which direction is unknown and the outcome indeterminate and dangerous. The choice is clear.