By Ochereome Nnanna
THE continued murder of innocent villagers by alleged band of roving Fulani janjaweed in Plateau State attracted the candid opinion of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi over the past week. He was quoted as saying that splitting Nigeria into two would stop the killings and burning of places of worship that have bedevilled this country for decades in Northern Nigeria.
In a huff of false and hypocritical patriotism, the President of the Senate, David Mark, called Gaddafi a â€œmad manâ€. Some members of the House of Representatives called for the severance of diplomatic relations with Libya, and as if to oblige them, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled Nigeriaâ€™s ambassador to Libya.
I am sure that Gaddafi is amused by these uncoordinated, empty overreactions by Nigerian officials for several reasons. How would a temporary or permanent severance of diplomatic relations between Nigeria and Libya negatively affect the latter? Who will suffer more? How many Libyans live in Nigeria? How many Libyan businesses are in Nigeria? On the other hand, thousands of Nigerian legal and illegal migrants are in Libya looking for greener pastures.
Fancy that! Citizens of Nigeria, a verdant land proverbially overflowing with black gold, milk and honey; one of the most arable and fertile territories in the world, have escaped to one of the driest countries in the world for â€œgreenerâ€ pasture!
If Libyan people decide to behave like Northern Nigerians and start killing Nigerian migrants in Libya because of the insult Mark heaped on their adorable and heroic leader, what can Nigeria do to retaliate, or at least, deter a future recurrence? Absolutely nothing! If we cannot stop our local terrorists from killing our fellow, defenceless citizens, is it foreigners harassing economic refugees in their midst that we can help?
Gaddafi actually spoke the minds of millions of Nigerians. He is saying that since we cannot manage our diversity we should pack and go. If you stage a referendum right now on whether Nigeria should be split or kept as it is, most Nigerians, especially from the three geopolitical zones south of the Niger and Benue rivers would vote yes.
They would vote yes, not because Nigeria, as an idea, is bad. They would vote yes because Nigeria, as an experience, is bad. It is a nightmare. Truly Nigeria jagga-jagga. Those who would be voting yes for a split-up would be doing so out of the frustration arising from five decades experiments at nation building which have produced nothing but unmitigated disaster, civil wars, coups and counter-coups driven by ethno-religious and regional conquest mentalities.
It has produced a massive collapse of all that the British colonial masters and the immediate founding fathers of this nation left behind: An educational system where mass failures at school certificate examinations have become a yearly routine, where Nigerian universities are among the worst in even by African standards; where the healthcare situation is so poorly that our President travels abroad at public expense for medical attention; where corruption has eaten the system from inside out and people are selected for leadership positions because of their perceived low qualities. Olusegun Obasanjo in 1998, while vying for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket boasted: â€œThe advantage I have over my opponents is that I have a stupid faceâ€!
It is only in Nigeria that when a government is formed a section of the country will arrogantly insist that certain ministries and departments such as Agriculture, Defence, Finance, Petroleum Resources, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other cash-cow establishments of the Federal Government must be reserved for them. And they always get it. Which country, other than a mad one, does that?
The rum thing about it all is that David Mark and his ilk have always been at the centre of this madness. He was involved in the massacres that trailed the first military coup in 1966. He gladly presided over the evil abandoned property policy in Rivers State. He participated in coups and counter-coups, and as an â€œIBB Boyâ€, was one of those who threatened to kill Chief Moshood Abiola if his free and fair election was de-annulled.
As Minister of Communications, he told Nigerians that telephone was not for the poor. Shortly after General Abacha took over government, he ran away to self-exile only to return to be rewarded with being elected to the Senate where he earned his present position by being a frontline advocate of Obasanjoâ€™s tenure elongation bid. Look at this track record and the rewards he got.
However, Gaddafiâ€™s prescription is not the solution to Nigeriaâ€™s problem. Nigeria is still better together than apart. There is no clean way of splitting Nigeria. There is no cut and dried way of separating Christians from Muslims. I donâ€™t think there is any real problem between Nigerian Christians and Muslims. If Gaddafiâ€™s Jamhuriyya (Islamic Arab Republic) can be so peaceful and totally bereft of Islamic terrorism and Al Qaeda, it tells me that the Islam you want is the Islam you get. In Nigeria, religion is a problem because that is how the leaders want it.
Rather than dividing Nigeria, what we need is a good leader. Yarâ€™ Adua was not a good leader. Neither is Governor Jonah Jang. That is why we have crisis in Jos and nobody was brought to book. A good leader will calm Nigeria down. He will heal the land. He will take away bitterness and frustration from the hearts of its citizens.
He will inspire love and patriotism. He will close the fissures and when he does, Nigeria will become unstoppable. Not even Gaddafi will have the gumption to suggest to us how we solve our problems. We will not get that leader from among the ranks of David Mark and his fellow travellers.
I pray that in Dr Goodluck Jonathan, that leader has arrived.