FOR the second time in as many weeks, the Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi  created some furore in Nigeria with his comments on the question of unity in the country, and what should be done about it.

His first suggestion to break the country up along religious line was roundly condemned.
He retracted that suggestion and replaced it with the idea of creating as many “independent” states out of Nigeria as there are ethnic nationalities. That was as close as he could get to the core of our political crises.

In the past decade, Nigerians from different parts of the country have been saying something similar to what the Libyan leader just suggested. The difference is that nobody talked about “independent” state.

The argument has been that Nigeria is a country of various ethnic nationalities lumped together in a political arrangement that is causing a lot of friction.

The demand is for a “True Federation” of ethnic nationalities with significant freedom to govern themselves. There is so much distinctions and diversities between these nationalities that each should be allowed to develop at its own pace in a strong federation that guarantees protection for all.
Only recently an eminent, erudite lawyer, Chief Afe Babalola who is respected at home and abroad joined others in calling for a Sovereign National Conference to agree on a True Federation in which all nationalities will be glad to belong. It was the same thing Gadaffi  tried to say but could not reasonably put across.

Nigeria as a country has come a long way and must be encouraged to stay united. But events in the last decade have demonstrated the weaknesses of the current system we run.

Those weaknesses are so fundamental, it will require a more holistic approach to the problems than a mere constitutional review. That is the underlying message in Gadaffi’s  second suggestion. We cannot continue to avoid the challenge or paper over it.

And, we don’t need a Gadaffi  to let us know how crucial this subject is to the corporate existence of Nigeria. We know it, and we must deal with it decisively.


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